Contrary to what their publicists would have you believe, bands rarely break up over “musical differences”. Of course the band members must share enough musical common ground to establish and sustain a creative dialogue, but equally importantly it is crucial that the personalities in a band such as England’s Traffic must complement one another, not unlike a successful marriage. But try to imagine being in multiple simultaneous marriages and you’ll get an idea of the dynamics involved in a band.
The trinity from which came the legendary first three Traffic albums Mr Fantasy, Traffic, and John Barleycorn Must Die included former Spencer Davis Group teen prodigy singer/organist/guitarist Steve Winwood, reed man Chris Wood, and drummer Jim Capaldi. Guitarist/singer Dave Mason, a former Spencer Davis roadie, shared a talent for melody with the other three on the first two Traffic albums, but little else personality-wise, and was cut loose for the second and final time before the second album hit store shelves.
Meanwhile Mssrs.Winwood, Capaldi, and Wood incorporated such diverse musical influences as Memphis soul, old English folk, light psychedelia, Latin rhythms, and unapologetic jazz. Traffic was delivering World Music decades before the term was coined. Winwood even reveals in this classic rock interview that Traffic, never a band for pop hits nor the 3-minute format, may have actually been among the first “jam bands”. Curiously they placed no album on Rolling Stone magazine’s “Top 500 Albums of All Time” list, yet were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame not more than a year before Jim Capaldi’s January 2005 death from stomach cancer ( Chris Wood passed away in 1983 from liver failure). -Redbeard