Rainmaker, make me some rain

Rainmaker, rainmaker

Make me some rain

Make all my crops grow tall

Winwood/Capaldi : Rainmaker, Side 2 Track 3

The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys, Traffic, 1971

Perspective matters.

Every childhood memory of rain that I have is filled with joy, with energy, with positive things. The feeling of elation walking along the Maidan in Calcutta, being able to smell the rain before it reached me. Hearing, almost feeling, the earth get its thirst slaked. The utter shock of getting completely drenched in mere seconds, caught in a Bombay monsoon downpour. Walking serenely while getting seriously wet, stopping only to shake the drops off your eyelashes so you could see. Looking forward to the rough-and-tumble of an afternoon football match played in mud, glorious mud.

Rain was when the streets flooded and you fought your way to school, thigh-deep, occasionally waist-deep, in rainwater. Rain was when you knew the school would be shut when you got there, but it didn’t matter, because you then had the joy of splashing your way back home.

Rain was when you did crazy things like this.

Yes, when I think of rain, I don’t think stuff like “into every life some rain must fall” or “don’t rain on my parade”. I think Thank You God.

This is a thank you post. Not a Thank You God post: thanking God is something I do do, but mainly in private and not usually via a blog post.

This is a thank you Steve Winwood post.

Over the years, many of my childhood heroes have passed away; a disproportionate number appear to have done so this past year or two. That has made me feel sad. And it made me think I should make the time to say thank you to heroes of mine who are still alive while they are still alive, rather than linking to eulogies when they’re no longer with us.

So thank you Steve Winwood.

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I’ve never met the man. But I’ve seen him in concert ten times, and loved it every time. In fact, over the last thirty years, I’ve watched Steve Winwood more often than I’ve watched anyone else, including the Dead or CSN/Y, which is saying something. I’ve seen him at the Odeon, the Empire (multiple times), the Royal Albert Hall, and even a couple of times as far away as Shoreline.

At the Roundhouse (one of my favourite venues) in 2010 I was in row one standing, pressed right against the barriers in front of the stage, touching distance from his piano. It was amazing. Until then the nearest I’d got to him was when I visited a pub somewhere out west, I think it was in a village near Gloucester, sometime in the early 1980s, and he was there.

I still remember my utter joy when I saw this:

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Yes I know, it probably wasn’t him, it was more likely to be someone who looked after his account. But then again….. this filled me with child-like joy, enough to ping my siblings in India. That should tell you how much I really like Winwood as a musician and as a performer.

You should, too. If you haven’t already been converted, just listen to his stuff. Go here, to his website and to his vaults, explore, enjoy.

The early years, with the Spencer Davis Group; the incredible times with Traffic, both before and after Blind Faith; the superlative sessions that became Blind Faith; and the consistently delightful solo career since. Fifty years, thirty albums, a joy throughout. [I shall resist the temptation to say a Sea of Joy throughout].

From the “is this really a white man singing? ” raw power of Gimme Some Lovin’, through the gentle sadnesses of Evening Blue or (Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired, the soaring sequences of Had To Cry Today, the folksiness of John Barleycorn or Forty Thousand Headmen, the sheer poetry of Can’t Find My Way Home, the metamorphosis into Higher Love and Roll With It and Back In The High Life Again and When You See A Chance. A metamorphosis that continues today, over half a century since he began.

Make the time. Listen to Winwood. Go watch him in concert while you can. You won’t regret it.

I’ve been doing it for years, and I’m immensely grateful. Thank you Steve Winwood.

And (in advance of next Thursday), happy 68th birthday.

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