Here’s a clip of former Spencer Davis-Traffic-Blind Faith über-muso Steve (formerly Stevie) Winwood with his 1980 solo hit, “While You See A Chance” from his equally high-profile Arc of a Diver album. This record, his second, was breakthrough for him as a solo artist, and the catalyst to a very successful run of singles and albums during the rest of the 80s.
The song peaked at #7 on the hot 100 Billboard charts that year while the album hit #3 on the top 200 This was a true solo record, with Winwood playing all of the instruments as well as producing engineering, and mixing. What a show off, huh? Still, this was the guy who fronted the Spencer Davis group when he was too young to get into some of the clubs they played. Styles may change, but the drive remains.
The 1980s were not kind to many of the artists of the 60s and 70s. It seems that many of them caught a dose of artistic mid-life crisis, trying to be relevant rather than trying to make great records. It was a common problem all around for that decade, but it was magnified by ten when it came to Bowie, the Stones, Neil Young, Dylan, and many others. Where he doesn’t win the crown from Paul Simon, who certainly is the boldest exception to the rule when it comes to a 60s artist putting out a career-defining record in the 1980s, Winwood managed to write a great album that stands as an equal to his previous body of work.
It’s arguable whether or not he was able to sustain that level of quality through the decade (although not arguable that he did well in shifting units), but I think despite appearances in beer commercials and a general softening around the edges by the end of the 80s, ‘While You See a Chance” and Arc of a Diver are great examples of a 60s and 70s artist who made the transition to the world of 80s radio without sounding like he was trying too hard.
Some of the other artists I mentioned earlier would also get back their respective mojos by the end of the 80s. The Stones’ would put out a respectable showing with the Steel Wheels album. Bob Dylan would work with Daniel Lanois on his lush and poignant Oh Mercy album. But, Winwood was on it out of the box.
Winwood continues to write and to perform, with his latest record Nine Lives harkening back more than ever to his Traffic days rather than his late 80s and 90s adult contemporary style.
For more music and news, I refer you to the Steve Winwood MySpace page.