What about Scuba Steve?

11 Sep

Well, Colette’s at it again. I’m convinced that she is a Libra Dragon, as once again we have the Vulcan mind meld going. As part of the Paul Pena post a couple of days ago, I explored the fact that Paul’s Jet Airliner was the biggest hit of Steve Miller’s career. I had also been typing up a post about Little Stevie Winwood. So imagine my awe when I received Colette’s latest contribution on Musical Steves.

I’ve included a few omissions that I consider critical to the Stevieness of music at the end of this post….

Steveland Morris, also known to the world as Stevie Wonder, is touring after a long respite – and, of course, selling out arenas as fast as his huge, multi-generational fan base can dial their cell phones.

On the occasion of his return to the public stage, here is a mini-tribute to Stevie, and several other fine singer-songwriters who share his name.

We all have our favorite tunes from Stevie’s enormously rich song bag. Some major fans of Mr. Wonder, (Elliot Yamin, Taylor Hicks, Lakisha Jones) have prospered on “American Idol” by performing beloved Wonder songs – with his encouragement. I also love that Stevie is a world citizen who takes that role seriously. He championed making Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a federal holiday, and has been right there for many good causes.

There’s a lot of video clips of Stevie, since his adolescent performances on “Ed Sullivan,” etc. They only confirm his greatness. Some picks from the treasure trove:

One of my favorite early songs of Stevie’s, “My Cherie Amour,” – with that immortal chorus, “La la la la la la….”

A great live audio recording of another fave, “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You),” nicely matched with a photo tribute to Mr. Wonderful – his (acoustic, for a change) piano playing is just gorgeous, as is his vocal melisma:

Stevie has dueted with everyone – from Kermit the Frog, to his Detroit sistah Aretha. Here he is with her during a tribute to The Queen of Soul, on the sublime hit he penned for her: “Until You Come Back To Me.” They got chemistry….

And here is Stevie’s moving tribute to Luther Vandross, at the latter’s funeral. Stevie singing an old gospel tune — “I Won’t Complain” – somebody say amen!

Finally, Stevie in great form, bopping to “Higher Ground” on the BBC:

There is another Stevie that started out as a mere kid, who sings with pure, distilled soulfulness, and knows all about “higher ground.”

He is Stevie Winwood, whom I’ve adored since his teen blues-shouting days with The Spencer Davis Group, his stint with the fantastic band Traffic, and so on. I saw him years ago in Plymouth, England with Traffic, and more recently in the U.S., He’s still a consummate blues boy, singing in his high, undiminished wail and playing my favorite soul-instrument (the Hammond B organ) with finesse.

The very young Stevie Winwood singing Ray Charles’ “Mean Woman Blues” with Spencer Davis Group – yeah his voice sounds like Ray’s! He plays some mean blues here guitar too…..

One of Winwood’s most beautiful original songs from his days with the super-group Blind Faith, “Can’t Find My Way Home,” recorded live in 1989:

I really recommend Winwood’s recent CD “About Time,” which has this killer version of Sade’s “Why Can’t We Live Together?” on it. Here he performs that ever-meaningful plea for peace, in concert with Santana at the 2004 Montreux Jazz Fest:

And just for you MM:

Steve and Eric Clapton bonding beautifully on “In the Presence of the Lord,” the poignant Clapton song from their Blind Faith days – clip is from a May 2007 concert in Britain, and they both bring it:

A rare clip of Winwood singing the Motown jump “Dancin’ in the Street,” with Chaka Kahn joining in at the end. She’s pretty screamy, folks, but Winwood nails this classic:

Finally, Winwood’s own answer to Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” his big 80s hit, “Higher Love” – the video makes you want to dance (a little Chaka here too, she sang backup on this disc):

A few other memorable musical fellas who also answer to “Steve:”

From my old Marin County hippie days, when I loved his early band Quicksilver Messenger Service ( thanks for the turn-on to Boz Scaggs, Steve!), and I used to see him sitting outside his Stinson Beach house strumming away: the inimitable Steve Miller, still a blues-rocker road warrior. A recent acoustic version of his stoner anthem, “The Joker”:

and Steve’s version of “Jet Airliner,” which helped introduce its composer Paul Pena to the world (Paul also wrote “I’m Gonna Move,” on Taylor’s CD):

Unless you’re allergic to protest music, there’s always Steve Earle. In my mind, this (formerly) hard-livin,’ country-rocker and fine writer (of both songs and short stories) is a great truth teller.

