Steve Cropper Earns First Grammy Nomination As Solo Musician

Article Contributed by | Published on Thursday, December 9, 2021

After decades of stardom in soul, blues, and rock n roll, as well as several GRAMMY wins with  the Blues Brothers, Booker T. and the M.G, and as a songwriter and producer, Steve Cropper has earned his first GRAMMY nomination as an individual musician for ‘Fire It Up,’ his latest full-length release. Nominated in the “Best Contemporary Blues Album” category alongside a group of artists who are less than half his age, the album received rave reviews and hit #1 on the Billboard Blues Albums chart upon its release in April, with Cropper referring to it as his first “proper” solo album since 1969 - “I haven’t heard myself this way in years," he explained. Read Cropper’s Wall Street Journal “House Call” feature, and listen to his interview on “Sound Opinions.”

“To all my GRAMMY friends, I know it's been a while, but this nomination for ‘Fire it Up’ is very special and feels real good,” Cropper said. “I do remember back when, sitting next to a new young upstart named Snoop Dog (what a super talent). He just keeps going and going. Keep it up Snoop and don't ever stop. I guess I'm allowed to say what I think being a lifetime member and getting the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. Thanks Booker, Duck and Al.”
A founding member of the Blues Brothers and one of Stax Records’ main producers, songwriters, and guitarists – as the guitarist in its house band, Booker T. and the M.G.’s –  Cropper reintroduced classic soul to unsuspecting audiences, with Rolling Stone ranking him in the top 40 all-time greatest guitarists. “Midnight Hour” by Wilson Pickett, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding, “Soul Man” and “Hold On I’m Coming” by Sam and Dave — you simply can’t discuss soul music without Steve Cropper. He plays on John Lennon’s Rock N Roll album, Frank Black’s Honeycomb and Fast Man Raider Man albums, and on several albums by Ringo Starr. He’s also produced for John Prine, Jeff Beck, and John Cougar Mellencamp.
But seven decades into his legendary career and having just celebrated his 80th birthday, Steve sees this record as different: “It’s made from old grooves, because during a lockdown, you work on stuff that’s been in your head for years.” Rooted in sessions with the Rascals’ Felix Cavaliere and produced with long-time collaborator Jon Tiven, Cropper is both guitarist and a producer on the album, a role he is most comfortable in after years on the scene. “To be a good producer, you’ve got to be able to hear a song finished in your head before there’s much of anything done,” he explains. “..a good production is not accidental. I’m really proud of things that I produce.” The album features vocals and lyrics by Roger C. Reale. “I wished I’d known Roger back in the day,” Steve adds. “Eddie Floyd and Otis Redding and Rufus Thomas, they were singers who had real energy. Roger is in that group. He sings like it’s the last song he’ll ever get to sing.”
Careful and selective about what he’ll put his name on, you won’t be surprised to find that ‘Fire It Up’ is an instant classic. From the classic R&B of the title-track to the funk of “Bush Hog” and the quiet restraint of “One Good Turn,” the album may have Cropper’s name on it, but it’s still very much a collaborative effort, where solos and prowess are always in service to the larger rhythm. “This isn’t a battle of the bands,” he adds. “’s better to enhance the other guy, make him shine.”
In fact, listening to everyone else may be one of the secrets to Cropper’s style. The “Go Getter Is Gone” highlights the album’s collaborative effort. “Roger came up with most of the lyrics here,” he says. “I came up with the rhythms and the grooves and the changes, but I think teamwork is better.” And suddenly a light shines on why Cropper has pursued so few solo records: “When a basketball team wins,” he says, “it’s not the player who made the last three-pointer who wins, it’s the whole team that got him there.”
'Fire It Up' - Steve Cropper
1. Bush Hog Part 1
2. Fire It Up
3. One Good Turn
4. I'm Not Havin' It
5. Out of Love
6. Far Away
7. Say You Don't Know Me
8. She's So Fine
9. Two Wrongs
10. Heartbreak Street
11. The Go-Getter Is Gone
12. Bush Hog Part 2
13. Bush Hog