|Birth name||Venetta Lee Fields|
|Born||1941 (age 75–76)
Buffalo, New York, United States
|Occupation(s)||Singer, musical theater actress, vocal coach|
Venetta Lee Fields (born 1941) is an American-Australian singer, musical theater actress and vocal coach. She was a backing vocalist for American and British rock and pop acts of the 1960s and 1970s including Ike & Tina Turner, Pink Floyd, Barbra Streisand, Elkie Brooks, Neil Diamond, Steely Dan, and the Rolling Stones. Since 1982 she has lived and worked in Australia, and holds dual Australian-American citizenship. She recorded or toured as a backing singer for Australian artists, Richard Clapton, Australian Crawl, Cold Chisel, Jimmy Barnes, James Morrison and John Farnham.
Fields was born in Buffalo, New York in 1941, into a religious family. Her early musical training was from regular gospel performances at church. Her inspiration was Aretha Franklin. Fields singing career 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; Fields successfully auditioned as a new member of Tina's backing vocalists, the Ikettes. Fields joined the revue in addition to backing Tina in performance and on recordings.
She is recorded on singles by the Ikettes, including "Peaches 'N' Cream" (1965), and was given some solo songs on live recordings, such as "You're My Baby" (1963), "The Love of My Man" (November 1964), "I Know (You Don't Love Me no More)" (February 1965) and "Good Time Tonight" (February). Ruby Jane a Canadian DJ described "Peaches 'N' Cream" on WeFunk Radio as "a boisterous romp of a 60s R&B tune about the joys and perils of young love... It could be called schoolyard soul, with girls in pigtails chanting it as they play Double Dutch. The harmonica playfully echoes the line peaches and cream, and the throaty ah, ah, ah at the top of the chorus is delivered with a raucous enthusiasm that shouts at you to get on the dance floor. This is one of those girl-group anthems that’s fun and rowdy and fills you with sweet, sweet joy."
Ike Turner moved his base to Los Angeles and, in 1966, Fields left the revue, along with fellow Ikettes: Jessie Smith and Robbie Montgomery. Fields later recalled "I was an Ikette for five years. It was a rough job, but it was a very good experience. It's just like a school. You go from grade 1 to 2, not from 1 to 8. And when you graduate you have to leave. There is such a thing as staying too long; when you start getting stagnant and stifled by what you're doing. We almost stayed too long." The trio signed to Mirwood Records and they became the Mirettes from 1966 to 1970. They issued some singles, "In the Midnight Hour" and "Take for a Little a While", which "made impressions."
Fields worked as a session vocalist from about 1969, often with Clydie King and Sherlie Matthews, for Quincy Jones, Paul Butterfield, Tim Buckley, Steely Dan, Joe Walsh, Joe Cocker, Elkie Brooks, Neil Diamond, Leonard Cohen, Bob Seger, Burt Bacharach and Burton Cummings. Others: Diana Ross, Bette Midler, Bob Dylan, the Supremes, and for Aretha Franklin – her mentor and inspiration. Notable performances during this time included Wish You Were Here (September 1975) with Pink Floyd, and recording the Rolling Stones' album Exile on Main St. (May 1972). Fields later reflected on her sessions for the latter album, they were at midnight but she wanted money for clothing, "I was more interested in the coat than I was in the Rolling Stones". With King, she sang on four tracks, "Tumbling Dice", "I Just Want to See His Face", "Let It Loose" and "Shine a Light", which she felt "were wonderful songs and they were just right for us... We knew gospel. That's what most people wanted from us, a gospel sound."
In about 1971, Fields, King, and Matthews formed the Blackberries, with Matthews as producer and songwriter as well as vocalist. When backing Ray Charles, the trio worked as the Raelettes. In 1972 Steve Marriott asked them to record and tour with his band, Humble Pie, and produced an unreleased Blackberries LP with Humble Pie as the backing band – they parted company in 1973. Michael Little of Vinyl District reviewed Eat It (April 1973), which showed Humble Pie "at its most eclectic. Each of its four sides emphasized a different aspect of the band, and the concept works." He described the track, "Get Down to It", which "makes maximum use of the band’s backing singers" including "the immortal" Fields. Fields and King acted as Barbra Streisand's backing singers (The Oreos) in the 1976 musical film, A Star Is Born (December 1976), and sang on its associated film soundtrack (November 1976). Fields had previously sung on two of Streisand's albums from 1971.
