“Dear Mr. Fantasy”, Traffic (1967)
When he was eight years old, Steve Winwood was in the choir and already playing in bands. By the time he was in Jr. High school he played his electric organ to back such greats as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddly on their U.K. tours.
Known for his tenor voice and his Hammond organ sound, he also plays many other instruments such as guitar, drums, mandolin, violin, and others. He really is an astounding guitar player, but is a bit modest about it.
At 14 he joined the ‘Spencer Davis Group’ and by the end of ’65 the group had their first hit single with “Keep on Running”. Wasting no time, Winwood co-wrote “I’m a Man” and “Gimme Some Loving” both very successful.
In 1969 he formed the super group ‘Blind Faith’ with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Ric Grech, churning out the classic album with “Presence of the Lord”, “Had to Cry Today” and “Can’t Find My Way Home”.
Of course this is the album with the very controversial cover of a pubescent girl holding a model plane. As the photographer Bob Seidermann explained “To symbolize the achievement of human creativity and its expression through technology a space ship was the material object. To carry this new spore into the universe, innocence would be the ideal bearer, a young girl, a girl as young as Shakespeare’s Juliet. The space ship would be the fruit of the tree of knowledge and the girl, the fruit of the tree of life.”
I don't think I am buying that, but an alternative cover was also issued in the U.S. Here are both covers, you decide:
After the breakup of Blind Faith, Winwood caught up with some of his Spencer Davis buddies and formed ‘Traffic”. The hits “Paper Sun”, “Hole in my Shoe”, “Feelin’ Alright” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy” still get decent radio play, particularly on psychedelic music shows. I relistened to “John Barleycorn Must Die” the other day and I had forgotten just how psychedelic it sounded.
In the ‘80’s As a solo act Winwood’s albums such as “Arc of a Diver” and ‘Back in the High Life” produced radio-friendly pop hits “Higher Love”, “While You See a Chance”, and “Valarie”.
Winwood was very helpful to a desperate Eric Clapton through his struggle with drugs and alcohol in the 70’s. The video of “Dear Mr. Fantasy” above is from the 2007 Crossroads festival put on by Eric Clapton, where they also do some astounding versions of “Presence of the Lord” and “Can’t find My Way Home”, which they had not performed together for some 25 years.
Thanks for lending me the DVD Shaun! Amazing!