I post a weekly diary of historical notes, arts & science items, foreign news (often receiving little notice in the US) and whimsical pieces from the outside world that I often feature in “Cheers & Jeers”. For example …..
OK, you’ve been warned – here is this week’s
tomfoolery material that I posted.
ART NOTES – works by Martin Saldaña in the exhibition entitled Once Upon a Time are at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center through August 25th.
BRAIN TEASER – try this Quiz of the Week’s News from the BBC.
CHEERS to a small-but-growing financial institution: Italy’s Banca Etica that takes ethics seriously. It provides credit to the non-profit sector and green businesses, shuns the use of tax havens and speculation in commodities, executive pay cannot exceed 6x the lowest wage at the bank …. and yet makes money. George Bailey would have been proud.
FRIDAY’s CHILD #1 is Morris the Cat – who is up for election as the mayor of the capital city of the Mexican state of Veracruz.
MUSIC NOTES – adding to his list of accomplishments: Bob Dylan is set to receive the Legion d’Honneur – France’s highest award.
HAIL and FAREWELL to the Japanese citizen Jiroemon Kimura – the oldest male (with documentation) ever to have lived – who has died at the age of 116. With his death, there are only nine people (all female) still alive who were born before 1900.
SEPARATED at BIRTH – two cable news personalities: CNN’s Deb Ferrick and Dana Perino of Fox (also, former GWB press secretary).
GLAD to see this article by the American prospect writer Harold Meyerson – noting that labor issues in New Haven, Connecticut have united the normally separate town and gown communities.
THE OTHER NIGHT yours truly hosted the Top Comments diary with a look at the unknown Motown back-up singers known as The Andantes – and how a new museum exhibit is hoping to correct this.
FRIDAY’s CHILD #2 is Gato the Cat – another kitteh rescued from a house fire and given oxygen by firefighters to relieve smoke inhalation.
….. and finally, for a song of the week ………………………………….. someone who I noted in a previous look at the Hammond B-3 organ (as being one of its most noted performers) is Steve Winwood – who has had at least three phases in his nearly 50-year career: youthful R&B shouter/session player, then blues/rock bandleader and more pop-oriented song stylist. Blessed with a naturally soulful voice as a teenager, and also as a pretty fair guitarist as well: he has managed to stay at the forefront of the music scene his entire career, which seems far from over.
Born in Birmingham, England in 1948, he played in a band with his older brother Mervyn (“Muff”) as well as their saxophonist father(!) Lawrence in the Ron Atkinson Band when Steve was at the ripe old age of … eight. Eventually Muff founded his own jazz band in the early 1960’s which Steve joined. But the two brothers – in much the same way other British musicians of the time did – stared substituting more R&B and blues numbers for the Dixieland jazz, and this eventually led to their joining a Welsh-born guitarist in his Spencer Davis Group R&B quartet in 1963. Steve was also (as a teenager) becoming a noted session player, and helped back American blues artists in their early UK touring days (when they would arrive by themselves, unable to afford to bring over their own bands, relying on local musicians who knew their music to be their sidemen).
The band enjoyed some immediate success with songs such as Keep On Running plus I’m A Man and Gimme Some Lovin’ – with its memorable Hammond B-3 intro. More than one wag at the time wondered why it was not called the “Steve Winwood Group” … as he was only writing and singing much of the band’s material.
The band split when Steve left in 1967 to form his own band (wishing to partake of the changing music scene, again) and his brother Muff went on to be a record producer of note. In 2006, Spencer Davis reformed his band (now based in California).
Steve wanted a band with more blues/jazz influences and that could stretch out more – and this he found with the band Traffic – along with guitarist Dave Mason, saxophonist/flutist Chris Wood (referred to in the press as a “semi-jazz reed man”) and drummer Jim Capaldi (each of whom had performed, incidentally, on “Gimme Some Lovin”).
They soon became part of the British Invasion’s “second wave” along with bands such as Deep Purple, Cream and Led Zeppelin and had hits with Dear Mr. Fantasy and “Paper Sun”. However, creative differences began to emerge (especially with the more pop-oriented Mason) and the band came to an end in 1969.
Winwood had always enjoyed Eric Clapton’s company, and the two – now free – joined forces. However, when drummer Ginger Baker wanted in the band very much, the press began to refer to the newly-formed Blind Faith as a “Cream II” supergroup – which the very sensitive Clapton (approaching a major heroin problem) began to worry would harm the band. They played a June, 1969 free concert before 100,000 at London’s Hyde Park – released as a DVD years later in 2006 – but crash-landed soon afterwards.
Winwood joined for a time in Ginger Baker’s Air Force but left after a short time.
Winwood began to record in 1970 what he at first saw as a solo album. However, so many former bandmates pitched in that John Barleycorn Must Die became, instead, a Traffic reunion: with the band re-forming afterwards. They followed-up with several popular recordings, including its best-seller in America – The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys – and I had a chance to see them in 1973. But the band was, once again, running-on-empty in the studio and they split again a year later.
After some time off and performing on the recordings of others, Winwood began to embark on a true solo career throughout the 1980’s. And he achieved a high level of success – for the first time – as a pop star, not with his traditional mix of rock, blues and jazz. Songs such as While You See a Chance plus Back In The High Life Again and his #1 hit song Higher Love brought his music to a much-wider audience than he ever had before.
In 1994, he reunited with Jim Capaldi for Traffic’s last reunion tour – not including the band’s 2004 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame that reunited Dave Mason with the others on-stage for the first time in years (Chris Wood having passed away in 1983).
Since 1990, Winwood has continued his solo career, although more in line with his jazz/blues roots. He’s also had time for a tour (although, sadly, not a recording) called Latin Crossings with jazzmen Arturo Sandoval and the late Tito Puente. In 2008, he joined with Eric Clapton for a concert tour, including an album and DVD.
At age 65, he begins a tour of Britain (and then Europe) next week through mid-July … then begins a U.S. tour in late-August through December. And for the first six of those U.S. shows … Steve will be performing with the Allman Brothers … from August 23-31.
But for once, I actually prefer a cover version of a Steve Winwood song. A more straight-forward rendition comes from one of his UK Hammond B-3 peers: Brian Auger who recorded this song on his album Befour from 1970. And below you can listen to it.
So often I have seen that big wheel of fortune
Spinning for the man who holds the ace
There’s many who would change their places for him
But none of them have ever seen his lonely face
Something’s happening to me day by day
My pebble on the beach is getting washed away
I’ve given everything that was mine to give
And now I’ll turn around and find
That there’s no time to live