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Steve Winwood (born 12 May 1948 in Birmingham) is an English international recording artist whose career spans more than 40 years. He is a songwriter and a musician whose genres include soul music (blue-eyed soul), R&B, rock, blues-rock, pop-rock, and jazz. Winwood is a multi-instrumentalist who plays the electric organ, synthesizers, bass, drums, guitar, mandolin, violin and other stringed instruments. His trademark style is singing in a tenor voice and playing the Hammond organ. In addition to his solo career, he was a member of the bands the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith and Go. Winwood has won numerous Grammy Awards in the United States of America.
In 2008, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Winwood #33 in its 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. In 2005, Winwood was honored as a BMI Icon at the annual BMI London Awards for his "enduring influence on generations of music makers."
During his teens, Winwood played Hammond B-3 organ and guitar in "pick-up" bands that backed up well-known US blues performers. He formed Blind Faith in 1969 with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Ric Grech. His first solo record album was published in 1977. In 1986, Winwood went to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 with his song Higher Love, and with this earned the year's Grammy Award for Record of the Year and another Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. In 1994, Jim Capaldi and Winwood reunited the band "Traffic" for a new album, Far From Home.
Born Stephen Lawrence "Steve" Winwood in Handsworth, Birmingham, England. He first became interested in swing and Dixieland jazz. He began playing drums, guitar, and piano as a boy and first performed with his father and older brother Muff in the Ron Atkinson Band at the age of eight.
Early years: 1960s
At the age of 14 Winwood joined the Spencer Davis Group, along with his older brother Muff, who later had success as a record producer. Steve's distinctive high tenor singing voice drew comparisons to Ray Charles. Winwood co-wrote and recorded "Gimme Some Loving" and "I'm a Man" before leaving to form Traffic with Chris Wood, Jim Capaldi, and Dave Mason. During this time, Winwood joined forces with guitarist Eric Clapton as part of the one-off group Eric Clapton's Powerhouse. Songs were recorded for the Elektra label, but only three tracks were released on the compilation album, What's Shakin'.
In 1969, Winwood played keyboards on albums as diverse as Toots & the Maytals' Reggae Got Soul and Howlin' Wolf's The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions.
Blind Faith and Traffic: 1970s
In 1972, Winwood recorded the part of Captain Walker in the highly successful orchestral version of The Who's Tommy. In 1973 Winwood recorded an album with Remi Kabaka, Aiye-Keta, for Antilles Records. In 1976, Winwood provided vocals and keyboards on Go, a concept album by Japanese composer Stomu Yamashta.
Solo career: 1977 onwards
In 1986, he enlisted the help of a coterie of stars to record Back in the High Life in the US, and the album was a hit. He topped the Billboard Hot 100 with "Higher Love", and earned two Grammy Awards: for Record of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
All these albums were released on Island Records. However, at the peak of his commercial success, Winwood moved to Virgin Records and released Roll with It and Refugees of the Heart. The album Roll with It and the title track hit #1 on the album and singles charts in the summer of 1988. He recorded another album with Jim Capaldi released under the Traffic name, Far From Home, then resumed his solo career with his final Virgin album Junction Seven.
1990s to present
In 2003, Winwood released a new studio album, About Time on his new record label, Wincraft Music. 2004 saw his 1982 song "Valerie" used by Eric Prydz in a song called "Call on Me". It spent five weeks at #1 on the UK singles chart. Winwood heard an early version of Prydz's remix and liked it so much, he not only gave permission to use the song, he re-recorded the samples for Prydz to use.
In 2005, his Soundstage Performances DVD was released, featuring
recent work from the About Time album along with prior hits including
"Back in the High Life". Winwood also performed hits from his days with
Traffic as well as current recordings. In 2005, he accepted an
invitation from 2008 Grammy Award winner Ashley Cleveland to appear on
her album Men and Angels Say. This album of rock, blues and country
arrangements of well known hymns includes "I Need Thee Every Hour" which
features a vocal duet and organ performance. Christina Aguilera features
Winwood (using the piano and organ instrumentation from the "John
Barleycorn" track, "Glad") on one of her songs from her 2006 record Back
to Basics, called "Makes Me Wanna Pray".
A new studio album, Nine Lives, was released 29 April 2008 on Columbia Records. The album opened at #12 on the Billboard 200 album chart, his highest US debut ever. Also in 2008, Winwood received an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music.
Winwood lives in a 300-year-old manor house in the Gloucestershire countryside with Eugenia Crafton, a native of Trenton, Tennessee, to whom he has been married since 1987. They have four children (three daughters and a son), the eldest having been born in 1987. Winwood is also asserted to have a daughter from a teenage union in the 1960s, who was placed for adoption. He was previously married (1978–1986) to the late Nicole Weir, who also contributed background vocals to the early solo work of both Winwood and Jim Capaldi.