The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys – an encore tribute to Steve Winwood

One of the most prolific musicians, songwriters and performers is someone too few people know. Steve Winwood was born in Birmingham, England to a foundry worker and semi-professional musician. After playing with his Dad and brother Muff at the age of 8, he joined the Spencer Davis Group with his brother at the age of 14. That is not a misprint. Before being associated with a parade of compelling and different hit songs, he backed up musicians touring in England such as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, and John Lee Hooker. A long list of instruments he plays would include, but not be limited to: keyboards, organ, guitar, bass guitar, violin, mandolin and drums.

He played and sang lead with great groups such as Spencer Davis, Traffic, Blind Faith (with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker) and several others. In fact, Clapton always lamented leaving Blind Faith in his continual search for perfection, but often played with Winwood as recently as a few years ago. Then, in the mid-1970s, Winwood went out on his own. But, it was not until the mid-1980s did a new generation of fans rediscover this marvelous talent. His hit songs are many, such as “Well Alright,” “Higher Love,” “Roll with it,”  “Can’t Find My Way Home,” “Valerie,” as well as the songs noted below and others not mentioned.

The following songs are a taste of the breadth of his talent. I will lead with one of my personal favorites and close with another.

Presence of the Lord

Clapton wanted Winwood’s higher voice to sing this ethereal song. Even with the title, it is not an overtly spiritual song, yet is quite profound nonetheless as he sings about finding a better way to live.

 I have finally found a way to live
Just like I never could before
I know that I don’t have much to give
But I can open any door
Everybody knows the secret
Oh, everybody knows the score
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
I have finally found a way to live
In the color of the Lord

Gimme Some Lovin’

When I had the good fortune to see him play, he closed the show with this up tempo song, which has a classic bass beat throughout.

Well, my temperature’s rising and my feet hit the floor
Twenty people knocking ’cause they’re wanting some more
Let me in, baby, I don’t know what you’ve got
But you’d better take it easy ’cause this place is hot

So glad we made it, so glad we made it
You got to gimme some lovin’, gimme some lovin’
Gimme some lovin’ every day

Back In the High Life Again

This song was part of his rebirth as a single performer leading to his discovery by a new audience. More of today’s listeners would equate this with Winwood. It also is somewhat prophetic with his new audience.

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 that bright part of town

I’ll be back in the high life again
All the doors I closed one time
Will open up again

Higher Love

Like the previous song, “Higher Love” would resonate as a Winwood song to more people as part of his rebirth. He wants something more from a relationship, be it a higher love together or from a larger entity than both can provide.

Think about it, there must be higher love
Down in the heart or hidden in the stars above
Without it, life is wasted time
Look inside your heart, I’ll look inside mine

Things look so bad everywhere
In this whole world, what is fair?
We walk blind and we try to see
Falling behind in what could be

Bring me a higher love
Bring me a higher love, oh
Bring me a higher love
Where’s that higher love, I keep thinking of?

Dear Mr. Fantasy

Yet, let me back up in time and close with two oldies, which are great songs, but different in lyrics and style. The lyrics of “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” remind me of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Minstrel of the Wind.” Both are singing of entertaining many, but reflective that the singer of the songs is an imperfect being just like the rest of us, those he is trying to provide a brief fantasy or respite away from their problems.

Dear Mr. Fantasy play us a tune
Something to make us all happy
Do anything take us out of this gloom
Sing a song, play guitar make it snappy
You are the one who can make us all laugh
But doing that, you break out in tears
Please don’t be sad if it was a straight mind you had
We wouldn’t have known you all these years

The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys

Let me close with the strangest of titles for a song you might ever see. To me, this song seems to be about a record producer or merchandiser who has made a lot of money off young, talented musicians – the “high heeled boys.” It is quite interesting even without the music, but the music adds a pacing that is also unique.

