Lee Fields: Soul Survivor

Hear Lee Fields On 'All Things Considered'

Soul singer Lee Fields may be an R&B veteran, but don't call him a relic. Since the 1970s, the North Carolina native has amassed a prolific catalog of albums — 15 and counting — and part of the secret to his success has been flexibility. To younger fans, especially those lauding his latest album, My World, Fields is retro-soul royalty, with a voice that recalls the heyday of Otis Redding and James Brown. For his older fans, Fields has been a stalwart of Southern soul/blues music: a thriving regional scene that's little known in the mainstream but supported by a deep network of radio stations and clubs.

lee fields 300

Since the 1970s, soul singer Lee Fields has amassed a prolific catalog of albums. Phillip Lehman hide caption

itoggle caption Phillip Lehman

By moving between the worlds of Southern R&B and retro-soul, Fields has flourished as an artist while maintaining ties to the musical traditions that have grounded him for 40 years.

Lee Fields: Soul Survivor

Let's Talk It Over

She's a Love Maker

  • Artist: Lee Fields
  • Album: Let's Talk It Over
  • Song: She's a Love Maker

When Fields first started singing in the late 1960s, he was such a fan and follower of James Brown that people began calling him "Little J.B." -- given how closely he modeled his singing and performances after the Godfather. Fields recorded throughout the 1970s, but his debut album didn’t come out until 1979. With the inclusion of songs such as "She’s a Love Maker," which sounded like an entire generation removed from the disco sounds of the era, Fields was more or less dishing out "retro-soul" long before there was a term to describe it.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
She's a Love Maker
Album
Let's Talk It Over
Artist
Lee Fields
Label
Angle 3 Records
Released
1979

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

enough is enough

Meet Me Tonight

  • Artist: Lee Fields
  • Album: Enough Is Enough
  • Song: Meet Me Tonight

Fields barely recorded in the 1980s, then resurfaced in the early 1990s in the deep South as part of that region’s flourishing blues and R&B scene. Fields quickly made a name for himself, working with Ace Records, and later with the small DBA imprint. Fields' slow jams still echoed the influences of the '60s that he grew up on, but musically, he kept current with contemporary styles. Gone were the analog sounds of live bands; in came synthesizers and drum machines.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Meet Me Tonight
Album
Enough Is Enough
Artist
Lee Fields
Label
Ace
Released
1992

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

let's get a groove on

Steam Train

  • Artist: Lee Fields
  • Album: Let's Get a Groove On
  • Song: Steam Train

In the late 1990s, the now-defunct retro-soul label Desco Records was trying to find vocalists who could ideally complement their throwback sound. Sharon Jones ended up as one of the key re-discoveries; Lee Fields was the other. In 1999, Fields, backed by musicians who would eventually form into the Dap-Kings, recorded Let's Get a Groove On. The long-awaited realization of Little J.B.'s dreams makes an authentic-sounding, late '60s soul/funk album.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Steam Train
Album
Let's Get a Groove On
Artist
Lee Fields
Label
Desco
Released
1999

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

so far

I'm a Good Man

  • Artist: Martin Solveig
  • Album: So Far
  • Song: I'm a Good Man

The reappearance of Fields outside the Southern soul circuit put him on many people's radar, including fans outside of the U.S. One of Fields' most frequent collaborators has been French house DJ/producer Martin Solveig; since 2002, they have recorded at least four songs together, melding Solveig’s pounding club beats with Fields' gritty cries and hollers.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
I'm a Good Man
Album
So Far
Artist
Martin Solveig
Label
ULM
Released
2007

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

my world

Love Comes and Goes

  • Artist: Lee Fields & the Expressions
  • Album: My World
  • Song: Love Comes and Goes

For the last five years, Fields has also been recording with The Expressions, a band assembled at Brooklyn's Truth and Soul (an off-shoot of Desco). Initially, "Love Comes and Goes" was only available on 7-inch vinyl, but now it's a highlight on Fields' long-awaited debut album for Truth and Soul, My World. Fields' voice -- aching with fragility, but also with conviction -- lends the perfect gravitas to a sublime ballad. With a sound stirring in a Memphis-flavored soul stew, the song brings Fields full-circle, back to his Southern roots, some 40 years after his career began.

Purchase Featured Music

Song
Love Comes and Goes
Album
My World
Artist
Lee Fields & the Expressions
Label
Truth & Soul
Released
2009

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

Web Resources

Purchase Featured Music

My World

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
My World
Artist
Lee Fields & the Expressions
Label
Truth & Soul
Released
2009

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.