Having come clean after a rugged youth (including some jail time) this self-described “hard-core troubadour” is still putting out thoughtful music. Here’s an older clip, a lovely duet with Emmy Lou Harris on his heartbreaking ballad, “Goodbye:”

And here’s a potent recent anti-war song by Earle, done acoustically: “Rich Man’s War.” The words are haunting…..

Finally, a couple of younger Steves I’m digging. Steve Reynolds is a Canadian singer and acoustic guitar virtuoso getting some traction. Love that lonesome sound on his tune “Forsaken”:

And a countryfied L.A. comer, who sings with Kane and his own Steve Carlson Band. With a raspy-husky voice, good guitar chops and solid tunes to his credit (and hunky looks don’t hurt him none either) – Steve Carlson has a future.

Carolson’s infectious, upbeat tune “Dynamite”:

And the ballad “Now That My Love Is Gone” – classic folk-rock – circa 2007:

Well done, Colette. I just want to add a bit more Steveness to this post.

While there are literally hundreds of Stevie Wonder performances that I would consider “special”, I would be remiss if I did not refer to my absolute FAVORITE Little Stevie Wonder performance:

There is just no way not to bob your head and tap your feet to that.

I wish that I could locate a performance of Steve Winwood’s Arc of a Diver. It’s a little less known, but one of his best. However, I did find Steve Miller’s Abracadabra:

Colette’s Steve Smörgåsbord wouldn’t be complete without these Stevie’s, as well….

The incomparable blues impresario, Stevie Ray Vaughn

Texas Flood

The raspy-voiced vixen, Stevie Nicks

Leather & Lace

The Steve of my angst-filled teenage years, Steve Perry:


and finally, the wholesome goodness of Steve Carrell and friends….

Sorry, no Scuba Steve…this time.


Posted by on September 11, 2007 in music, Music History


19 responses to “What about Scuba Steve?

  1. jenfera

    September 11, 2007 at 9:07 am

    One more add – Little Steven! Still so hard to absorb that he is also Silvio on the Sopranos, all these years later.

  2. music maven

    September 11, 2007 at 9:43 am

    Ah, true dat, jenfera…nevah know where those joisy bois are gonna show up.

  3. huckleberryfriend

    September 11, 2007 at 10:02 am

    All great choices, but what about Stephen Stills? Aside from all his great music, if it wasn’t for him, we might not have Ray LaMontagne.

  4. Little Deb

    September 11, 2007 at 10:07 am

    Great stuff today. Thanks. O.K., I’ve got to know. What makes a person a Libra Dragon? Is it birthdate, birth year, what? And I like this Steve Winwood song. We went to see Dave Mason about two years ago and he did a killer version of this song.

  5. Colette

    September 11, 2007 at 10:38 am

    I’m no Libra, maybe we’ve got the same enneagram numbers or something, MM — or maybe just the same musical mojo?

    I’m wondering if anyone out there loves a particular newer (post 1985) song of Stevie Wonder’s? Or has seen him in concert on this go-round?

    I must confess, his old classic songs are so fantastic, I’ve not been listening hard to his new ones. Any suggestions? And any thoughts on that duet with Aretha? I love it more every time I listen. It was taped before she stopped smoking, and her voice is a bit crunchy. But I love who Stevie eggs her on, and handles the high vocal curlecues himself while letting her sing mainly in her only in her own register. (By the way, her voice is much more flexible since she stopped her chain-smoking habit).

    And things for the Winwood ad, Little Deb. That Stevie is a lot more celebrated in the UK than here these days, but he’s right up there in the blue-eyed-soul pantheon for me…..

  6. Colette

    September 11, 2007 at 10:46 am

    oooh, MM, also love the Stevie Rae Vaughn!

