SPENCER DAVIS, WHOSE BAND HELPED POWER THE SOUND OF THE ’60S, DIES AT 81 ~ NYT

Hits like “Gimme Some Lovin’” and “I’m a Man” made the Spencer Davis Group, based in Britain, famous worldwide and launched the career of its lead singer, Steve Winwood.

Spencer Davis in 1970. He played rhythm guitar in his original band and occasionally sang lead vocals, but Steve Winwood was the star.
Spencer Davis in 1970. He played rhythm guitar in his original band and occasionally sang lead vocals, but Steve Winwood was the star.Credit…Ian Dickson/Redferns, via Getty Images

By Jim Farber

  • Oct. 20, 2020

Spencer Davis, the leader of a rock group under his name that had some of the most propulsive and enduring hits of the 1960s, including “Gimme Some Lovin’,” “I’m a Man” and “Keep On Running” — all sung not by him but by a teenage Steve Winwood — died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 81.

The cause was pneumonia, said Bob Birk, his booking agent and friend, adding that Mr. Davis had been hospitalized for the last week.

Mr. Davis co-wrote “Gimme Some Lovin’,” his group’s biggest hit. He played rhythm guitar in the band and occasionally sang lead vocals, lending his baritone voice mostly to blues-oriented material.

But it was Mr. Winwood, who was only 15 when Mr. Davis discovered him, who emerged as the group’s star, singing lead on its hit singles and later becoming an essential figure in British rock through his work with the bands Traffic and Blind Faith and in a long solo career.

After Mr. Winwood abruptly left the Spencer Davis Group in 1967 to form Traffic, Mr. Davis kept the band going through multiple incarnations. In 1968, a new iteration of the Spencer Davis Group enjoyed two Top 40 hits in Britain, “Time Seller” and “Mr. Second Class.”

The band did not have similar success in the United States, but a song co-written by Mr. Davis and recorded by the band that year, “Don’t Want You No More,” became significant in 1969 when the Allman Brothers recorded a cover version as the opening track on their debut album. https://www.youtube.com/embed/xcxYX8KPhGk

The Spencer Davis Group in performance in London in 1966. From left: Steve Winwood, Mr. Davis and Muff Winwood. Pete York, the drummer, is in the back.
The Spencer Davis Group in performance in London in 1966. From left: Steve Winwood, Mr. Davis and Muff Winwood. Pete York, the drummer, is in the back.Credit…Pace/Getty Images

Mr. Davis later had a fruitful career as an A & R executive at Island Records, where he signed the hit punk-pop group Eddie and the Hot Rods and the respected reggae band Third World.

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