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Venetta Fields is an American singer, best known as session musician for leading rock and pop acts of the 1970s including Pink Floyd, Barbra Streisand, Steely Dan, and the Rolling Stones. She has lived in Australia since 1982.
Born in Buffalo, New York, into a religious family, Fields' early musical training came through regular gospel performances at church, and also inspiration from US singer Aretha Franklin. Her singing career officially began with The Templaires, a group she formed with members of her church, followed by The Corinthian Gospel Singers. In late 1961 Ike and Tina Turner Revue were playing in Buffalo and Fields heard there was an opening for a new member of Tina Turner's backing vocalists The Ikettes. With a successful audition Fields joined immediately. In addition to backing Tina Turner in performance and on recordings, Fields recorded on many singles by The Ikettes (including "Peaches and Cream") and was given some solo songs on live recordings. Ike Turner moved his base to Los Angeles and, in 1966, Fields left the revue, along with fellow Ikettes Jessie Smith and Robbie Montgomery. The trio signed to Mirwood Records and they became The Mirettes from 1966-1970.
From about 1969, along with fellow vocalists Clydie King and Sherlie Matthews, Fields quickly became one of the most sought-after backing singers in the US, working with artists including Diana Ross, Elkie Brooks, Steely Dan, Joe Cocker, Quincy Jones, Bette Midler, Burt Bacharach, Bob Dylan, The Supremes, Neil Diamond, Bob Seger, Burton Cummings, Tim Buckley, Paul Butterfield, Leonard Cohen, Joe Walsh, and also with Aretha Franklin; her mentor and inspiration. Notable performances during this time included Wish You Were Here with Pink Floyd, and recording the Rolling Stones' album Exile on Main St.
In about 1971, Fields, King, and Matthews formed The Blackberries, with Matthews as producer/songwriter as well as vocalist. In 1972, Steve Marriott asked them to record and tour with Humble Pie, and produced an unreleased Blackberries LP with Humble Pie as the backing band. The Blackberries and Humble Pie parted company in 1973.
Career in Australia
Following a tour to Australia in the late 1970s with Boz Scaggs, Fields decided to relocate permanently in 1982. In the years that followed, she continued to work with US artists when they toured Australia including George Benson, Dionne Warwick, Barbra Streisand, Thelma Houston, and Randy Crawford, and also with leading Australian artists, including Richard Clapton, Australian Crawl, Cold Chisel, Jimmy Barnes, James Morrison, Mark Gillespie, and, most famously, as a long time back-up vocalist with John Farnham.
Fields and Farnham joined as guest vocalists with The Incredible Penguins in 1985, for a cover of "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)", a charity project for research on Little Penguins, which peaked at #10 on the Australian Kent Music Report in December.
In the mid-1980s in Melbourne, Fields formed a new group, Venetta's Taxi, with a line-up including vocalist Sherlie Matthews, guitarist Michael den Elzen, and Chong Lim on keyboards, while also performing regularly as a backing vocalist for local and touring artists. During this period Venetta coached singing (including Karen Knowles and Colette Mann) at Tony Bartuccio's Dance Academy in Prahran, and took numerous vocal workshops at the Victorian College of the Arts.
It was in Australia that Fields made her theatre debut; starring as Alice in Big River. Receiving rave reviews for this performance, she soon became increasingly involved in music theatre. Productions in which Fields has appeared to date include Blues in the Night, Chess (concert version), two plays for the Melbourne Theatre Company - The Crucible and The Racing Demon - and as Ruby in Buddy The Musical (The Buddy Holly Story). During this time she also formed and toured her own show, Gospel Jubilee.
Currently residing on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Fields is still active as a singer and songwriter. In 2002, she received the Australian Gospel Singer of the Year award, and three years later released her album, At Last (2005). Fields is also active as a vocal coach, with several students including 2005 Australian Idol winner Kate DeAraugo, singer/songwriter Cody Simpson, and 2011 Australia's Got Talent finalist Bree De Rome.
Selected list of recordings
- Barbra Streisand: Barbra Joan Streisand, Stoney End, A Star Is Born
- The Rolling Stones: Exile on Main St.
- Steely Dan: Can't Buy a Thrill, Aja, Royal Scam
- Tim Buckley: Greetings from L.A., Look at the Fool
- Humble Pie: Eat It, Thunderbox, Street Rats
- Joe Walsh: The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get
- Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here
- Bonnie Raitt: Homeplate
- Elkie Brooks: Rich Man's Woman
- The Doors: Full Circle
- Alice Cooper: Lace and Whiskey
- Chuck Girard: Take It Easy
- Jean Terrell: I Had to Fall in Love
- Graham Nash: Songs for Beginners
- Gene Clark: No Other
- Spirit: Feedback
- Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee: Sonny & Brownie
- The Doobie Brothers: Stampede
- Venetta's Taxi
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book Ltd. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. NOTE: Used for Australian Singles and Albums charting from 1974 until ARIA created their own charts in mid-1988. In 1992, Kent back calculated chart positions for 1970–1974.
- Spencer, Chris; Zbig Nowara, Paul McHenry with notes by Ed Nimmervoll (2002) . "Incredible Penguins". The Who's Who of Australian Rock. Noble Park, Vic.: Five Mile Press. ISBN 1-86503-891-1. Retrieved 2 January 2010. Note: [on-line] version established at White Room Electronic Publishing Pty Ltd in 2007 and was expanded from the 2002 edition.
- "At Last - Venetta Fields : Releases". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
- Official website
- Buffalo Hall of Fame article on Fields
- Humble-Pie.net: The Blackberries & Humble Pie