A 50 years career and one more album in his catalogue. It Rains Love comes to consolidate the “soul survivor” status of Lee Fields, the most contemporary old school singer of our time. We met him during his French tour in the Aéronef of Lille to ask him for some advices…
© Sesse Lind
Anybody who lived the Lee Fields experience already knows that buying a ticket for the next tour is mandatory. 68 years old, and the American seems to know the recipe of happiness as if he would have written it. He even forgets his age during his shows, running from one side of the stage to another, sweating, running out of breath in his microphone, and playing with his audience’s emotions, between sincere goosebumps and large indelible smiles. The Lee Fields paradox, it’s the history of a soulman who has been through a roller-coaster career for more than 30 years and who, since he met the musicians of The Expressions at the beginning of the 2000s, cannot stop raising his profile with a sound as modern as faithful to the genuine original style. Just before giving an exceptional show in Lille, the entertainer gave us a Manichean and religious vision of soul in seven lessons, keeping in his mind the absolute target to spread what is right around him. Interview with a man who is talking a lot about God, but also about Love overall.
Before talking to your experience and asking you some advices, let us know a bit of your background. How did you fall into music ?
I started by winning a talent show. I was about 14, but I was not really interested in being a singer. I wanted to be a business man. At that time, in my region, people of colour had very little. And the few that had something, it was business people. They owned their own business, or they were professionals, like teachers or doctors. The rest of the people did not have anything. I loved listening to music like all the kids did at that time, with my little transistor radio, but I was mainly interested in the business thing. But when I saw the Beatles… Oh man… The first time I saw them, it was like seeing people from another planet. They were dressed differently, and they brought on what we see today. There is still the Beatles thing, they changed the whole planet! Before them, everything was in a box, and they brought on a way to think out of this box. That’s why I wanted to be an entertainer, but at the beginning, I wanted to play the guitar. I bought one, and when I saw James Brown at Tami show, I knew it was the deal. Then, I got hired by the band who was playing at the talent show. I kept on working and working and it never stopped!
Lesson 1: How to do a true soul record?
Soul is a spirit, and this spirit is God’s. Back in the old days, I used to say that soul music is sometimes sung for the Devil, and sometimes for the Lord. And it still applies today. But we became lost, we do not know anymore what is right and wrong. We are sometimes serving another master. God is my master, so you have to be careful of what you say and how you say it, because there is a thin line between treason of God and working for the opposite force. God is not material, it is knowledge. This is all the music is about. I am not one of those holy messengers of God, I am a regular dude! I drink. Sometimes I even drink too much. But I don’t get wasted. It is probably not good for me, but I love it! (laughing)
Lesson 2: How to choose your musical partners?
What you need to do is just fill your records with things and men that will affect people in a good way. We want to give people good ear products, good quality. The same way we need to eat something good for the body, or to do exercise, we need good ear-products too, because our spirit is what we see and what we hear. If we heard bad ear-products, we would become as primitive as one could imagine. So in order to remain healthy men, this is what we need. But we should not be governed by what a person has to say. The only governing factor should be what is right and what is wrong. So long we keep this in mind, we can say whatever we want to say, in an impressionable way. Until we are mature enough to understand what we say, everything should be allowed. The young ones are impressed upon and deviate before they understand the principles. If we say it in a manner which is beyond their comprehension, they will be curious to know what we are saying. They would want to know what a word mean, and we would teach them. By the time they realize, they would be old enough to understand what you are doing, and we won’t be damaging young impressions of old people. It is all about good versus bad. I don’t think my music is all of that, but I try and I do the best I can.
Lesson 3: How to survive and get a 50 years musical career?
Being very vigilant, listening to what is current, and being wise enough to know what is right and what is wrong. I don’t criticize nobody, what kind of music they do, I am not a judge. I am just a participant in the game. I am just doing what I feel good about. I would advise every young artist to listen to as many artists as they can, and keep what is right and wrong in mind. It’s just like a person who wants to get rich. People can get rich in all kind of ways. You can get rich by being smart, making the right investments, going by the laws and doing the right things. But you also can get rich by robbing somebody, or take all the money of a rich person. You can get rich by a lot of things that are not right. What I advise to young people is to do things the right way. If you want to last, your consciousness has to be clear, you might get as rich as you want to get. Sometimes, being rich is not measured by things. I consider myself as a rich guy, not only financially, but I also feel blessed because I had a great life, man! I have a wife with whom I’m married since 50 years, I got kids, I got grandkids, man… I had a good time bro! (laughing) It is not only about materials, it’s about a lot of other things.
Lesson 4: How to stay contemporary while being an old school singer?
I am an old guy, so I consider myself as an old school singer, but I can fit in anything. Martin Solveig can testify, I sang for some electronic music, and I sang on a lot of people records. There is no problem for me to fit in a time slot, because I believe that anything that had to be done, has been done. There is no new thing under the sun. What is old is actually new, you know. That’s what life is about, man. Observing. I observed. So if I had to do something with somebody making a different kind of music, give me a little while, let me see exactly what you are doing, and I’ll fit in it. No problem. I have been here for 50 years, man, and I am still here! What else can I say? (laughing)
Lesson 5: How to keep the soul spirit for such a long time?
