Higher Love

Album: Back In The High Life (1986)
Charted: 13 1


  • This very spiritual song makes a case for why higher love, which can be interpreted as God, must exist. The first line sets the stage:

    Think about it, there must be higher love

    One of the key arguments is found in the first verse:

    Without it, life is a wasted time
  • Winwood played many of the instruments on Back In The High Life and wrote the music for the songs, but for this and many other songs on the album, Will Jennings wrote the lyrics. Jennings is a very successful songwriter who also collaborated with Winwood on the albums Arc Of A Diver and Talking Back To The Night, and went on to write "My Heart Will Go On" with James Horner for the movie Titanic. Jennings told Songfacts:

    "I was born in East Texas and my mother and father's families were from Arkansas and the generations before were from the Deep South. My father's father was a Methodist preacher, a circuit rider, in Arkansas. My earliest memories are of the music in church and of my aunts and uncles singing the beautiful old hymns. 'Higher Love' is a generation past that, when things were not so much taken for granted, so that one has to plea, 'Bring me a higher love,' and the lines are all trying to explain why there must be higher love. A modern hymn, you might call it."
  • This was Winwood's first US #1 single, either as a solo artist or with a group. He was 38 when it topped the chart on August 30, 1986, but he had already been making music for more than two decades. As a teenager, his crystalline voice and songwriting talents led the Spencer Davis Group to two hit singles in 1967: "Gimme Some Lovin'" and "I'm A Man." From there, he veered away from pop with the highly acclaimed groups Traffic and Blind Faith, but honed a more radio-friendly sound with his solo recordings, which started in 1977 with his self-titled album. He got on the airwaves with his singles "While You See a Chance" (1980) and "Valerie," but "Higher Love" was his breakthrough solo hit. He went to the top again in 1988 with "Roll With It."
  • Chaka Khan sang on this with Winwood, giving the song a gospel feel.
  • This won two Grammys in 1987: Record Of The Year (beating Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" and Robert Palmer's "Addicted To Love") and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
  • The Irish folk singer James Vincent McMorrow recorded this song for his 2010 debut album Early In The Morning. McMorrow's stripped-down, almost ethereal version became a hit in the UK after featuring in a television commercial for the video rental company LoveFilm.
  • Whitney Houston recorded this song, but her version was released only in Japan, appearing as the B-side of her 1990 single "I'm Your Baby Tonight." In 2019, the producer Kygo (Kyrre Gorvell-Dahll) reworked the song with Houston's vocals at the behest of Houston's estate. Released as a single, this version of "Higher Love" was the first new music released after Houston's death in 2012. Kygo's remix reached the top 10 in several European countries, including #2 in the UK. It also peaked at #63 in the US.

    A video, directed by Hanna Lux Davis, was released for the song starring Vanessa Morgan (Riverdale), who is transported to a mind-bending '80s aerobics class in the clip.

Comments: 14

  • Dj from Lansing, MiLove the Chaka Khan vocals
  • Rca from Mizoram,indiaThis song is very related to Bumblebee (2018)
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn this day in 1986 {August 16th} a video of Steve Winwood's "Higher Love" was aired on the ABC-TV Saturday afternoon program, 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time "Higher Love" was at position #4 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, two weeks later it would peak at #1 {for 1 week} and it spent twenty two weeks on the Top 100...
    And the following month it also reached #1 {for 1 week} on the Canadian RPM Singles chart...
    As noted above, Chaka Khan sang on "Higher Love"...
    Between 1980 and 1990 the Birmingham, England native, as a solo artist, had fourteen records on the Top 100 chart, six* made the Top 10 with two reaching #1, the above "Higher Love" and "Roll With It" for four weeks in 1988...
    Besides his two #1 records, his four other Top 10 records were "While You See A Chance" {#7 in 1980}, "The Finer Things" {#8 in 1987}, "Valerie" {#9 in 1987}, and "Don't You Know What The Night Can Do?" {#6 in 1988}...
    Stephen Lawrence Winwood celebrated his 71st birthday three months ago on May 12th, 2019...
    * He just missed having a seventh Top 10 record when his "Holding On" peaked at #11 {for 1 week} in January of 1989...
  • Camille from Toronto, OhI'm not sure why, but I never cared for this song.
  • May from Camden, NjI love the song no matter what
  • Kenny from Minneapolis, MnSteve and Chaka did a great live performance on VH1's "HONORS" show. I can't find the video but I think it was 1997.
  • Hanny from Roden, NetherlandsGreat song by a great singer. I never knew about Chaka Khan singing the background vocals though; great job Chaka! And of course Will Jennings!
    And I agree with you John from Fort Worth that you can learn a lot about the music facts and lyrics here.
  • Ryan from Farmer City, IlThe video seems to me to be a way to say that higher love can't be found in women, but only through the God of the Universe. Despite all the women in the video, Steve Winwood is mostly by himself, wanting the "Higher Love" which is God.
  • Scott from Los Angeles, CaThis song won its Grammys in 1986, not 1987. The album (Back In The High Life) went for album of the year in 1987 but got a mud hole stomped in it by The Joshua Tree (U2). Had it won, it would've been the first time in history that an album won song of the year in one year and album of the year in the next.
  • Michael from San Diego, CaGreat song with an intriguing video, especially the dancing woman with the bright blue hair!
  • John from Fort Worth, TxI have always liked this song. I'm glad this site gives us all a good way to learn the lyrics and other facts.
    John, 45
  • Nathan from L-burg, KyJames Taylor,Chaka Khan ,and Will Jennings did the backing vocals
  • Mike from Phoenix, AzI think James Taylor also did some background vocals
  • Julia from London, EnglandSimply Awesome!
see more comments

Editor's Picks

They Might Be Giants

They Might Be GiantsSongwriter Interviews

Who writes a song about a name they found in a phone book? That's just one of the everyday things these guys find to sing about. Anything in their field of vision or general scope of knowledge is fair game. If you cross paths with them, so are you.

Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles

Timothy B. Schmit of the EaglesSongwriter Interviews

Did this Eagle come up with the term "Parrothead"? And what is it like playing "Hotel California" for the gazillionth time?

Muhammad Ali: His Musical Legacy and the Songs he Inspired

Muhammad Ali: His Musical Legacy and the Songs he InspiredSong Writing

Before he was the champ, Ali released an album called I Am The Greatest!, but his musical influence is best heard in the songs he inspired.

Lip-Synch Rebels

Lip-Synch RebelsSong Writing

What happens when Kurt Cobain, Iron Maiden and Johnny Lydon are told to lip-synch? Some hilarious "performances."

Evolution Of The Prince Symbol

Evolution Of The Prince SymbolSong Writing

The evolution of the symbol that was Prince's name from 1993-2000.

Carol Kaye

Carol KayeSongwriter Interviews

A top session musician, Carol played on hundreds of hits by The Beach Boys, The Monkees, Frank Sinatra and many others.