Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Stevie Wonder

Stevie's mum was frightened for her blind son's safety when the family moved to tough neighborhood so she kept him home and the talented boy took to making music. From beating pots and pans to playing at the local church he soon grew into a local sensation. The ten year old music boy wonder came to the attention of Berry Gordy (founder of Motown) who signed him on the spot. Disappointingly the first couple of recordings was less successful then expected then Gordy hit on the idea of releasing one of Stevie's live songs. The pressing was too long for one side and so the B side became Fingertips Part 2. The song topped both R & B and pop charts and was the beginning of a brilliant musical career.

In the US he was known as Little Stevie Wonder. Stevie's influences in music were aroused listening to radio station WCHB and his favorites were Johnny Ace, Little Walter, The Coasters and Nat King Cole. His style was somewhat catholic especially for someone so young.

Although Berry Gordy did not allow him to record his own songs in the earlier years, he was mindful of the major talent he had signed. Talented youngsters seldom lasted more than a couple of hit records before they fell from favor but not so Stevie Wonder. The team of Stevie (tune) with Clarence Paul (vocal duet), Hank Crosby (arrangements) and Sylvia Moy (lyrics) was to prove a winning forum. At the time when the singer’s voice was breaking, he sang in duet with Clarence Paul. Wonder also had problems remembering some of the lyrics which Clarence had no problem with, and subsequently led the vocals. Eventually Stevie broke with his usual song writing team, and the resulting Sign sealed delivered (I'm yours), registered his biggest hit today. It was penned in combination with his mother Lula, Lee Garrett and Syreeta Wright.

When he reached 21, Stevie Wonder changed his style to incorporate Arp and Moog synthesizers. He had spent hours practicing at the Electric Lady studios and once he felt he had mastered the instrument, he and Syreeta Wright began to write again. A new contract with Motown saw Stevie with greater artistic freedom, including what tracks would go on his albums, when he would tour, and what musicians would travel with him. In 1972 the album, Music of the mind was released.

In 1972 Stevie chose to support the Rolling Stones Tour of the US which really opened his music to a wider audience. The tour coincided with the release of a new album, Talking Book. The Stones fans loved the new Stevie Wonder, now dressed in African robes and beaded hairstyle, his album went platinum.

Stevie Wonder was keen to explore music and attempted to use it to make social comment. Disillusioned by the hypocrisy and social inequality of contemporary American society he wrote the songs for his new album called Innervisions. Some of his best lyrics appear on this album.

A near death experience due to a road accident meant a new change of direction for Stevie Wonder who started to pursue other interests in his music.

Stevie Wonder continues to record and perform.

Worth a listen:
Fingertips Part 2 (1963)
Hey Harmonica Man (1964)
Uptight (Everything's Alright)(1965)
I was made to love her (1967)
For once in my live (1968)
My Cherie Amour (1969)
Yesterday Yester me (1969)
Signed sealed delivered (I'm yours)(1970)
Love having you around (1972)
You are the sunshine of my life (1972)
Living in the City (1973)
Ebony and Ivory (1982)
Happy Birthday
I just called to say I love you.

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