Friday, May 10, 2019

"Higher Love" by Steve Winwood

#1 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  2764
Date:  06/14/1986
Debut:  77
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Rock, Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Winwood's second solo album, 1980's Arc of a Diver, was a #7 platinum seller thanks to the #7 hit "While You See a Chance." His follow-up LP, Talking Back to the Night, failed to capitalize on the success of Arc and disappeared soon after a low #28 peak. Winwood needed to do something to gain back his audience. First, he penned more commercial friendly songs with his long-time collaborator Will Jennings. Then instead of handling everything on his own as he had done for all three of his solo LPs, Winwood brought in some guest players to help out including Nile Rodgers, Joe Walsh, Chaka Khan, James Taylor, James Ingram, and Dan Hartman. He even brought in a horn section. The results became his fourth album Back in the High Life and this first single, featuring Khan on background vocals, kicked the set off in a big way. The track climbed to the #1 spot at both Pop and Rock while getting to #7 at AC. It would be Winwood's biggest hit to-date as a solo artist or as a member of any of his previous bands (Spencer Davis Group, Blind Faith, Traffic). The song would also earn Winwood two Grammys, one for Record of the Year and one for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male. The song would be nominated for Song of the Year while the LP would get a nod for Album of the Year. Winwood and co-producer Russ Titelman were nominated in the Producer of the Year category.

ReduxReview:  The groove, the hook, the horns, Chaka Khan - what's not to love? This was a brilliant single and one that was far, far better than anything from his previous album. He went in a different direction collaborating with others and focusing on creating more radio friendly fare and it really paid off. Sometimes doing everything on your own is not the best thing and I think he figured that out after the dreary Talking Back to the Night.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:   Will Jennings had written songs with Winwood since Arc of a Diver. Winwood handled the music while Jennings mainly contributed lyrics. Jennings had previously had success writing hit songs for Dionne Warwick and Barry Manilow. He earned the first of two Oscars for Best Original Song with the 1982 #1 duet "Up Where We Belong" by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes from the film An Officer and a Gentleman. His second win was for the theme song to a little film called Titanic. He co-wrote Celine Dion's 1998 #1 "My Heart Will Go On" for the movie's soundtrack. The song would also earn him two Grammy awards. He would win a third Grammy with "Tears in Heaven" (#2 Pop) his 1992 collaboration with Eric Claption that won for Song of the Year. Jennings would co-write further hits, but he would score the most with Winwood co-writing five Top 10's.


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