Career in Australia
As a member of Boz Scaggs backing band, Fields toured Australia in 1978 and 1980. While in the country in the latter year she contributed backing vocals to Marc Hunter's (ex-Dragon) solo album, Big City Talk. Back in the US she provided backing vocals for So Lucky (December 1981), by Renée Geyer – the Australian artist was then working in California. Fields decided to relocate permanently to Australia in 1982, "I had all that experience and a good reputation but I felt like I was stuck in a stereotyped box... I needed to do something else and I had to get away to somewhere where I could start again."
Fields continued to work with US artists when they toured her adopted country until 2000, including George Benson, Dionne Warwick, Streisand, Thelma Houston, and Randy Crawford. She also recorded or toured as a backing singer with Australian artists, Richard Clapton (1983–84), Jimmy Barnes, Australian Crawl, Cold Chisel, James Morrison, Mark Gillespie (Australian singer), and as a long-term touring and session harmony vocalist for John Farnham (1986–95). Neil Lade of The Canberra Times reviewed Clapton's album, Solidarity (September 1984), and described its final track, "New World", as "It's a song that's slow and softly lulling. A song of peace and hope... and Clapton's voice is at its tuneful best. And the backing vocals of Vanetta Fields add a powerful and echoing dimension to what may be just the album's finest song."
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 Fields coached singing, including Karen Knowles and Colette Mann, at Tony Bartuccio's Dance Academy in Prahran. She took vocal workshops at the Victorian College of the Arts.
Fields and Farnham were both guest vocalists with The Incredible Penguins in late 1985, for a cover of "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)", a charity project for research on little penguins, which peaked at No. 10 on the Australian Kent Music Report in December. Fields starting work for Farnham on his Jack's Back Tour in support of his album, Whispering Jack (October 1986). Debbie Kruger of Variety magazine caught the show at the State Theater in March 1987, "Midway through the show, Farnham left the stage, and backing Singer Venetta Fields sang three songs which kept the audience warm but eager for more of their hero."
In January 1989 Fields made her musical theater debut as Alice in the Australian production of Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at Her Majesty's Theatre, Sydney. She followed with other stage appearances including two plays for the Melbourne Theatre Company – Racing Demon (April 1991) and The Crucible (May) – Blues in the Night (August, October 1992), Chess (concert version), and as Ruby in the Buddy Holly show Buddy the Musical. In 1986 she formed and toured her own show, Gospel Jubilee; the line-up of the band of the same name was Joanne Campbell, Joe Creighton, Chong Lim, Shirlie Mathews and Fellon Williams.
After 2000, she lived on the Gold Coast, and no longer toured or recorded with visiting artists. In 2002 she received the Australian Gospel Singer of the Year award, and three years later released her album, At Last (2005). Fields is 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.
In recognition of her achievements, Fields was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame on September 29, 2005.