It is all about knowing what is right and what is wrong, whatever the religion. I am a Bible guy, but there is also the Torah, the Buddhism, … All the wise information that are written are good to take. It tells you to love your neighbour as much as yourself, and love God. Therefore, if people take that, they will do the right thing. Some people take it among themselves, and they become self-centred, and this thing becomes distorted. Just try to stay as close as possible to the principle of what is right, and right for your heart. It cannot go wrong.
Lesson 6: How to overcome the doubts, the difficulties and the burn-outs in a musical career?
I think sometimes people rely too much on substance. You can drink too much, smoke too much, you can do anything too much. You have to rely on the inner spirit, on truth, in order to enhance the situation. Like I said before, I drink. But whatever the person does, if this person is rational-minded, then that substance won’t affect this human being in a negative way. But if you drink or whatever you do, and another entity comes out of you, you become irrational, and hard to get along with. Then, what comes out of your body is telling you that you don’t need to do this. If you don’t get something good from whatever a person is engaged in, you need to check yourself and realize that you are doing this too much. For the people who have burn-outs, it means they are overdoing something. They need to check themselves before it is too late and find what to do to become the person that they want to be. I think that everything is a test. If you feel like burning out, you are doing something wrong and it is not worthy.
I guess you met some difficulties in your career. Was it about the evolution of the music industry or something else?
Like I was saying to my manager earlier that day, I kind of slowed down in the 80s, and I started back in the 90s. There was something that I have never talked about until recently. Once I talked about it, I felt better. My wife’s sister was killed by her husband. They were both friends of mine. But I never wanted to talk about that, because I thought it was too personal. And then I said to myself a few weeks ago, that if I talk about this, maybe it will help someone else who is experiencing what I experienced. When I found out that my sister-in-law was killed, and that my brother-in-law killed himself, we raised their one and only son. It was a mess, man, because he witnessed the whole suicide and murder. Thank God, he’s a productive young man today, he became a very decent and church-man. At that time, music came at the backseat because I felt that I should focus on being a father. I used to go to other cities and travel all around the place, so music became secondary, but it was always in me. I was still doing some records but nothing like before. I became focused on real estate, and I was so into it that I put music on the back burner, until my wife encouraged me, saying that it was what I should be doing. I was even about to open a restaurant. I had three apartments and I wanted to transform them into an eatery. She looked at that place and said: “you should stick to what you know. Music.” She is the one who is responsible for me coming back. I gave 100% of credit to her. I was worrying about being a father at that time. Thank God, none of my kids ended up in jail, my daughter and my three sons are productive young people. When I look back at that slow period, I am glad I took that hiatus to focus on my family because the joy that I get now of seeing them just being productive human beings, it is unmeasurable. I can’t even tell you how joyful I feel. And I am glad that my wife pushed me back into the business! All of a sudden, I had a rebirth in the 90s, and now we are in 2019 and I am still here!
Lesson 7: How to be a good lover and have a long marriage ?
You have to put God in your life and try to be as truthful as you can to what the word of God says. We are constantly changing what we think the word of God is. I think the word of God should stay the way it is written and keep the same meaning. And as we change our way of living our lifestyle, we must refer to the word of God to be right. We can always deviate, so the word of God should be our rock. In my marriage, we are in love, but nobody is perfect, and I let the Bible tell me how far I have deviated, and I am trying to bring myself back into what would be hopefully pleasant to God. If two people are trying to be a good person, there is no way it is going to fail. When you make that vow, you are supposed to mean it. You will be a man of his word and she will be a woman of her word. When you say it, man, you have to mean it, for the best and the worse ! Let the Bible get in, or whatever religion that you are in. Because I believe in all of them, even the shamans or the witchdoctors, they know that there is a higher existence. There is something greater than the things we see. When you say those vows, you have to want it. My wife and I have been together for 50 years, so apparently she meant her words too ! We had a beautiful time. And if you ask me if I want to do it all over again, I do it right now! (laughing) And I hope she would do it too. But I know that I am such a naughty guy sometimes, so she might say “let me think about it…” (laughing).
Love is actually the main topic of your records, it is at the centre of your songs. Do you think that love can save the world?
Yes, because love is God. God is energy, God is light, God is all. Whether we like it or not, He puts us where we are supposed to be, for the nature of our thoughts. I don’t like making songs just for trivial purposes. I feel like the songs are important. When I am singing to people, I like them to feel what I am saying, and to get some comfort out of what I am saying. They are not only in a club, dancing, they get some sort of benefit, mentally strengthening. That’s the whole Lee Fields thing.
It Rains Love, Lee Fields’ last album was released on April 5th 2019 on Big Crown Records. Order it on the label’s website.