Spencer Davis, the British rocker who was one of the key figures of the 1960s beat scene, died in a hospital Monday at the age of 81 while being treated for pneumonia, his agent told the BBC. The musician is survived by his longtime partner June and three adult children and is remembered for some of the Spencer Davis Group's frequently covered mid-1960s classics as "Gimme Some Lovin'" and "I’m a Man."
Ironically enough, while the Spencer Davis Group was named for the late musician and often thought to be led by him, the band's hits were sung not by Davis but a teenage Steve Winwood. Bandmate Muff Winwood told Mojo in 1997 that the reason Davis was chosen as the namesake for the group was was because "Spencer was the only one who enjoyed doing interviews, so I pointed out that if we called it the Spencer Davis Group, the rest of us could stay in bed and let him do them," as per Variety.
Davis was born in Swansea in 1939 and first started learning harmonica and the accordion at the age 6, according to the BBC. He worked on crafting his musical style throughout his adolescence before meeting brothers Steve and Muff Winwood while performing in a pub in Birmingham. Convincing the two to form a band with him, the Spencer Davis Group released a string of Top 10 British hits, from "Keep on Running" in 1966 to "Somebody Help Me," "I’m A Man" and "Gimme Some Lovin’" in 1967. The latter two songs crossed the pond to become popular in the U.S. and became famous again when covered by Chicago and the Blues Brothers.
The Winwood brothers left the group in 1967, with Steve going on to form Traffic with guitarist Dave Mason and drummer Jim Capaldi and Muff eventually becoming a successful record executive. Davis himself continued the group until 1969, rebooting it in 1973 after a move to California, around the same time as when he also worked at Island Records. Throughout the remainder of his life, Davis would lead various reformations of the Spencer Davis Group, even touring as recently in 2017. Bob Birk, who had worked with Davis for more than 30 years, told the BBC after his death, "He was a very good friend. He was a highly ethical, very talented, good-hearted, extremely intelligent, generous man. He will be missed."