Lou Aronica: The 100 Greatest Songs of the Rock Era: #93: Dear Mr. Fantasy

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Lyrics

Traffic from Mr. Fantasy (1967)

 

“Steve Winwood: top-five rock voice ever?” Peggy said.

“Not counting R&B singers? Yeah, I wouldn’t argue against that.”

“Well, that was the thing. He had a voice made for R&B, but he was singing these trippy tunes. How many other people could have done that?”

“He definitely carved a distinctive place for himself with Traffic. But I really think he could have sung anything. After all, the biggest hit of his career was ‘Higher Love.’”

“‘Higher Love,’ yeah. Do you think Winwood ever thought while he was writing ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy’ that he would wind up with a slick haircut singing a dance tune?”

I remembered the complaints from the Traffic faithful when that song landed that the great Steve Winwood had sold out. “I never hated that song as much as others did,” I said. “Really, I was just happy that he had a big hit after all those years.”

“Promise me ‘Higher Love’ isn’t in your top hundred.”

I laughed. “No, definitely not. I don’t think I have any total-career-pivots like that on the list.”

“That’s good to hear. I was really worried that Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’ was going to show up at some point. So what is it about ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy’ that makes it a song for the ages for you? The dreamy chord changes? The shredding guitar? The plaintive vocal?”

“D: all of the above. But you actually didn’t mention the thing I love the most. And this one has nothing to do with Winwood; it’s a Jim Capaldi thing. I just love the story he tells with only a handful of lines about a musician’s unique ability to make us feel more alive. That was both inspirational and aspirational.”

“Oh, right. Your rock star phase.”

“I’m not sure it qualifies as a phase.”

“Wasn’t it the only thing you wanted for your entire adolescence?”

“‘Only thing’ is overstating it. I also wanted good pizza.”

“And this was because of ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy.’”

“Not entirely, but that song gave voice to something I was feeling inside. I think it still does, except the stage has changed.”

“Yeah, one of these days we’ll talk about something other than music during these conversations and you can give me a hopes-and-dreams update.”

“Any time you want?”

“Really?”

“Any time.”

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