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
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.