Soul Brother Lee Fields: Singing "Brings On the Sweats"
Whatever you may be doing right now, Lee Fields is having more fun than you are. In January the sixtysomething New Jersey-based soul singer will perform in Australia, meaning his high-energy delivery (now backed by his airtight band the Expressions) will have thrilled audiences on every continent outside Antarctica. He'd probably play a research station down there if it had a PA system.
Photos courtesy of Truth and Soul Records
Fields' enthusiasm is catching; you can practically hear him grinning over the phone.
"I feel like Superman," Fields glows from a recent tour stop on the way to Madison, Wisconsin. "Everything's been going so well for me. Everything's just been so wonderful, seeing so many places in the world. The more places the merrier, you know? I'm just having a grand time."
Like his close contemporary Charles Bradley, North Carolina native Fields is a journeyman soul singer who is doing some of his best work in his golden years. With last year's Faithful Man on Truth and Soul Records, Fields has now released music in six decades dating back to his 1969 breakthrough single "Bewildered." Although he has collaborated with Madonna's MDNA DJ Martin Solveig, yielding funk workouts like "Superficial" and "Jealousy," Fields' potent sound remains largely untouched by modern studio trickery. He sounds just fine on his own.
According to his Truth and Soul Records bio, Fields has recorded for at least 12 different record labels and worked with who knows how many producers. His dynamic stage show earned him the early nickname "Little J.B." (as in James Brown), and he actually sang for Kool & the Gang for about six months when that group was a successful act in the New York area but the "Celebration" hadn't really started yet. Weathering the disco era taught Fields to be flexible, he says.
"It made me very aware of how music changes, and how in order to survive in this business you have to be very vigilant," muses Fields. "You have to be watchful of the changes. But also you stay who you really are, and you watch the music so you can put who you really are into today.
"That's what I do," he affirms. "I'm the same guy, but I know how to sing a certain way to make it fit in with what's happening right now."
Interview continues on the next page.