Spencer Davis Dies, Aged 81

Spencer Davis
Photo credit Bradford Timeline

Spencer Davis has died at the age of 81. The influential British rock singer was known for his band, The Spencer Davis Group. He passed away in hospital on Monday, reveals his agent Bob Birk. Davis was being treated for pneumonia.

He was a highly ethical, very talented, good-hearted, extremely intelligent, generous man,” Birk told BBC. “He will be missed.”

Davis was born in Swansea on July 17th, 1939. He became infatuated with jazz and American blues as a teenager. Davis formed his first band with Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman, called The Saints. The Welsh guitarist also created a more folk-focused group with Christine Perfect (later McVie), who would later become a member of Fleetwood Mac.

In 1963, Davis attended a gig for a jazz band featuring a 15 year-old Steve Winwood. Davis convinced Steve and his older brother, Muff Winwood, to join him and drummer Pete York in 1964. Their new R&B cover band would be later known as The Spencer Davis Group.

After just two years, the band had their first No. 1 hit in the UK. It was a cover of 1966’s Jamaican artist Jackie Edwards’ “Keep on Running.” They also covered a second Edwards track, “Somebody Help Me.”  Another hit came in the form of Steve Winwood singing lead vocals through the band’s propulsive blues rock 1967 hit “I’m a Man.” After Winwood left to join Traffic in 1967, the Spencer Davis Group continued on through 1969, reuniting periodically over the years for tours.

Gimme Some Lovin’ was famously featured on the soundtracks of hit movies The Blues Brothers and Notting Hill, while Keep on Running has been extensively used in advertising.

In 1971, Davis moved to California to perform solo and released an album of acoustic songs, It’s Been So Long. Davis released Mousetrap the following year before taking an executive position at Island Records in the 1970s. He worked with acts including Bob Marley and Robert Palmer, as well as helping to launch Winwood’s successful solo career. Davis continued to tour internationally with the Group, without the Winwoods, including an outing in 2006.