Off the Clock: The Legendary Lee Fields

Apr 29, 2016

Sharese Ann Frederick/Flickr

Soul singer Lee Fields has spent four decades performing on stages around the world, including a nearly-sold out show during the 2016 True/False film festival… In a rapidly changing music industry, he’s managed to keep his music and legacy alive.

“I’ve been through about three generations now, and they continue to come and I continue to sing,” Fields said. “So I am very grateful for the supporters.”

Fields has been recording music since 1969. As many who attended his concert at the Blue Note in Columbia would agree, the 65-year-old soul singer sounds as good today as he did on his records 40 years ago. He says he hasn’t stopped loving his career for a second.

“I’m having just as much fun… matter of fact, more fun now because I realized what I do, a lot of people dream about doing and it turned into a life experience for me,” he said.

Fields’ 43-year career allowed him to travel all around the world both as a solo artist, as well as sharing the stage with soul and R&B icons like Kool & the Gang and O.V. Wright among others. But it was actually The Beatles 1964 performance live on the Ed Sullivan show that inspired the then 13-year-old North Carolina paper boy.

“Their weird hairdos and the girls fanatically screaming, and total chaos happening in the midst of total order with their music,” he said. “It made people cry, it made them happy, so that’s when I wanted to be a musician.”
 

Fields wouldn’t start actively pursuing a career in music until a year later… thanks to a dare from his friend to enter a talent show. He sand a James Brown song.

“The girls went crazy,” Fields said. “And the first thing I knew, I’m getting offers to sing with different bands. One gig led to another, and it never stopped."

He was nicknamed “Little J.B.” for his uncanny resemblance – physically and vocally – to James Brown.

“He was like an idol to me and I wanted to be just like James,” he said.

But the recording industry didn’t need another James Brown. And it wasn’t until the two met a few years later that Fields realized he didn’t want to be just like James – he wanted to be Lee Fields. After four decades of trying to understand who he is, Fields thinks he’s finally found the answer he’s been looking for thanks to his new band, Lee Fields & the Expressions.

“We are a group of individuals who come together, to make, for a moment in your life, to make you feel good in the name of love,” Fields said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Brooklyn’s Truth & Soul Records paired its house band, The Expressions, with Fields in 2008. Together they’ve produced two critically acclaimed albums; My World (2009) and Faithful Man (2012). Fields said band is currently working on a third album. Despite all of his studio work, he said performing live has been the best part of his career.

“Live music brings us together on one accord,” he said. “It’s all about interacting with each other, from human being to human being.”

Night after night, Fields puts on a remarkably energetic show, singing and dancing nonstop. He said he wants his audience to feel the same sort of love, excitement and passion that he feels every night. Fields will begin a European tour in early May, but he said soon enough, he’ll make it back to mid-Missouri.

“The crowd in Columbia was just… beautiful. I would love to come back.”