Steve Winwood is one of those musicians who comes by his talent naturally. He’s a musical prodigy who started playing music at an age when most kids are still learning to read.
The bands he’s been part of have been successful, though his greatest success came from his solo career.
Since he was a teenager, Steve Winwood’s voice has been his most characteristic trait. Additionally, his skills on the piano and guitar have added to his overall talent.
We’re taking a closer look at Steve Winwood, his musical career, and the bands he’s helped form over the years.
Let’s dig in!
Steve Winwood’s Early Years
Born on May 12, 1948, in Birmingham, England, Stephen Lawrence Winwood seemed destined to be a music legend. By the time he was five, he was already playing drums, piano, guitar, and singing in his church’s choir.
Three years later, Steve played piano in his first band with his dad, Lawrence, and older brother, Muff. The trio would play local pubs, with the piano set facing away from the audience to hide the very underage pianist.
While attending the Great Barr School in Birmingham, Steve Winwood became interested in the local blues-rock scene. At the time, he was playing the Hammond C-3 organ and guitar.
When musicians like Chuck Berry, Howlin Wolf, and Bo Diddley would tour the UK, they’d look for local talent to play in their bands. These opportunities were Steve’s first taste at playing with some very notable performers.
During this time, Steve was also honing his singing skills and modeled his style after Ray Charles.
What Band Did Steve Winwood Start With?
The Welsh guitarist, Spencer Davis, first heard Steve Winwood perform at a Birmingham pub in 1963. Steve was 14 and had an impressive high tenor voice in addition to incredible talent on the piano.
Spencer asked Steve and Steve’s brother, Muff, to form a band with him and drummer Pete York. The Spencer Davis Group was born, and Steve Winwood’s musical career was off and running.
Check out this performance of the 1923 blues standard Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out. It’s hard to believe that voice belongs to a 15-year old English kid!
Was Steve Winwood in the Yardbirds?
No, he never played in the Yardbirds. However, Eric Clapton was a band member when he first heard Winwood singing in the Spencer Davis Group.
In an interview, Clapton had this to say about the 15-year old Steve Winwood, “If you closed your eyes you would swear it was Ray Charles. Musically he was like an old man in a boy’s skin.”
What Other Popular Bands Has Steve Winwood Been In?
Steve Winwood left the Spencer Davis Group in 1967 to form another band, Traffic. The band released three studio albums before disbanding in 1969.
Winwood then formed the supergroup, Blind Faith, with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Ric Grech.
In addition to being part of these bands, Steve Winwood has also had an extensive career as a session musician. He’s recorded music with Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed, Joe Cocker, George Harrison, Billy Joel, and many more legendary artists.
Steve Winwood’s Most Well-Known Songs
Higher Love is likely the single most well-known Steve Winwood song. Released in 1986 on his fourth solo studio album, it shot to #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 music chart.
This song also earned Winwood a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
The studio version on the album Higher Love features singer Chaka Khan on backing vocals. She also appears in the video for the song.
This song needed a second chance to become a hit. Winwood first released Valerie in 1982 on his third solo album, but it didn’t make it too far up the music charts.
But in 1987, he released a remixed version of Valerie, which did much better. It reached #2 on the US Adult Contemporary chart and #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 list.
While You See a Chance
While You See a Chance was Steve Winwood’s first big hit as a solo artist. Released in 1981 as a single from his second solo album, it reached #7 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
This song marked Winwood’s return to the musical spotlight. He had not had a hit song since the early 1970s with his band Traffic.
Gimme Some Lovin’
Gimme Some Lovin’ came from his time with the Spencer Davis Group. He released the tune in 1966, and many still consider it one of Winwood’s greatest songs. It gave the band their first big hit in both the UK and the US.
The song was a collaborative effort between Winwood, Spencer Davis, and Muff Winwood. According to Muff, it took the band just a half hour to conceive, arrange and record this tune.
So, How Many Bands Did Steve Winwood Play In?
If you count the band he played in when he was eight, Steve Winwood has been in a total of six bands.
The songs he recorded both in his bands as well as in his solo career are likely to be heard for years to come. And he has undoubtedly inspired future generations of aspiring musicians around the world.
Steve Winwood has a US tour scheduled for May through August 2022, where he’ll be playing cities across the country. Are you going?