  7. Little Deb

    September 11, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    I just spent like an hour trying to find a country music singer named Steve. MM, I guess I don’t deserve that country music maven title. The best I could remember was The Gatlin Brothers (Larry, Rudy and Steve). Colette, this definitely qualifies for the post a while back about harmonies. Not my favorite of their songs, but the harmonies sure are pretty.

  8. Little Deb

    September 11, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    Please forgive me, because this is not a Steve, but when searching for the Gatlins, I finally found my favorite Kenny Rogers song ever. Just listen to these words and tell me it doesn’t move you.

    Kenny Rogers “Sweet Music Man”

  9. music maven

    September 11, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    Huck — How could I forget Stills? And Treetop Flyer is a favorite. One of my brother’s best friends was a Vietnam chopper pilot and this is his anthem.

    We didn’t explore the PH Stephens. Guess we’d have to include Steven Bishop and that Popalicious
    On and On.

    Colette — LOVE the Stevie/Ree performance. The Luther Tribute ain’t bad either.

    Little Deb — Libra Dragons are people born between September 23rd and October 22nd in the Chinese Year of the Dragons…fantastically smart people like Taylor Hicks, John Lennon, Neitchze…

    Here is your Country Steve…

    Steve Wariner – Life’s Highway

    I love these lyrics:
    Sun is up Time’s at hand
    There’s a stir upon the land
    And so begins another day
    On life’s highway

    On city streets Down country roads
    Like a stream the people flow
    There’s bread to win and toast to pay
    On life’s highway

    There is hope with ev’ry turn
    A bridge to build A bridge to burn
    It’s open new Never go astray
    On life’s highway

    We are young Them are old
    Passin’ through Then passin’ on
    Like the roses bloom and fade
    On life’s highway

    Step by step Round and round
    Never knowing where we’re bound
    From the cradle to the grave
    On life’s highway

    By the way, the Gatlins are one of my all-time favorites! All the Gold in California is awesome. Remind me to recant my story about seeing Larry Gatlin in concert in 1980 where it was just him, a stool and a guitar.

  10. Little Deb

    September 12, 2007 at 7:09 am

    How could I forget Steve Wariner and I love that song. And I can’t wait to hear your Larry Gatlin story. I would have been in heaven in that setting. I’ve been trying to find a version of “The Bitter They Are” online – no luck. Maybe when you do your post, you’ll find one. Here’s a good one though.

    Statues Without Heart.

    Do you remember Gary Morris? I always thought his version of “Wind Beneath My Wings” was amazing.

    How about Lee Greenwood?

    What the h@ll happened to these guys?

    O.K., I’m breaking the rules of the “Steve” topic again. Looking forward to the Larry and Conway future threads.

    Oh, and I’m a Libra/Boar………sigh.

  11. Colette

    September 12, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    When you guys start talking college football and Gatlin Brothers, you’ve lost me…..guess you gotta have some Southern roots for those pasttimes!

    To anyone on this thread who belongs to my tribe, L’Shana Tova (happy new year). It begins at sundown.

    As for Stephen Stills, that Buffalo Springfield clip of him I posted a while back where he’s singing “Rock’n Roll Woman” shows how truly wonderful he was (and how beautiful too, like a naughty choir boy) in his youth. I like some of his later stuff, too, and when he’s with Neil Young (also a former Buffalo) they bring out the best in each other.

    that Sade song “Why Can’t We Live Together?” and Steve Earle’s “Rich Man’s War” whet my appetite for newer protest stuff (don’t worry, MM, that will come a lot later), because as you’ve noted younger troubadours are once again trying to write about the world around them….

    cheers all.

  12. Little Deb

    September 12, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    Happy New Year Colette.

  13. music maven

    September 12, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    Ok. Larry Gatlin. Picture it…1980. Reagan is just elected. I was jjjuuusssttt 16 and beginning my Junior year in high school. We lived in Lafayette, LA, the bastion of Cajun country….God’s country…but I digress.

    Don’t ask me how but somebody gave me 4 tickets to go to an Edwin Edwards Democratic fundraiser in Baton Rouge. Of course, there was no way that my parents were going to let me drive the 60 miles to Baton Rouge on the Interstate with only three other wild teenagers for chaperones.

