Musician Stevie Wonder is 70

Do you want some candy?

Stevie WonderWhen you’ve written about Stevie Wonder at 60 and at 65, featuring songs he wrote for other people, then what?

I suppose I could note his Carpool Karaoke with James Corden from 2015. Or point out a YouTube page called RareWonderMusic. It features Stevie singing I Can See the Sun in Late December, a song he gave to Roberta Flack, plus I Think I’m On The Right Track, Spread The Love, and Good Light.

But I’ll just list 25 songs. I could have listed 25 other songs. The last two are my top two, but the rest of the list is fluid.

Do I Do. For a 1982 greatest hits double LP called Original Musiquarium I, he added four new songs. Dizzy Gillespie and a stoned ending. “Do you want some candy?”
Do Yourself a Favor – from the transitional Where I’m Coming From album
Another Star – first of the songs from Songs in the Key of Life
You Haven’t Done Nothin’ – from Fulfillingness’ First Finale. Features the Jackson Five.

He’s Misstra Know-It-All – from Innervisions
Blame It On the Sun – from Talking Book, the first of those great 1970s albums
You Are the Sunshine of My Life. I love the fact that Stevie’s vocal doesn’t appear until the verse after the chorus.
Nothing’s Too Good for My Baby

That was a hit?

Fingertips, Part 2, and for a bonus, Fingertips. An article from WNYC: That Was A Hit?!?: Little Stevie Wonder, ‘Fingertips’
Sir Duke. If you’re going to namecheck, this song is exemplary.
We Can Work It Out. One of my all-time favorite Beatles’ covers. A live version.
Living for the City – album version and single version. The former has the better storyline -“Skyscrapers and everything!” but the latter is more danceable.

Boogie on Reggae Woman
I Wish
Higher Ground
For Once In My Life – a ballad turned into an uptempo song

Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours. “I’ve done a lot of foolish things..”
Pastime Paradise. My daughter discovered, in order, Amish Paradise by Weird Al, Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio, then the original
I Was Made To Love Her
Master Blaster (Jammin’)

Superstition
Love’s in Need of Love Today. After 9/11, he sang this song on a television benefit.
Uptight (Everything’s Alright). Sonically, for me, the demarcation from post-Little Stevie Wonder
As – until the day that 8 times 8 times 8 is 4

Lydster/music throwback: Pastime Paradise

Verification
Of revelations
Acclamation
World salvation

As I have mentioned, the Daughter is really into the music of Weird Al Yankovic. She asks me questions about who did the originals of his parody songs. I’m pretty good with the pop/rock stuff, not so hot with the rap sourced items.

One exception is Amish Paradise, one of our favorite Weird Al songs, which I know came from the Coolio song Gangsta’s Paradise, featuring singer L.V. But truth is that I am only aware of that because it’s a reworking of Pastime Paradise, a song on the first side of the epic, Grammy-winning 1976 LP Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder.

A couple days later, the Daughter asked if Al gets permission to use other people’s songs, and I said that he did. But by this point, she knew of the Coolio/Weird Al feud. “Coolio claimed that he did not give permission for the parody… Yankovic claimed that he had been told Coolio had given the go-ahead through his record label and apologized.” Coolio too has since apologized for allowing his ego to get in the way.

For a while, the Daughter would play the three songs back-to-back. But eventually, she really glommed to the Stevie original, playing it a few times every day. I think it is the rhyme:

Dissipation
Race relations
Consolation
Segregation
Dispensation
Isolation
Exploitation
Mutilation
Mutations
Miscreation
Confirmation, to the evils of the world

Proclamation
Of race relations
Consolation
Integration
Verification
Of revelations
Acclamation
World salvation
Vibrations
Stimulation
Confirmation, to the peace of the world

I always liked it, but her affection for the song has enhanced my enjoyment of it.

Listen to:

Pastime Paradise – Stevie Wonder (1976) here or here
Pastime Paradise – Ray Barretto (1981) here or here
Gangsta’s Paradise – Coolio, featuring L.V., #1 for three weeks on the Billboard pop charts (1995) here or here
Amish Paradise -Weird Al Yankovic, #53 (1996) here or here
Pastime Paradise – Patti Smith (2007) here or here

Music, April 1971: What’s Going On

More random music recollections based on the book Never A Dull Moment.

You probably think you know the story of Marvin Gaye’s standout album, What’s Going On, how the Artist recognized what’s REALLY happening in the world and puts out a album designed to stick it to the Suits at the record company. The actual story was a bit more prosaic.

In fact, the title song began with a wisp of of an idea by Obie Benson, the bass singer of the Four Tops, who thought that maybe he had another song like the Coke commercial, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” He and Motown songwriter Al Cleveland thought it might fit Marvin, but he wasn’t impressed. They pushed, and Marvin gave it some tweaks, thinking he might produce it for the Originals.

In July 1970, he came into the studio, had some football buddies for the party noise, captured sax player Eli Fontaine warming up, and basically fell into a sound. He managed to slip it out as a single in January 1971, while Motown owner/brother-in-law Berry Gordy was out on the West Coast. Gordy thought two things: 1) he hated the song, and 2) wondered where’s followup album was after it became a hit.

The What’s Going On album was recorded in March and released in May, with a second mix by Gaye that defined not only the LP, but changed the expectation of listeners regarding what was expected from a Motown album. I played it a lot in college; Inner City Blues especially STILL seems relevant.

Another Motown artist was giving Berry Gordy headaches. Stevie Wonder was married, living in NYC with new wife Syretta, and about to turn 21. His lawyers sent a letter to Gordy disavowing his Motown contract.

Meanwhile, Stevie discovered The Original New Timbral Orchestra, or TONTO, keyboard system. Wonder had lost interest in his new album, Where I’m Coming From, which was actually the first Stevie album I ever bought, as his own sound was developing.

His next album, Music of My Mind, made in 1971 and released the next year, was more representative of the groove he was going for. The FOUR albums after THAT, all dominant on my turntable in the 1970s won FOUR Grammy albums of the Year awards in five years.

Sly Stone’s album was two years late, and he became “the least reliable superstar in the history of popular music.” The eventual downbeat, indecipherable There’s A Riot Goin’ On, released in November 1971, was a contact high of an album. One did not have to BE stoned to FEEL stoned listening to it.

Was Shaft blaxploitation or black empowerment? It was a movie by noted black photographer Gordon Parks, with Richard Roundtree as the handsome black detective, whose looks drove the lyrics written by STAX artist Isaac Hayes. The “shut your mouth” was delivered by Telma Hopkins, whose hit with Dawn, “Knock Three Times”, came out earlier that year. My sister Leslie owned this double LP, which he had to get partially replaced because the package had two of the same LPs.

Listen To

What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
Inner City Blues – Marvin Gaye
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott-Heron
Family Affair – Sly & the Family Stone
I Can’t Get Next to You – Al Green
Toussaint L’Ouverture- Santana

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Continue reading “March rambling #2: We are never Ivory Coast”

December rambling #1: your first draft

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Continue reading “December rambling #1: your first draft”