Spencer Davis
Credit: Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Spencer Davis, the British rock musician whose namesake band turned out such '60s hits as "Gimme Some Lovin'," "I'm a Man," and "Keep on Running," died Monday in Los Angeles at 81.

Bob Birk, his agent and friend, told the New York Times the cause was pneumonia, adding that Davis had been hospitalized for the past week.

Davis formed the Spencer Davis Group in 1963 with Steve Winwood, Pete York, and Muff Winwood. Davis played rhythm guitar and occasionally sang lead vocals, though Winwood emerged as the group's star, singing "Gimme Some Lovin'" (which Davis co-wrote) and other hits. Though the band parted ways in 1969, Davis put various versions of the group back together throughout the years without the Winwood brothers, who had moved on to other projects.

Steve Winwood remembered his old friend and bandmate in a touching tribute to Davis, who discovered him as a teen and helped set him on the path to becoming a professional musician.

"I've known Spencer since I was about 13 — he would have been about 22," Winwood said in a statement Tuesday. "I was playing a show at Birmingham University with my brother and his band. Spencer who was a student at Birmingham, was playing with a small group of musicians. We met and the seeds of the Spencer Davis Group were sown."

He added, "Spencer was an early pioneer of the British folk scene, which, in his case embraced folk-blues, and eventually what was then called 'Rhythm and Blues'. He influenced my tastes in music, he owned the first 12-string guitar I ever saw, and he was taken with the music of Huddie 'Lead belly' Ledbetter, and Big Bill Broonzy. I'd already got a big brother who influenced me greatly, and Spencer became like a big brother to me at the time."

In 1971, Davis moved to California and pursued a solo career, though he never found similar success. He opted instead to work as an A&R executive for Island Records, where he developed artists like Bob Marley and Robert Palmer.

Davis is survived by his partner, June Dante; three children; and five grandchildren.

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