The tale of John Barleycorn is an old English fable and song dating to the 14th Century or earlier. John Barleycorn -- shown at the right in one classic rendition -- was the human personification or symbol of the the growing and brewing of barley for whiskey, and for the typical man who drank it to excess. He's presented, obviously, as a drunk, no longer able to work. The song can be interpreted many ways, and I personally see it as a lyrical commentary on human weakness. But it has many meanings.
Before we begin, Steve Winwood was born on May 12, 1948 in the Midlands of England. If he'd been a '60s Lancer (ha ha!) he would have been in the Class of 1966. By age 15, however, he was the lead singer of The Spencer Davis Band, a top-rated group there with at least 2 American hits.
2. Jethro Tull:
3. Covers of "John Barleycorn Must Die":
4. Some of our own '60s Lancers singers and musicians may have performed songs from this or other Traffic albums, too, especially:
"Dear Mr. Fantasy"
5. Early Traffic
As you may know, Traffic may have been the first major band where the members decided they'd live together to see if it would enhance their creativity and their music. They lived for over a year in a rural cottage in Berkshire, England, hence their song, "Berkshire Poppies", which is ironic because the climate in Berkshire tends to be cold and damp, not conducive to growing poppies. In this period they wrote some of their simplest and most delightful songs, including "Coloured Rain", "In A Chinese Noodle Factory", "Medicated Goo" and others.
They've been called an "art rock" band but they had a had a witty, humorous side, too.
More lyrical in tone:
This one in particular, is so delightful you could probably sing it with your young grandchildren, or soon, great grandchildren:
6. "No Face, No Name, No Number"
I consider this Traffic song one of the iconic 1960s songs, and one of the most powerful and haunting. I think all of you will remember it instantly. Yet I don't know if it's played much today, or if young people even know about it.
7. Winwood's musical origins
With one of the most distinctive voices in all of music, Stevie Winwood was also a member of The Spencer Davis Group starting at age 15. His older brother Muff Winwood was in that band, too.
8. Traffic in the early 1970s.
Another outstanding Traffic album is "Welcome To The Canteen". Part of its appeal is the African drummer, Kwaaku (Rebop) Baah.
I've only been to 2 truly great concerts, and one was Traffic at Santa Monica City Auditorum:
(The other was Van Morrison at Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA Campus in Westwood, within the city of LA.)
9. Winwood and Blind Faith.
Winwood's most famous and celebrated band was Blind Faith, one of the first so-called "super groups". (I guess the other was Crosby, Stills and Nash.) At least one of our '60s Lancers saw Blind Faith at the Santa Barbara Fairgrounds. That must have been a holy righteous blast of an event.
10. Winwood today.
And Steve is still performing all over the world today. He has a family and lives in the English countryside, and plays organ sometimes in his family church. As you can tell, he's one of my favorites, and he's been called the most underrated singer-musician-songrwriter in music. That might be a good thing for him, because's he's kept his sanity, he's a happy man, and he's still going while so many of his colleagues from as long as 49 years ago have retired, flamed out or died. Another reason Steve's a favorite is that he seems to have humility and is utterly without affection or pretense.
An in depth interview:
-ooks a little different now, but I guess we all do. https://youtu.be/_HPVVuCYBAs
Do you like Winwood and his bands? Can you feel the songs? Do any of you artists sing or play his songs? I'd love to hear your impressions. Maybe we'll feature another individual or group later, too. I know Lancers have many, many favorites, including Fleetwood Mac, Gordon Lightfoot, The Doors, Ten Years After, Spooky Tooth (just kiddin'!) and many more, along with Jackson Browne, Steve Noonan and anything Greg Leisz plays on, of course.