After a delayed flight, Lee Fields didn’t get to his hotel until 2am but said it was part and parcel of being an entertainer. We spoke to him after he wowed the main stage at Love Supreme with an electrifying set of heavy soul originals.
How was the show for you this afternoon?
Well, I had a great time. In general, I always have a great time and I thought the people showed love today. After all this is the Love Fest!
I’d like to start at the beginning. You’re originally from North Carolina. Were you raised in a musical family?
Yes, Wilson, North Carolina. Yeah, my mother was a gospel singer in church and she always wanted to make a record. I was getting ready to record her when she passed. I wish I had’ve moved a little earlier but she was a great gospel singer. My Dad had a band in his younger years and there was always music around ever since I was a kid.
Do you still have family there?
Yeah. I’ve got cousins around Wilson but I don’t get chance to go back there much because I’m on the road all the time. I’m always travelling but that’s what I’ve always wanted so I can’t be mad about it. I’m doing exactly what I want to do.
This is the beginning of your European tour. Is there anywhere you are particularly looking forward to visiting?
Yeah, this is the first date of the tour. I look forward to going everywhere because I love people. I don’t have messages to give to people but in my shows I hope to give them a good, positive feeling. That’s about it and if I can do that I’m happy.
I think you succeeded today.
Oh, thank you so much.
You moved to New York in the late 1960s. What was the soul scene like at this time? Did you get to see any of the legendary Motown or Stax/Volt revue shows?
I moved to New York in mid ’67, when I was 17 years old. I cut my first record in ’68 but it wasn’t released ’til ’69. I met most of my heroes that I wanted to meet: people like Joe Tex, James Brown, Frankie Crocker. I liked Motown; The Temptations and Smokey Robinson but I preferred Stax because it was grittier. Motown was smoother and geared for the masses but I liked the roughness of people like William Bell. I met just about everyone except Otis. People like James Carr, O.V. Wright – who I opened for. The people that I truly admired weren’t necessarily top of the charts but they had something that I can’t describe. O.V. had it, Solomon Burke and James Brown had it. I liked the more eccentric stars like Rufus Thomas and Eddie Floyd who didn’t have a lot of hits but have sustained time.
You were last in Sussex performing with Sharon Jones (at Brighton Dome in 2014). When she died there was a global outpouring of love for her. What did she mean to you?
Sharon was a very lovable person man. I loved her like a sister and she lived for music. She never had kids so music was her whole world.
How did you first meet her?
She was my background singer and then things really took off for her. We always stayed the same so if I had a project I wanted her to work on she would come out to the house, right up to the last days. When I think of her passing, although I know that she’s gone it just seems that I haven’t seen her in a while. She was amazing.
What are your thoughts on President Trump?
I’m not a politician but although he was elected he has to bide by the rules and so far he doesn’t seem to be doing that. He treats it like he’s running a business instead of looking after people and he’s having a negative effect globally too.
I’d like to end on a more positive note and ask what your plans are for after the tour.
I’ll be going back to the studio to work on the next album. I’ve got a few songs already written and the album will have a more personal feel.
Thanks for your time and good luck with the tour.
Thank you for the interview, it was my pleasure.
Words by Steve Clements
Portrait by Fran Moore