Winwood credits Buddy Holly with helping him to form his musical ideas at a young age. Winwood grew up listening to jazz, but he was particularly struck by Holly's hit "Well All Right."
"It had a great effect on me. It was a great song, a lot of energy," Winwood said. It seemed to bring together lots of elements of pop music but with more urgency and rawness of some of the early jazz that I'd been hearing."
Ray Charles is perhaps one of Winwood's greatest musical influences. Winwood said Charles' music had a "profound" effect on him, introducing him to jazz as well as inspiring him to combine elements of different genres into one song.
"Ray Charles had a particular something about his voice that was really special," Winwood said. "There was an element of country music in there, blues and jazz. The way he played songs embodied all these elements. And I realized that was something that I wanted to do in music."
His favorite Ray Charles album is the 1960 live album "Ray Charles in Person."
"I remember that I used to skip school and go listen with a friend. ... We started to hear this Ray Charles, and it was like something we'd never heard before. So it certainly was a music that just created a whole change."
Winwood was not only influenced by jazz and pop but also by the Anglican Church music he sang when he was a choir boy. One of Winwood's favorites is the 1957 R&B, soul and gospel song "The Sermon" by Jimmy Smith. Winwood admired how Smith revolutionized the traditional church instrument, the Hammond B-3, by using it in a jazz song.
"One particular influence was the great landmark recording, Blue Note recording, that Jimmy Smith made of 'The Sermon,'" Winwood said. "This was something that was the way of playing the organ, which from that point forward every other organist had to recognize that this was the definitive organ track."
Winwood counts Miles Davis among his influences because Davis took risks and blurred the boundaries between jazz and rock. Winwood's favorite Miles Davis album is the 1969 "In a Silent Way," which is widely regarded as one of the first jazz-fusion albums.
"He was using lots of elements of rock music. He was using gadgets, and of course, lots of mainstream jazz enthusiasts condemned him for it," Winwood said. "But I think that 'In a Silent Way' was a landmark piece of music ... not only for me but for the world in general."