I’ve put this women in jazz series on hold for now, as I want to prepare
something different and special for the last one. For now, I wanted to write
about something unrelated to that, so I decided to write about Stevie Wonder.
I’m sure he doesn’t need much introduction, since pretty much everyone knows of him. He was born Steveland Hardaway Judkins in 1950 and was blind almost from the day he was born. He began singing in a church choir and began learning piano, drums and harmonica at the age of nine. Today, Wonder plays the piano, synthesizer, harmonica, congas, drums, bass guitar, bongos, organ, melodica, and clavinet. He began his musical career in 1962, when he was only 12, which makes his career span over a respectful 50 years.
I don’t enjoy all of his music (I Just Called To Say I Love You, for example), but there are three albums that are perfection and that make me love and respect Stevie Wonder and call him a living legend. They are, as he has always been, optimistic and cheerful. Website allmusic.com describes it so well: “His best records were a richly eclectic brew of soul, funk, rock & roll, sophisticated Broadway/Tin Pan Alley-style pop, jazz, reggae, and African elements – and they weren’t just stylistic exercises; Wonder took it all and forged it into his own personal form of expression”. Whenever I need a dose of optimism and energy, I put on one of these albums and it works like a charm every time. I don’t know about you, but I personally cannot stand still while listening to Superstition. I believe it’s physically impossible. These three albums I love are Talking Book, Innervisions and Songs In The Key Of Life. Listen to at least one of them (or preferably all three) to hear the genius of Stevie Wonder firsthand.
As I’ve said, I recommend all three of them, but Talking Book might be the
best place to start - it’s the easiest to get your head around. It has
beautiful love songs like I
Believe and it also has one of
his best songs ever (if you ask me);
Superstition. What I find
interesting is that the album is recorded almost solely by Stevie Wonder. He
didn’t have any help on some songs, while others feature some great names in
music, like for example Jeff Beck on Looking For Another Pure
Innervisions is a bit more socially and politically oriented and might be a bit harder to listen to, if you’re not used to these sounds, but nevertheless a great album. My favourite from this album is definitely Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing, with its great rhythm and groove.
Last but absolutely not the least is Songs In The Key Of Life. Many say it’s the pinnacle of Stevie Wonder’s career. I’m not going to talk about how amazingly good the album is (which it is, and if you’re interested, you can read a good review of the album here), but I’d rather just name two of my favourites songs on the album. Isn’t She Lovely, one of his most known songs is just a pure pleasure to listen to. The whole song is wonderful, but his harmonica solo is incredible. He wrote the song for his daughter, which gives it slightly melancholic undertones - just listen to the lyrics and think about the fact that he’s blind and will never be able to see his daughter. The interesting part though, is that he probably doesn’t think of it this way, seeing as he’s generally so optimistic and cheerful and never considered being blind as a disadvantage. In any case, Isn’t She Lovely is a typical Stevie Wonder song and I love it.
The next favourite from the album is Sir Duke, a song written as a tribute to the great Duke Ellington (I will be talking about him in the future) and music in general. No words here, just listen.
I’m sure everyone has a favourite Stevie Wonder song, so please share!