    Not to be deterred, I somehow talked my parents into letting us go if I could convince my 27 year old, still-in-college brother. It was a last chance shot, but I went to my brother told him that we’d pay his gas, his ticket to the concert, and the promise to wash his clothes for a month. He agreed and off we went, my two friends and I.

    Larry Gatlin came out with just an acoustic guitar and a stool. He played for about two hours. He spoke with the crowd quite a bit and was utterly fantastic. At one short break in the action, I cat-called whistled as hard as I could and Larry actually responded, “Thank you, sailor.” Highlight of my concert-going.

  14. Colette

    September 12, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    What a sweet story! No wonder you love those boys. That was a major rite of passage.

    Music bonds and melds with memories, in a way very little else can. It’s like falling in love, when you hear a tune or an artist that just roots in your soul and flowers there. That began with me very, very young, and through an adolescence that happened to coincide with some of the greatest American popular music ever created.

    How lucky we are to have (and to share) such great musical moments in our lives! They are like air, water and light…..

  15. morewines

    September 12, 2007 at 10:52 pm

    Santana has always had some exquisite collaborations.

    Wish I had time to view more of the videos.
    Maybe later.

  16. Colette

    September 13, 2007 at 12:23 am

    Thanks for the New Year’s shout-out, Deb. And how do I listen to that Dave Mason song? Tried the URL and couldn’t get it…..

  17. Little Deb

    September 13, 2007 at 7:14 am

    Colette, that was a bad link and it was Steve Winwood anyway. Here’s Dave below. This was one of those concerts that we said “O.K., why not, we’re not doing anything anyway. He was touring with Leon Russell, who we have seen a few times and enjoy. And Dave just blew us away. Small venue, great acoustics and an amazing musician. The only song I knew that he did was “No Doubt About It” because it was “THE” song for me and a guy I was engaged to before I met my husband, so my expectations were low. It was one of those moments of discovering a new “old” artist for me and I really love those moments.

    MM, love your Larry Gatlin story. I was going through a 50’s music faze at that age. Lived in NJ and used to take the train into NYC and see the Rock and Roll Revival shows. One of the best memories was seeing Frankie Vali and the Four Seasons at MSG. There were like 12 of us girls and we went to the first show. We flirted and made friends with a few of the ushers (cute teenage boys) and they snuck us in for the second show. The problem was that the show ended after the last train left NY for NJ. I had to call my mom at like 2:00 a.m. and she drove to the city and packed all of us into her Chevy Vega hatchback to get us safely home. I thought I would be grounded for life, but being that my Mom was pretty cool and we had been at a concert of “her” music, she told us that she would have done the same thing.

    Colette – Dave Mason clips:

  18. music maven

    September 13, 2007 at 10:00 am

    Colette, you are so right. In that same year, I saw Willie Nelson, Hank, Jr., Louisiana’s LeRoux, and the Little River Band (4th row).

    Our parents would drop us off at the venue and pick us up after. What were they thinking?!? But it was such a different time. We learned about life and grown-up things and we got to see some great artists. My BFF and I still laugh about that Larry Gatlin concert and the fact that my brother ended up “with” one of my friends for a short time after that. Scandalous as he was 8 years older and in college….and all because of “Statues without Hearts”…heh.

  19. Colette

    September 13, 2007 at 10:22 am

    OK, now I’m really get a flood of memories from my own music-sodden youth……just images flashing by…..

    as a kid, in a packed stadium where there was a boxing ring instead of a stage and no seating, seeing the Rolling Stones (Mick in a loud black-check houndstooth jacket of all things) with the psycho-doowopper group Little Anthony and the Imperials, and Patti Labelle and the Blue Bells (in bouffant wigs, and strapless powderblue floor length prom dresses).

    as a teen, going to the Fillmore and on the same bill seeing Santana, The Youngbloods and The Georgia Sea Island Singers (wonderful old acapella black choral group that had probably never played on a rock bill before). That was the way Bill Graham liked to mix it up! And if you lasted until 2 a.m. or whenever the thing ended, he handed out apples from a big tub to all the kids as we left…..
    don’t get me started….

    The Youngbloods, every gig everywhere, always sang the great Chet Powers sing, “Get Together:


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