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Stevland was born in Saginaw, Michigan, in 1950, the third of six children of Calvin Judkins and Lula Mae Hardaway, a songwriter. He was born six weeks premature which, along with the oxygen-rich atmosphere in the hospital incubator, resulted in retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a condition in which the growth of the eyes is aborted and causes the retinas to detach; so he became blind. When he was four, his mother divorced his father and moved to Detroit with her children. She changed her name back to Lula Hardaway and later changed her son's surname to Morris, partly because of relatives. Wonder has retained Morris as his legal surname. He began playing instruments at an early age, including piano, harmonica and drums. He formed a singing partnership with a friend; calling themselves Stevie and John, they played on street corners, and occasionally at parties and dances.
In 1954, his family moved to Detroit, where the already musically inclined Stevie began singing in his church's choir; from there he blossomed into a genuine prodigy, learning piano, drums, and harmonica all by the age of nine. While performing for some of his friends in 1961, Stevie was discovered by Ronnie White of the Miracles, who helped arrange an audition with Berry Gordy at Motown. Gordy signed the youngster immediately and teamed him with producer/songwriter Clarence Paul, under the new name Little Stevie Wonder. Wonder released his first two albums in 1962: A Tribute to Uncle Ray, which featured covers of Wonder's hero Ray Charles, and The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie, an orchestral jazz album spotlighting his instrumental skills on piano, harmonica, and assorted percussion. Neither sold very well, but that all changed in 1963 with the live album The 12 Year Old Genius, which featured a new extended version of the harmonica instrumental "Fingertips." Edited for release as a single, "Fingertips, Pt. 2" rocketed to the top of both the pop and R&B charts, thanks to Wonder's irresistible, youthful exuberance; meanwhile, The 12 Year Old Genius became Motown's first chart-topping LP.
During 1964, Wonder appeared in two films as himself, Muscle Beach Party and Bikini Beach, but these were not successful either. Sylvia Moy persuaded label owner Berry Gordy to give Wonder another chance. Dropping the "Little" from his name, Moy and Wonder worked together to create the hit "Uptight (Everything's Alright)", and Wonder went on to have a number of other hits during the mid-1960s, including "With a Child's Heart", and "Blowin' in the Wind", a Bob Dylan cover, co-sung by his mentor, producer Clarence Paul. He also began to work in the Motown songwriting department, composing songs both for himself and his label mates, including "The Tears of a Clown", a No. 1 hit for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
In 1968 he recorded an album of instrumental soul/jazz tracks, mostly harmonica solos, under the title Eivets Rednow, which is "Stevie Wonder" spelled backwards. The album failed to get much attention, and its only single, a cover of "Alfie", only reached number 66 on the U.S. Pop charts and number 11 on the US Adult Contemporary charts. Nonetheless, he managed to score several hits between 1968 and 1970 such as "I Was Made to Love Her", "For Once in My Life" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours". A number of Wonder's early hits, including "My Cherie Amour", "I Was Made to Love Her", and "Uptight (Everything's Alright)", were co-written with Henry Cosby.
In September 1970, at the age of 20, Wonder married Syreeta Wright, a songwriter and former Motown secretary. Wright and Wonder worked together on the next album, Where I'm Coming From; Wonder writing the music, and Wright helping with the lyrics. They wanted to "touch on the social problems of the world", and for the lyrics "to mean something" 1971 proved a turning point in Wonder's career. On his 21st birthday, his contract with Motown expired, and the royalties set aside in his trust fund became available to him. A month before his birthday, Wonder released Where I'm Coming From, his first entirely self-produced album, which also marked the first time he wrote or co-wrote every song on an LP (usually in tandem with Wright), and the first time his keyboard and synthesizer work dominated his arrangements.
Wonder did not immediately renew his contract with Motown, as the label had expected; instead, he used proceeds from his trust fund to build his own recording studio and to enroll in music theory classes at USC. He negotiated a new deal with Motown that dramatically increased his royalty rate and established his own publishing company, Black Bull Music, which allowed him to retain the rights to his music; most importantly, he wrested full artistic control over his recordings, as Gaye had just done with the landmark What's Going On.
Freed from the dictates of Motown's hit-factory mindset, Wonder had already begun following a more personal and idiosyncratic muse. One of his negotiating chips had been a full album completed at his new studio; Wonder had produced, played nearly all the instruments, and written all the material (with Wright contributing to several tracks). Released under Wonder's new deal in early 1972, Music of My Mind heralded his arrival as a major, self-contained talent with an original vision that pushed the boundaries of R&B. The album produced a hit single in the spacy, synth-driven ballad "Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)," but like contemporary work by Hayes and Gaye, Music of My Mind worked as a smoothly flowing song suite unto itself. Around the same time it was released, Wonder's marriage to Wright broke up; the two remained friends, however, and Wonder produced and wrote several songs for her debut album.
