…and we’ll drink and dance with one hand free.

He started young, so to say that his career spans over 50 years is no exaggeration. In looking back one can only marvel at his performances with the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and with Blind Faith, never mind his blue-eyed “soul-o” work;  yet even in his early teens, Stephen Lawrence Winwood was living “the” dream.

Born in Birmingham, England in 1948, his father was a motorcycle engine fitter by day and a semi-professional sax player much of the rest of the time. It was no surprise that young Stevie and his older brother, Muff learned to love swing and Dixieland jazz, but Steve also took to musicianship and learned to play drums, guitar and piano.  By the age of eight he was performing on stage with his father and brother.  Meanwhile, he was first introduced to the organ at church, when he snuck some playing time after choir practices.

The Winwoods lived close to a number of Birmingham music halls and Steve was still in school when he began to play the Hammond B-3 organ and guitar as backup for the many American Bluesmen who came to town.  In those days it was customary for American singers to hire local musicians while on UK tours, and at the age of 13 Stevie Winwood, who was now modeling himself on Ray Charles, was playing with the likes of Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker, B. B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.

When he was 14 he and Muff joined the Spencer Davis Group and Steve’s distinctive high tenor voice placed him in the role of lead singer.  When the group had their first Number One hit with “Keep on Running” in 1965, Winwood used his earnings to buy his very own organ.  He also began to collaborate with guitarist, Eric Clapton.

While the years ahead would bring Traffic (the ‘60s version), Blind Faith and Traffic (the ‘70s version) they would also find Winwood playing session for an increasingly broad array of artists, including: Jimi Hendrix (that’s Winwood playing organ on “Voodoo Chile”), Toots & the Maytals, Lou Reed, Robert Palmer, George Harrison, Marianne Faithful, David Glimour, Christine McVie, Billy Joel and (yes) the Grateful Dead.

His eponymous first solo album in 1977, was recorded (like some of his later albums) at his Gloucestershire home with Winwood playing all instruments. Today’s selection was recorded in the United States for his 1986 album, “Back in the High Life” (which earned him two Grammy Awards).  That’s Winwood on mandolin.

You may also recognize James Taylor helping to express the same laudable aspiration that most of us tend to share from time to time.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Friday 18 May

 Back In The High Life Again

It used to seem to me

That my life ran on too fast

And I had to take it slowly

Just to make the good parts last

But when you’re born to run

It’s so hard to just slow down

So don’t be surprised to see me

Back in the bright part of town

 I’ll be back in the high life again

All the doors I closed one time

Will open up again

I’ll be back in the high life again

All the eyes that watched me once

Will smile and take me in

And I’ll drink and dance with one hand free

Let the world back into me

And oh I’ll be a sight to see

Back in the high life again

 Girl you used to be the best

To make life be life to me

And I hope that you’re still out there

And you’re like you used to be

 We’ll have ourselves a time

And we’ll dance till the morning sun

And we’ll let the good times come in

And we won’t stop till we’re done

We’ll be back in the high life again

All the doors I closed one time

Will open up again

We’ll be back in the high life again

All the eyes that watched us once

Will smile and take us in

And we’ll drink and dance with one hand free

And have the world so easily

And oh we’ll be a sight to see

Back in the high life again

 High life

High life

In the high life again

 We’ll be back in the high life again

All the doors I closed one time

Will open up again

We’ll be back in the high life again

All the eyes that watched us once

Will smile and take us in

And we’ll drink and dance with one hand free

And have the world so easily

And oh we’ll be a sight to see

Back in the high life again

 High life

Back in the high life

Oh, we’ll be back

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