AFTER HITTING IT BIG as a teenager in 1967 with "Gimme Some Lovin', " Steve Winwood left the Spencer Davis Group to form Traffic and, soon after, Blind Faith with Eric Clapton. What followed was a successful solo career as Winwood's blue-eyed soul voice and organ swells propelled him through a chart-topping '80s. And earlier this year he and Clapton returned to the stage in New York City for a collaboration that yielded the No. 1 hit "Dirty City" from Winwood's new "Nine Lives" CD (Columbia).
Winwood is now on tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, a show that includes some onstage cross-pollination between the two bands.
Some might say Tom Petty should open for you. Has anyone ever opened for you that you thought you should be opening for them?
Little Feat, Cat Stevens, Free and J.J. Cale.
Do you feel obligated to play certain songs from your catalog?
I kind of do, but playing with Tom Petty, my show is even shorter and I do have a lot of material. For instance I haven't played "Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys" now for a while, and for a while I didn't play "Dear Mr. Fantasy." ... Last night we didn't play "Gimme Some Lovin'" ... Some stuff from the '80's —- "Higher Love" and "Back in the High Life" —- we kind of reinvent those to make them fit more with our kind of world music/jazz kind of fusion set-up that we have now, and they work very well.
Was the music created in the '60s and early '70s more special than the music now?
I think there was definitely a period in ... the '80s, that was a bit of a troubled time for music because there was huge amount of corporate involvement and massive amounts of money being made and big record deals. Of course that's all gone now. And I think that is, or will be, to the advantage of music. I think that what made music great in the '60s and '70s was the freedom ... from any corporate influence. I think that it's coming back because there are so many ways now that artists have to get their music heard without going through major record companies ...
> THE 411: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with Steve Winwood. July 9, 8 p.m. $35-$125. Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park, 2200 Encore Parkway, Alpharetta. 404-733-5010, 404-249-6400, www.vzwamp.com.
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