For the follow-up to Music of My Mind, Wonder refined his approach, tightening up his songcraft while addressing his romance with Wright. The result, Talking Book, was released in late 1972 and made him a superstar. Song for song one of the strongest R&B albums ever made, Talking Book also perfected Wonder's spacy, futuristic experiments with electronics, and was hailed as a magnificently realized masterpiece. Wonder topped the charts with the gutsy, driving funk classic "Superstition" and the mellow, jazzy ballad "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," which went on to become a pop standard; those two songs went on to win three Grammys between them. Amazingly, Wonder only upped the ante with his next album, 1973's Innervisions, a concept album about the state of contemporary society that ranks with Gaye's What's Going On as a pinnacle of socially conscious R&B. The ghetto chronicle "Living for the City" and the intense spiritual self-examination "Higher Ground" both went to number one on the R&B charts and the pop Top Ten, and Innervisions took home a Grammy for Album of the Year. Wonder was lucky to be alive to enjoy the success; while being driven to a concert in North Carolina, a large piece of timber fell on Wonder's car. He sustained serious head injuries and lapsed into a coma, but fortunately made a full recovery.
Wonder's next record, 1974's Fulfillingness' First Finale, was slightly more insular and less accessible than its immediate predecessors, and unsurprisingly, imbued with a sense of mortality. The hits, however, were the upbeat "Boogie On, Reggae Woman" (a number one R&B and Top Five pop hit) and the venomous Richard Nixon critique "You Haven't Done Nothin'" (number one on both sides). It won him a second straight Album of the Year Grammy, by which time he'd been heavily involved as a producer and writer on Syreeta's second album, Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta. Wonder subsequently retired to his studio and spent two years crafting a large-scale project that would stand as his magnum opus. Finally released in 1976, Songs in the Key of Life was a sprawling two-LP-plus-one-EP set that found Wonder at his most ambitious and expansive. Some critics called it brilliant but prone to excess and indulgence, while others hailed it as his greatest masterpiece and the culmination of his career; in the end, they were probably both right. The hit "Isn't She Lovely," a paean to Wonder's daughter, became something of a standard. Not surprisingly, Songs in the Key of Life won a Grammy for Album of the Year; in hindsight, though, it marked the end of a remarkable explosion of creativity and of Wonder's artistic prime.
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Stevie Wonder was beginning to rebel against the Motown hit factory mentality in the early '70s. While he certainly hadn't lost his commercial touch, Wonder was anxious to address social concerns, experiment with electronics, and not be restricted by radio and marketplace considerations. Still, he gave the label another definitive smash with the title track, while sneaking in a cover of the Beatles' "We Can Work It Out" and penning more intriguing tunes like "I Can't Let My Heaven Walk Away" and "Never Had a Dream Come True."
Stevie Wonder - Signed, Sealed And Delivered (flac 248mb)
01 Never Had A Dream Come True 3:13
02 We Can Work It Out 3:19
03 Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours 2:41
04 Heaven Help Us All 3:15
05 You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover 2:34
06 Sugar 2:54
07 Don't Wonder Why 4:58
08 Anything You Want Me To Do 2:21
09 I Can't Let My Heaven Walk Away 2:52
10 Joy (Takes Over Me) 2:12
11 I Gotta Have A Song 2:34
12 Something To Say 3:26
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One month before he turned 21, Stevie Wonder released Where I'm Coming From, the most distinctive record of his young career, and one that looked forward -- in its breadth of material as well as its futuristic production aesthetic -- to his many successes later in the '70s. There's a fabulous song here for nearly every type of fan; the soothing love ballad ("Think of Me as Your Soldier"), a gritty, apocalyptic funk extravanganza ("Do Yourself a Favor"), a kinetic, refreshing nod to the pop charts (the Top Ten hit "If You Really Love Me"), and an agonizing piece of heartache soul ("Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer" (slightly reworked for "Superwoman" on his next album Music of My Mind). Still, there are a few echoes of his occasionally pedestrian '60s work, and a pair of songs on the flipside sound especially anachronistic. The first is a piece of inspirational fluff called "Take up a Course in Happiness" with an odd arrangement pitched halfway between Sammy Davis, Jr. and Sgt. Pepper's, the second a jokey pick-up number named "I Wanna Talk to You" (complete with leering old-man vocals). Those two however, are the exceptions; the rules are uniformly excellent. The set closers "Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer" and "Sunshine in Their Eyes" are bravura performances, Stevie summoning his purest register to convey heartbreak and hopefulness, respectively, in equal measure. For all the great material included, there was little chance of these songs hanging together as a proper album, and Berry Gordy's misgivings about releasing a record like this on a Motown label were, temporarily, well-placed. Still, Where I'm Coming From was a frequently astonishing album from Motown's new genius of the recording studio.