The percentage you’re paying is too high priced
While you’re living beyond all your means
And the man in the suit has just bought a new car
From the profit he’s made on your dreams

But today you just read that the man was shot dead
By a gun that didn’t make any noise
But it wasn’t the bullet that laid him to rest was
The low spark of high-heeled boys, high-heeled boys

If I gave you everything that I owned
And asked for nothing in return
Would you do the same for me as I would for you?
Or take me for a ride
And strip me of everything including my pride
But spirit is something that no one destroys

And the sound that I’m hearing is only the sound
Of the low spark of high-heeled boys, heeled boys

Steve Winwood may be the closest thing to a rock and roll prodigy we have ever had. At a minimum, he would be on a short list. Yet, he is not as well-known as his contemporaries. If you know Winwood’s magic, thanks for joining the memory lane. If you are not as familiar with his breadth or much of his work, give him a detailed listen. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Can’t find my way home

Eric Clapton rejoined forces with Steve Winwood to form one of the best short lived groups ever called Blind Faith. Both were very talented musicians who met when Clapton had a one off group called Eric Clapton and the Powerhouse, when Winwood was just a teen. It should be noted Winwood was only fourteen when he joined the Spencer Davis group. Here is a news story about their formation:

“On February 8th, 1969, three anointed stars of the music world announced the formation of rock’s first true supergroupBlind Faith.

Featuring Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Steve Winwood–and, a few months later, Ric Grech–the band had all the eyes of the music world squarely on them, as Blind Faith’s debut was easily one of the most anticipated moments in the then-young history of commercial rock and roll. At the time, no one would know how quickly the promise of magic to come would turn into a tale of wasted potential, even though the writing was on the wall from the beginning.”

In the band’s short life together they produced some excellent music. “Can’t find my way home” was penned by Steve Winwood is a great barometer of the band, featuring Winwood’s beautiful voice along with the talent of Clapton and Baker, who had a tempestuous relationships that sometimes led to fist fights. The latter two would form two-thirds of a group called Cream that would also produce great music in a short time.

Two other Blind Faith favorites of many are “The presence of the Lord,” written by Clapton and “Well alright.” Reading Clapton’s autobiography reveals a man in search for perfection, which is unattainable. He tended to regret leaving bands that were very good and Blind Faith is no exception.

I have seen footage of Winwood and Clapton performing together later in their careers and there seemed to be affection and respect. My wife and I have had the pleasure of seeing Winwood and Clapton each perform live which were treats.

Winwood has a had a long and successful career, but may be more known for his singles career that took off in the 1980s. He could play dozens of instruments, but that got overshadowed by his hauntingly melancholic voice which appeared on many group albums.. .

Give this song a listen as evidence.

Blind Faith ~ Can’t Find My Way Home – Bing video

The Presence of the Lord – a Blind Faith Tribute

While they only made one album, a band called “Blind Faith” which blended the talents of two-thirds of “Cream,” Eric Clapton and GInger Baker, with a very young and talented Steve Winwood, produced some wonderful music.  My favorite is one penned by Clapton, but sung by Winwood, as Clapton wanted Winwood’s sweet voice to sing this ethereal song. Here are the first few stanzas from “The Presence of the Lord.”

I have finally found a way to live
Just like I never could before.
I know that I don’t have much to give,
But I can open any door.

Everybody knows the secret,
Everybody knows the score.
I have finally found a way to live
In the color of the Lord.

I truly love this song, as it brings spirituality to a wonderful song, without being too overt. To me, the understated reference in the chorus to “in the color of the Lord,” is meaningful. I interpret this to live a life in keeping with an overall context of color, rather than a rigorous line by line text. The context of treating others like you want to be treated is the “color of the Lord,” that I take away. Maybe you have a different take.

Clapton has noted in his autobiography that he regretted leaving this band after only one album. Winwood is an awesome talent that I have written about before, including reference to this song. He and Clapton would have surely made some more memorable music over time, like this and “Can’t Find My Way Home.”

I am repeating my love for this song, as we have taken some religious debate into the mire, where pieces of scripture are noted out of context and without the complete reference, which is time-sensitive based upon the mores and biases of the period. To me, whether someone is religious or not, if we live a life in the “color of the Lord” and treat others like we want to treated, things will be better for us and others.

The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys – Tribute to Steve Winwood

One of the most prolific musicians, songwriters and performers is someone too few people know. Steve Winwood was born in Birmingham, England to a foundry worker and semi-professional musician. After playing with his Dad and brother Muff at the age of 8, he joined the Spencer Davis Group with his brother at the age of 14. That is not a misprint. Before being associated with a parade of compelling and different hit songs, he backed up musicians touring in England such as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, and John Lee Hooker. A long list of instruments he plays would include, but not be limited to: keyboards, organ, guitar, bass guitar, violin, mandolin and drums.

