25 Nov 2023

Lee Fields ‘I try to touch people's souls’

From Music 101, 1:45 pm on 25 November 2023

Growing up in North Carolina in the 1950s, musician Lee Fields didn't believe he would be a singer. “When I was 13 years old I wanted to be a businessman. In those days people of colour had very little”. 

As fate would have it, after being dared by a friend, Fields entered a local talent show and the backing band playing offered the teenager a job. 

Fields released his first single in the late 60s, a cover of James Brown's Bewildered and soon he found himself playing with pioneers Bobby Womack, B.B King, Kool & The Gang and Sharon Jones.

Lee Fields

Lee Fields Photo: Zach Cordner

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Today, Fields is a funk, soul and blues stalwart with a 50-year career in the music industry and twenty albums under his belt. Fields admits he treats it like a business and keeps disciplined. Eager to deliver a show that will astound his audience. 

“Charles (Bradley) was like a natural, I don’t consider myself a natural and I think Sharon Jones was a natural. Once I walk on stage I connect with the audience and I don’t do anything that will break that connection”.  

At 73 he shows no sign of slowing down, his song Forever featured on a major Super Bowl commercial. The musician has spent the better part of this year touring his latest album Sentimental Fool. A beautiful listen, released by Daptone Records, full of rich soul classics. 

“I try to sing songs where you get something out of it. I try to touch people's souls”. 

Today his signature brand of soul music continues to echo in the mainstream with J.Cole, Rick Ross, A$ap Rocky and Travis Scott each sampling Fields music.

In 2017 Lee Fields and the Expressions returned the favour sampling Outkast's iconic track SpottieOttieDopaliscious in their song Never Be Another You

Does he feel the pressure to hold the legacy of soul? No because, “This desire to make soul records has always been there and always will be there. I feel the obligation is to God. My main purpose is to reach people and bring them joy and to say something in my music. Let’s not forget about God!”

Fields was last in Aotearoa six years ago and now the soul star is ready to play at Tāmaki Makaurau's Hollywood Avondale with his band on 10 December.