Selected list of recordings
- Quincy Jones – The Lost Man film soundtrack (1969)
- Neil Diamond – Gold: Recorded Live at the Troubadour (live album, August 1970), Beautiful Noise (1976), You Don't Bring Me Flowers (1978), September Morn (December 1979)
- Paul Butterfield – Live (1970), Sometimes I Just Feel Like Smilin' (1971)
- Barbra Streisand – Stoney End (February 1971), Barbra Joan Streisand (August 1971), A Star Is Born acting role and on the film soundtrack (November 1976)
- The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main St. (May 1972)
- The Doors - Full Circle (August 1972)
- Tim Buckley – Greetings from L.A. (October 1972), Look at the Fool (November 1974)
- Steely Dan – Can't Buy a Thrill (November 1972), The Royal Scam (May 1976), Aja (September 1977)
- Humble Pie: Eat It (April 1973), Thunderbox (February 1974), Street Rats (February 1975)
- Joe Walsh – The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get (June 1973)
- Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon Tour (October 1973), Wish You Were Here (September 1975)
- Joe Cocker – I Can Stand a Little Rain (August 1974), Jamaica Say You Will (April 1975)
- Bonnie Raitt: Home Plate (1975)
- Elkie Brooks – Rich Man's Woman (1975), Live and Learn (1979)
- Leonard Cohen – Death of a Ladies' Man (November 1977)
- Bob Seger – Stranger in Town (May 1978)
- Burton Cummings – Dream of a Child (1978)
- Burt Bacharach – Together? Italian film's US soundtrack version (1979)
- Alice Cooper - Lace and Whiskey (April 1977)
- Chuck Girard: Take It Easy (1978)
- Jean Terrell: I Had to Fall in Love (1978)
- Graham Nash: Songs for Beginners (May 1971)
- Gene Clark: No Other (September 1974)
- Spirit: Feedback (March 1972)
- Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee: Sonny & Brownie (1973)
- The Doobie Brothers: Stampede (April 1975)
- Gary St.Clair: Self Titled
- Diana Ross: "Touch Me in the Morning" (May 1973)
- Boz Scaggs: "Breakdown Dead Ahead" (1980)
- Richard Clapton – Solidarity (September 1984), The Best Years of Our Lives (live album, September 1989)
- Jimmy Barnes – Bodyswerve (September 1984)
- Venetta's Taxi
- "Venetta Fields BMHOF Class of 2005". Buffalo Music Hall of Fame. 2005. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
- Hamilton, Andrew. "The Ikettes | Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
- "Cover versions by Venetta Fields". SecondHandSongs. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
- Jane, Ruby (August 5, 2014). "Forgotten Treasures: The Ikettes 'Peaches "N" Cream' (1965)". WeFunk Radio: Music Is My Sanctuary. Retrieved June 7, 2016.
- "Venetta Fields | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 8 June 2016.
- Shedden, Iain (May 13, 2010). "Venetta Fields embraces Exile on Main Street session legacy". The Australian. Retrieved June 8, 2016.
- Little, Michael H (May 29, 2015). "Graded on a Curve: Humble Pie, Eat It". The Vinyl District. Retrieved June 8, 2016.
- "Moore on Pop". The Australian Women's Weekly. 48 (25). November 19, 1980. p. 54. Retrieved June 8, 2016 – via National Library of Australia. Note: Fields is incorrectly given as Vanetta.
- "Rock Music: Powerful, Emotive". The Canberra Times. 56 (16,873). December 7, 1981. p. 12. Retrieved June 8, 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
- Venetta Fields entries at Australian Rock Database:
- John Farnham Band (1986–95): Holmgren, Magnus; Reboulet, Scott; Albury, Lyn; Birtles, Beeb; Warnqvist, Stefan; Medlin, Peter. "John Farnham". hem.passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on September 27, 2012. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
- Chong Lim: Holmgren, Magnus. "Chong Lim". hem.passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on March 18, 2011. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
- Joe Creighton: Holmgren, Magnus; Creighton, Joe. "Joe Creighton". hem.passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on January 10, 2011. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
- Black Sorrows: Holmgren, Magnus. "Black Sorrows". hem.passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on February 7, 2011. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
- Richard Clapton Band (1983–84): Holmgren, Magnus. "Richard Clapton". hem.passagen.se. Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on January 10, 2011. Retrieved June 9, 2016.
- Lade, Neil (September 24, 1984). "Canberra Living: Rock Music". The Canberra Times. 59 (17,893). p. 13. Retrieved June 9, 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
- 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 (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.
- Kruger, Debbie. "John Farnham Reviews". Variety. Retrieved 9 June 2016 – via Debbie Kruger Official Website.
- "Contributor: Venetta Fields". AusStage. Retrieved June 8, 2016.
- "At Last - Venetta Fields : Releases". AllMusic. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
- Wild, David (October 21, 2008). He Is...I Say: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Neil Diamond. Da Capo Press. p. 129. ISBN 0-30681-784-5.
- "Logan's Rundown: New broom may sweep out the X logo for TEN". The Canberra Times. 63 (19,612). June 19, 1989. p. 12. Retrieved June 9, 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
- Lade, Neil (October 8, 1984). "Canberra Living: Rock Music". The Canberra Times. 59 (17,907). p. 13. Retrieved June 9, 2016 – via National Library of Australia.