Essential Jeff Healey – See The Light (the song)

‘See The Light’ from the ‘Adrianna/See The Light‘ single (indie 1986)
& See The Light (Arista BMG 1989)
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“Can you see the light of love shinin’ from my heart?”

Jeff Healey was barely twenty years old when he wrote what would be seen by many as his signature song, ‘See The Light‘.  Its importance within the Jeff Healey catalogue, cannot be overstated.  It was the first tune ever officially released by the Jeff Healey Band (on the double ‘A’ Side indie single, ‘Adrianna/See The Light‘) and the original indie video for this version (directed by Alan Resnick), was absolutely instrumental in getting the band a record deal. Though record execs were impressed by the demos they were hearing, once they actually saw Jeff perform, that’s when they were sold. In 1988 it was re-recorded and became the title track of Jeff’s multi-platinum major label debut.

“…love between human beings is a natural thing, so we can all relate to it. And if I get to play some guitar in the bargain, then everybody’s happy.” – Jeff Healey (Musician magazine, March 1989)

The song  began life as some of the best ones do; a loose jam around the skeleton of chords and rough lyrics.  Though Jeff had been playing around with the basic arrangement for a while, he brought ‘See The Light’ to the rest of the band in early 1986 and it was jammed out for the first time on stage at the now defunct Bamboo Club in Toronto.

Lyrically, the song is simple yet resonant; its structure reminiscent of a gospel number filtered through a rock ‘n’ roll lens…

Can you see the light,
Can you see the light of need shining in my eye?
Can you see the light,
Can you see the light of need shining in my eye?
Well you know I need you baby,
And I sure ain’t gonna tell you no lie

Can you see the light,
Can you see the light of want shining on my face?
Can you see the light,
Can you see the light of want shining on my face?
You know I want you, mama,
Come on, we’ll get from this place.

Can you see the light,
Can you see the light of love shining from my heart?
Can you see the light,
Can you see the light of love shining from my heart?
Well, you know I love you, baby,
And I sure want to give this thing a start.

Can you see the light?

Musically, the tune cooks; a tight-wire balance of barely controlled attitude accentuated by Jeff’s masterful understanding of dynamics.

‘See The Light’ rapidly became a live staple, providing Jeff with an extra outlet for his love of improvisation. Every time it was played live, the song seemed to go off in a slightly different direction. Sometimes it would clock in at a frenzied 5 minutes, other times, it would slowly unwind into an incredible 15 or 20 minute epic. (a great example being the amazing 15-plus minute version on the 1995 disc of the recent ‘As The Years Go Passing By‘ release…)

‘See The Light’ endured throughout Jeff’s career as a show-stopper and a highlight – both in the studio and live – and definitely rates as Essential Jeff Healey.

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With all apologies to our good friend, bassist Joe Rockman, this is probably my all-time favourite version of this song.

This is Jeff in 1988 on the Jools Holland/David Sanborn hosted programme, ‘Night Music‘. Dr. John on piano, Marcus Miller on bass, Omar Hakim on drums… this is quite possibly one of the hottest bands ever assembled!

This clip screams pure joy. It’s a blast watching Marcus Miller losing it as Jeff takes it to another level. This rhythm section gives the song a killer groove that adds a touch more funk to the proceedings…

Next up, Halifax’s Misty Moon, 1989: This version has a stunning intro that really highlights perfectly the improvisational nature of the tune. It’s a great example of Jeff’s love of the jam.

…And here is an early interview with Jeff from 1987 (though certainly far from his first interview as the uploader claims). Taken from the CBC show ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll‘, it prominently features the original black and white, Alan Resnick directed ‘See The Light’ video we mentioned earlier in this article…

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And in closing today, we have a clip that only features Jeff in spirit… May 3rd, 2008, just two months after Jeff had passed, a group of Jeff’s friends, family and colleagues put together a fantastic memorial show celebrating Jeff’s life, his rock/blues career and his wonderful jazz career as well. ‘Jeff Healey: A Celebration‘ spanned two nights and featured dozens of incredible artists paying tribute and donating their talent for charity in Jeff’s memory. As part of the first night’s grand finale, ‘See The Light’ was performed by a veritable super-group. The main band consisted of ‘Jeff Healey’s Blues Band‘; Dave Murphy on keys (Dave also acted as Music Director for the night), Alec Fraser on bass, Al Webster on drums and Dan Noordermeer on guitar – and also joining them on guitar we had Canadian legend David Wilcox, the fantastic Colin James and Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer, Randy Bachman! Rounding out the line-up on vocal duties were Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan and the incredible Jack Bruce (Cream etc.)!

Here’s a fan shot excerpt of the performance…

Dig peeps! Hope to see you all back here real soon…

~Rog

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