Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on May 14th 2012 3:00PM by Scott Nelson
Truth & Soul
The 62 year-old Fields has been been slogging it out in the clubs for 43 years, but he almost packed it in during the '80s -- long before his current renaissance.
"The '80s were a low point in my career," Fields tells Spinner. "Music was changing and I felt out of place. I had to adapt to provide for my family."
Fields began to dabble in real estate and he almost gave up music to open a fish diner. But it was the sound advice of a loyal wife that kept him on the music path.
"I found this piece of property that had apartments on top and a diner on the ground floor," says Fields. "I was thinking about opening a fish restaurant, but my wife talked me out of it. She asked me, 'Lee, what do you know about cooking fish?' All I could say was that I know they taste good! She told me to stick to what I know, and that was singing."
It was the right choice.
Lee Fields worked with funk legends Kool and the Gang when he was just a teenager; he's simultaneously toured the blues circuit, the southern soul circuit and the European dance circuit; he helped build Daptone Records and he's played shows with David Guetta. Fields might not be the 'Godfather of Soul', but the entire genre is riding on his back.
At 62, Fields is arguably at the height of his long career, but there weren't always white horses and pretty ladies at his door. His career is noted by ups and downs, and it's the downs that he cherishes most.
"It's those moments -- the trials and tribulations -- that made me who I am today," Fields says. "They taught me how to win, how to adapt and persevere. Success is overcoming the low points. It's about winning."
Fields' singing career began in Brooklyn in the early '70s. He was a wide-eyed teenager away from his North Carolina home for the first time. A few small gigs quickly snowballed and he found himself working with Kool and the Gang for a short six month stint.
"Working with them wasn't my idea, it was their manager's [Gene Redd]. They were just starting out and I was too young at the time -- I wasn't ready," Fields admits. "When they made it big and I was seeing them on TV I blamed myself for a long time. I could've been there with them!"
Fields went on to record a handful of singles for various small time labels throughout the late '70s, but things slowed down for him in the '80s and he found little work. That's when things started getting fishy.
We are all indebted to Mrs. Fields. If she didn't talk Lee out of his fish frying dreams, he might not have blessed us with the critically acclaimed My World in 2009 and then Faithful Man three years later.
My World was the return from a long layover for Fields, and it was a loud statement that the best was yet to come. The album was recorded in piecemeal over the course of 14 years and was a surprise to Fields when it was finally finished.
"When Leon [Michels, founder of Truth and Soul Records] told me my album was done I had no idea what he was talking about! Album? What album? I was recording a track here and a track there -- I had no idea it would amount to this."
And then came Faithful Man.
"My World was the work of my life, but Faithful Man is gaining momentum every day. It was mapped out from the beginning and was truly a collaborative effort," he says.
Throughout his long and storied career as a soul singer, Mr. Fields has remained humble. He hasn't lost sight of why he is where he is today. After all, he could have been frying fish instead of making music all these years. It's the reason why he appreciates the attention he's receiving these days.
"Time is the most important thing anyone can have," he says. "You can have all the money in the world but time is that one precious thing. That's why when people take the time to come to our shows I do everything in my power to give them the best possible experience."