|Venetta Lee Fields|
|Born||1941 (age 78–79)|
Buffalo, New York, United States
|Genres||R&B, pop, rock|
Venetta Lee Fields (born 1941) is an American-born 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, Humble Pie, Barbra Streisand, Elkie Brooks, Neil Diamond, Steely Dan, and the Rolling Stones. Having emigrated to Australia in 1982 she took 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, the Ike & Tina Turner Revue were playing in Buffalo. Fields successfully auditioned as a new member of Ike & Tina Turner's backing vocalists, joining the Ikettes. The revue toured the Chitlin' Circuit and performed at prominent theaters in major cities across the United States. In between gigs Ike Turner produced artists in the revue. Field's released her debut single "You're Still My Baby"/ "I'm Leaving You" on Turner's Sony Records label in 1963. Fields was given a solo to perform during shows, such as "The Love of My Man" on the album Ike & Tina Turner Revue Live (1964), "I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)," and "Good Time Tonight" on Live! The Ike & Tina Turner Show (1965).
In 1965, the Ikettes released the Top 40 hit "Peaches 'N' Cream" (Pop #36, R&B #28) and "I'm So Thankful" (Pop #74, R&B #12) on Modern Records. By late 1965, 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."
In 1966, the trio signed to Mirwood Records and became the Mirettes. They left Mirwood and released their highest charting single "In the Midnight Hour" (Pop #45, R&B #18) on Revue Records in 1968. By 1970, Fields had left the group and was replaced by former Ikette Pat Powdrill.
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."
Around 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.
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 1991) - 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, Sherlie Mathews and Fellon Williams.
In 2002, Fields received the Australian Gospel Singer of the Year award.
In recognition of her achievements, Fields was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame on September 29, 2005.