Do you remember the first time a singer’s voice burned its way into your psyche? Or how about the first time you saw a live concert that blasted your head apart? For many of us, the way we were introduced to music had a profound, magical impact on our entire lives. For singer Lee Fields it cleared the path and set the course for his life. “In my early childhood, about five or six years old, back in the South, people of colour had few opportunities for jobs. My father was very, very busy, farming or whatever else he could do. His dreams were more than what he was afforded with the job situation in the South. At the time they wanted to buy a house, so on Fridays and Saturdays our house would turn into a speak-easy. He was hustling,” recalls Fields, speaking to me from his home, between recording sessions.
Fields fondly remembers this as a time when his love of music was built and reinforced. “We had a lot of guests, and daddy was selling chicken, fish sandwiches and beer, whatever he could do. At the time, we were just little kids, so I used to go to bed listening to the speakers of my father’s stereo entertaining the guests — Howlin’ Wolf, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, James Brown, Little Richard, Fats Domino and all that. We were supposed to be asleep, but every eye that looks asleep ain’t asleep! We would stay up and start peeking around [the door], watching the ladies and guys doing all this wild dancing and drinking and stuff. Every time momma would come check on us, we’d get back in the bed and close our eyes. We’d get right back to the door as soon as she’d leave, but after a certain period we’d get tired and sleepy, jump back in the bed and go to sleep by the sound of the bass. Every time I record a song, I go back to that time in my life. I remember the bass rocking me, soothing me, until I was succumb to sleep.”
Just as powerful as watching people party their worries away was the aftermath as those very same people washed away the wild nights on Sundays. “It amazed me when momma used to take me to church on Sundays, and I see them same ladies that were dancing, all of a sudden the minister start preaching and they start falling down on the floor!” says Fields. “I see ‘em dancing and laughing with this kind of music, and next thing I see them falling on the floor with that kind of music. I was highly mesmerized with the powers of this thing called music.”
That mesmerized feeling Fields remembers is something he and his backing band, the Expressions, work hard to recreate for everyone at their shows. He pours everything he has into every performance — nothing left behind. “The primary goal is to make sure that the people that come out, that support the shows, get that moment to see who you really are. You go down and try to catch that joining of force that works through us all together, and that force is love. So you get as much love as you can and spread it across the room.
“You can tell when people feel it because it’s that moment when euphoria takes place and people just get happy all of a sudden. And that’s what makes me happy!” exclaims Fields.
Victoria Jazz Festival – Lee Fields & the Expressions
Sunday, June 23, Sugar Nightclub, Tickets $32.50