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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"I'm a Man"

The Spencer Davis Group - "I'm a Man" (1967)

He was 18 when he sang this! He had been a man for about nine months!

Alright stick with me here, we're about to drop a lot of names. In 1963 24 year old Spencer Davis went to Birmingham England go see a jazz band called Muff Woody that featured 20 year old bass player Muff Winwood. Featured on keyboard and vocals that night was Muff's younger brother Steve. After the set, Davis asked the brothers to start a band with him on guitar and a friend of his, Pete York on drums. Thus did Steve Winwood join his first recorded band at the age of 14. In 1967 when "I'm a Man" came out, Winwood was 19 and had decided to move on. He formed the group Traffic with Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood, and Dave Mason, who had all sung backup on Winwood's last song with The Spencer Davis Group: "I'm a Man". After mild success the band went on hiatus for a little over a year, during which time Winwood joined Ric Grech, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton to form Blind Faith. After Blind Faith recorded their only album and did a little touring they split and Winwood went back to Traffic, releasing several more albums. In 1976 he formed international Jazz Fusion group Go with Japanese Stomu Yamashta, German Klaus Schulze and Americans Al Di Meola, Michael Shriece and Pat Thrall. In 1977 Steve Winwood released his first of many solo albums. All this, and the song's great too!

Steve Winwood wrote the song with producer Jimmy Miller, who was about to become The Rolling Stones go to producer. Winwood sings, plays lead guitar and Hammond Organ on the track. The music is simple and driving. The bass by Muff Winwood is straight forward and insistent, the organ makes everything really funky and the cymbal heavy drums don't let up. It's more than just a drum set, I can hear claves, finger cymbals, congas, guiro, and cabasa. The vocals are very R&B. The verse is sung/spoken in some parts, there are backing vocalists singing like The Temptations, the lyrics are about being proud of his masculinity and wanting to stay away from temptation but admitting that he's going to fall for the woman. Two years later, Chicago recorded a long version of the song on their debut album with a huge drum solo in the middle of it. The blistering guitar, and loud vocals are way more rocking than any fans of their ballad days in the late 70s and 80s would expect. The song got turned into a pretty funny Volkswagen ad in 2008 featuring a Charlie Winston cover.

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