He played and sang lead with great groups such as Spencer Davis, Traffic, Blind Faith (with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker) and several others. In fact, Clapton always lamented leaving Blind Faith in his continual search for perfection, but often played with Winwood as recently as a few years ago. Then, in the mid-1970s, Winwood went out on his own. But, it was not until the mid-1980s did a new generation of fans rediscover this marvelous talent. His hit songs are many, such as “Well Alright,” “Higher Love,” “Roll with it,”  “Can’t Find My Way Home,” “Valerie,” as well as the songs noted below and others not mentioned.

The following songs are a taste of the breadth of his talent. I will lead with one of my personal favorites and close with another.

 Presence of the Lord

Clapton wanted Winwood’s higher voice to sing this ethereal song. Even with the title, it is not an overtly spiritual song, yet is quite profound nonetheless as he sings about finding a better way to live.

 I have finally found a way to live
Just like I never could before
I know that I don’t have much to give
But I can open any door
Everybody knows the secret
Oh, everybody knows the score
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
I have finally found a way to live
In the color of the Lord

Gimme Some Lovin’

When I had the good fortune to see him play, he closed the show with this up tempo song, which has a classic bass beat throughout.

 Well, my temperature’s rising and my feet hit the floor
Twenty people knocking ’cause they’re wanting some more
Let me in, baby, I don’t know what you’ve got
But you’d better take it easy ’cause this place is hot

So glad we made it, so glad we made it
You got to gimme some lovin’, gimme some lovin’
Gimme some lovin’ every day

Back In the High Life Again

This song was part of his rebirth as a single performer leading to his discovery by a new audience. More of today’s listeners would equate this with Winwood. It also is somewhat prophetic with his new audience.

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 that bright part of town

I’ll be back in the high life again
All the doors I closed one time
Will open up again

Higher Love

Like the previous song, “Higher Love” would resonate as a Winwood song to more people as part of his rebirth. He wants something more from a relationship, be it a higher love together or from a larger entity than both can provide.

Think about it, there must be higher love
Down in the heart or hidden in the stars above
Without it, life is wasted time
Look inside your heart, I’ll look inside mine

Things look so bad everywhere
In this whole world, what is fair?
We walk blind and we try to see
Falling behind in what could be

Bring me a higher love
Bring me a higher love, oh
Bring me a higher love
Where’s that higher love, I keep thinking of?

Dear Mr. Fantasy

Yet, let me back up in time and close with two oldies, which are great songs, but different in lyrics and style. The lyrics of “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” remind me of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Minstrel of the Wind.” Both are singing of entertaining many, but reflective that the singer of the songs is an imperfect being just like the rest of us, those he is trying to provide a brief fantasy or respite away from their problems.

Dear Mr. Fantasy play us a tune
Something to make us all happy
Do anything take us out of this gloom
Sing a song, play guitar make it snappy
You are the one who can make us all laugh
But doing that, you break out in tears
Please don’t be sad if it was a straight mind you had
We wouldn’t have known you all these years

The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys

Let me close with the strangest of titles for a song you might ever see. To me, this song seems to be about a record producer or merchandiser who has made a lot of money off young, talented musicians – the “high heeled boys.” It is quite interesting even without the music, but the music adds a pacing that is also unique.

The percentage you’re paying is too high priced
While you’re living beyond all your means
And the man in the suit has just bought a new car
From the profit he’s made on your dreams

But today you just read that the man was shot dead
By a gun that didn’t make any noise
But it wasn’t the bullet that laid him to rest was
The low spark of high-heeled boys, high-heeled boys

If I gave you everything that I owned
And asked for nothing in return
Would you do the same for me as I would for you?

Or take me for a ride
And strip me of everything including my pride
But spirit is something that no one destroys

And the sound that I’m hearing is only the sound
Of the low spark of high-heeled boys, heeled boys

Steve Winwood may be the closest thing to a rock and roll prodigy we have ever had. At a minimum, he would be on a short list. Yet, he is not as well-known as his contemporaries. If you know Winwood’s magic, thanks for joining the memory lane. If you are not as familiar with his breadth or much of his work, give him a detailed listen. I would love to hear your thoughts.