Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Wonder Child

There is one thing about me that I don’t understand (not that it really is the only thing..). I listen to music and have a music blog. Obviously, you might assume that I also write about the music that I’ve been listening to. But the thing is, I don’t. The problem seems pretty clear. That is why I’m going to do something about it.

I think I’ve always been aware of the existence of Stevie Wonder. Still, it took more than 20 years for me to find out that he is more than just a soul musician: he is in fact a pop music genius and shouldn’t go unnoticed by anyone who has a devotion to pop. A good thing is that he will not go unnoticed by anyone who has ears: Wonder's classic hits are played everywhere. Many of his most wonderful songs however might go past your ears if you don’t dig a little deeper.

Stevie Wonder had his first hit at the age of 13 with Fingertips (Pt. 2). That is just amazing! Stevie was a real wonder child. Since his first hit Wonder has no doubt become an American soul music icon and won amazingly many Grammy Awards. Some of his 60s Motown pop hits included Uptight (Everything’s Alright), I Was Made to Love You (that I had previously only heard performed by the Beach Boys), Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours (a song also covered by numerous artists), and For Once in My Life.

During his most commercially successful period in the 80s Wonder scored hits like Happy Birthday, I Just Called to Say I Love You, Part-Time Lover, and Ebony and Ivory (with Paul McCartney). Those songs are obviously nice to hear but there’s more to Stevie than just those songs they play on every adult radio channel. Let’s see.. Never Had a Dream Come True is a real gem. It includes a heavenly melody, violins, happy feel – that’s it, a perfect pop song. Here are some other tracks I enjoyed last summer: I’m Wondering; Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday; If You Really Love Me; Heaven Help Us All...

In 1976 Wonder released Songs in the Key of Life, a double LP that is probably one of his most ambitious creations. I still haven’t paid much attention to it but you can bet on that I will check it out sooner or later… The album contains Sir Duke, a tribute Duke Ellington and several other jazz legends. Songs in the Key of Life was a part of Wonder’s so-called classical period in the 70s – a period that is most definitely worth listening.

When it comes to the vocals, Wonder is one of those, in my opinion, very intriguing guys who don’t seem to go through much of a change during the transition of from childhood to adult age. Wonder doesn’t sound like a child but his voice is still much more boyish and has a higher pitch than, say, Barry White’s voice… That means extremely suitable for pop music and catchy melodies!

To cut a long story short, Mr. Wonder is my first favourite soul music artist. To be honest, he just might stay in that position for quite some time, if not forever! Last summer was (among other things) a soul season for me. I focused on Wonder but also listened to some Four Tops, Supremes, and Otis Redding. Anyway, whatever type of music you prefer, there is no denying the catchiness and undefeatable charm of Stevie Wonder’s music.

Stevie Wonder at YouTube
Official Stevie Wonder website


WonderrFunn said...

Actually, the commercial peak of Stevie Wonder probably wasn't in the 1980s. He used to be the most popular artist in Africa until the final days of Bob Marley. When Songs in the Key of Life was going to be released in the U.S., I have read that a whole building was set to advertise his new album release. Even his next 'uncommercial' album Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants went up to No. 3 in the U.S. charts, despite the new wave and disco fever phenomena having happened since his previous album.

Melody Freak said...

Thanks for the insight. Domestic sales won't of course tell the entire truth.

Stevie's 80s albums were surely also very popular. The hit singles from that period are still played on the radio all the time. Here in Finland they play them so much that it practically makes me wish they'd play some 70s stuff too.