Stevie Wonder - Where I'm Coming From (flac 229mb)
01 Look Around 2:48
02 Do Yourself A Favor 6:11
03 Think Of Me As Your Soldier 3:41
04 Something Out Of The Blue 3:04
05 If You Really Love Me 3:04
06 I Wanna Talk To You 5:21
07 Take Up A Course In Happiness 3:17
08 Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer 2:58
09 Sunshine In Their Eyes 6:58
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With a new contract from Motown in his hand, Stevie Wonder released Music of My Mind, his first truly unified record and, with the exception of a single part on two songs, the work of a one-man-band. Everything he had learned about musicianship, engineering, and production during his long apprenticeship in the Snakepit at Motown Studios came together here (from the liner notes: "The sounds themselves come from inside his mind. The man is his own instrument. The instrument is an orchestra.") Music of My Mind was also the first to bear the fruits of his increased focus on Moog and Arp synthesizers, though the songs never sound synthetic, due in great part to Stevie's reliance on a parade of real instruments -- organic drumwork, harmonica, organs and pianos -- as well as his mastery of traditional song structure and his immense musical personality. The intro of the vibrant, tender "I Love Every Little Thing About You" is a perfect example, humanized with a series of lightly breathed syllables for background rhythm. And when the synthesizers do appear, it's always in the perfect context: the standout "Superwoman" really benefits from its high-frequency harmonics, and "Seems So Long" wouldn't sound quite as affectionate without the warm electronics gurgling in the background. This still wasn't a perfect record, though; "Sweet Little Girl" was an awkward song, with Stevie assuming another of his embarrassing musical personalities to fawn over a girl.
Stevie Wonder - Music Of My Mind (flac 283mb)
01 Love Having You Around 7:21
02 Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You) 8:04
03 I Love Every Little Thing About You 3:46
04 Sweet Little Girl 4:54
05 Happier Than The Morning Sun 5:18
06 Girl Blue 3:35
07 Seems So Long 4:27
08 Keep On Running 6:35
09 Evil 3:35
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After releasing two "head" records during 1970-71, Stevie Wonder expanded his compositional palette with 1972's Talking Book to include societal ills as well as tender love songs, and so recorded the first smash album of his career. What had been hinted at on the intriguing project Music of My Mind was here focused into a laser beam of tight songwriting, warm electronic arrangements, and ebullient performances -- altogether the most realistic vision of musical personality ever put to wax, beginning with a disarmingly simple love song, "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" (but of course, it's only the composition that's simple). Stevie's not always singing a tender ballad here -- in fact, he flits from contentment to mistrust to promise to heartbreak within the course of the first four songs -- but he never fails to render each song in the most vivid colors. In stark contrast to his early songs, which were clever but often relied on the Motown template of romantic metaphor, with Talking Book it became clear Stevie Wonder was beginning to speak his mind and use personal history for material. The lyrics became less convoluted, while the emotional power gained in intensity. "You and I" and the glorious closer "I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)" subtly illustrate that the conception of love can be stronger than the reality, while "Tuesday Heartbreak" speaks simply but powerfully: "I wanna be with you when the nighttime comes / I wanna be with you till the daytime comes." Ironically, the biggest hit from Talking Book wasn't a love song at all; the funk landmark "Superstition" urges empowerment instead of hopelessness, set to a grooving beat that made it one of the biggest hits of his career. It's followed by "Big Brother," the first of his directly critical songs, excoriating politicians who posture to the underclass in order to gain the only thing they really need: votes. With Talking Book, Stevie also found a proper balance between making an album entirely by himself and benefiting from the talents of others. His wife Syreeta contributed two great lyrics, and Ray Parker, Jr. came by to record a guitar solo that brings together the lengthy jam "Maybe Your Baby." Two more guitar heroes, Jeff Beck and Buzzy Feton, appeared on "Lookin' for Another Pure Love," Beck's solo especially giving voice to the excruciating process of moving on from a broken relationship. Like no other Stevie Wonder album before it, Talking Book is all of a piece, the first unified statement of his career. It's certainly an exercise in indulgence but, imitating life, it veers breathtakingly from love to heartbreak and back with barely a pause.
Stevie Wonder - Talking Book (flac 265mb)
01 You Are The Sunshine Of My Life 2:45
02 Maybe Your Baby 6:45
03 You And I (We Can Conquer The World) 4:39
04 Tuesday Heartbreak 3:09
05 You've Got It Bad Girl 4:55
06 Superstition 4:40
07 Big Brother 3:35
08 Blame It On The Sun 3:28
09 Lookin For Another Pure Love 4:45
10 I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever) 4:48
. Stevie Wonder - Talking Book (ogg 111mb)
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