These past weeks at grooves has been all about Stevland Hardaway Morris, a child prodigy considered to be one of the most critically and commercially successful musical performers of the late 20th century. He has recorded more than 30 U.S. top ten hits and received 25 Grammy Awards, one of the most-awarded male solo artists, and has sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the top 60 best-selling music artists. Blind virtually since birth, his heightened awareness of sound helped him create vibrant, colorful music teeming with life and ambition. Nearly everything he recorded bore the stamp of his sunny, joyous positivity; even when he addressed serious racial, social, and spiritual issues (which he did quite often in his prime), or sang about heartbreak and romantic uncertainty, an underlying sense of optimism and hope always seemed to emerge. ........ N'joy
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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.
Having poured a tremendous amount of energy into Songs in the Key of Life, Wonder released nothing for the next three years. When he finally returned in 1979, it was with the mostly instrumental Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants, ostensibly the soundtrack to a never-released documentary. Although it contained a few pop songs, including the hit "Send One Your Love," its symphonic flirtations befuddled most listeners and critics. It still made the Top Ten on the LP chart on Wonder's momentum alone -- one of the stranger releases to do so. To counteract possible speculation that he'd gone off the deep end, Wonder rushed out the straightforward pop album Hotter Than July in 1980. The reggae-flavored "Master Blaster (Jammin')" returned him to the top of the R&B charts and the pop Top Five, and "Happy Birthday" was part of the ultimately successful campaign to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday (Wonder being one of the cause's most active champions). Artistically speaking, Hotter Than July was a cut below his classic '70s output, but it was still a solid outing; fans were so grateful to have the old Wonder back that they made it his first platinum-selling LP.
In 1981, Wonder began work on a follow-up album that was plagued by delays, suggesting that he might not be able to return to the visionary heights of old. He kept busy in the meantime, though; in 1982, his racial-harmony duet with Paul McCartney, "Ebony and Ivory," hit number one, and he released a greatest-hits set covering 1972-1982 called Original Musiquarium I. It featured four new songs, of which "That Girl" (number one R&B, Top Five pop) and the lengthy, jazzy "Do I Do" (featuring Dizzy Gillespie; number two R&B) were significant hits. In 1984, still not having completed the official follow-up to Hotter Than July, he recorded the soundtrack to the Gene Wilder comedy The Woman in Red, which wasn't quite a full-fledged Stevie Wonder album but did feature a number of new songs, including "I Just Called to Say I Love You." Adored by the public (it was his biggest-selling single ever) and loathed by critics (who derided it as sappy and simple-minded), "I Just Called to Say I Love You" was an across-the-board number one smash, and won an Oscar for Best Song.
Wonder finally completed the official album he'd been working on for nearly five years, and released In Square Circle in 1985. Paced by the number one hit "Part Time Lover" -- his last solo pop chart-topper -- and several other strong songs, In Square Circle went platinum, even if Wonder's synthesizer arrangements now sounded standard rather than groundbreaking. He performed on the number one charity singles "We Are the World" by USA for Africa and "That's What Friends Are For" by Dionne Warwick & Friends, and returned quickly with a new album, Characters, in 1987. While Characters found Wonder's commercial clout on the pop charts slipping away, it was a hit on the R&B side, topping the album charts and producing a number one hit in "Skeletons." It would be his final release of the '80s, a decade capped by his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
New studio material from Wonder didn't arrive until 1991, when he provided the soundtrack to the Spike Lee film Jungle Fever. His next full album of new material, 1995's Conversation Peace, was a commercial disappointment, thought it did win two Grammys for the single "For Your Love." That same year, Coolio revived "Pastime Paradise" in his own brooding rap smash "Gangsta's Paradise," which became the year's biggest hit. Wonder capitalized on the renewed attention by cutting a hit duet with Babyface, "How Come, How Long," in 1996. During the early 2000s, Motown remastered and reissued Wonder's exceptional 1972-1980 run of solo albums (Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants excepted) and also released The Definitive Collection, a representative single-disc primer.
In 2005, after a decade had transpired without a new studio album, Wonder released A Time to Love, which was bolstered by collaborations with Prince and Paul McCartney, as well as one with daughter and "Isn't She Lovely" inspiration Aisha Morris. His far-reaching influence continued to be felt through samples, cover versions, and reinterpretations, highlighted by Robert Glasper Experiment and Lalah Hathaway's Grammy-winning version of "Jesus Children of America." Well into the late 2010s, Wonder continued to appear on albums by other artists, including Snoop Dogg, Raphael Saadiq, and Mark Ronson. All the while, Wonder regularly toured. From November 2014 through 2015, he celebrated the approaching 40th anniversary of Songs in the Key of Life with lengthy set lists that included all 21 songs of the classic album.
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Look, this album's release marked Stevie's 25th anniversary as a Motown recording artist, 25 years since his remarkable #1 hit, "Fingertips Part II," 20 years since "I Was Made to Love Her," possibly the most joyous recording in the history of mankind, and 15 years since his "Talking Book" album once and for all established what a great one for the ages this "Little Stevie" was. So when a pretty good record like "Characters" comes along, we compare it to what he's done before, rather than what his contemporaries are up to, and frankly, if this album had been recorded by a lesser talent, we might have hailed it as a breakthrough for them.
But this was Stevie The Wonder, the brilliant one whose physical blindness opened his spiritual eyes to planes that we didn't even realize intersected ours. So when he came along with embarrassing lyrics like those of "Don't Drive Drunk" from the "Woman in Red" soundtrack ("mothers against drunk driving are MADD," he sings over and over...and over...) and such a lazy bit of treacle as "I Just Called to Say I Love You" (thank you for saying it in "High Fidelity," Jack Black), well, yes, we were a bit disappointed.
But in retrospect, this is some of the better mainstream pop music to come out of the year 1987 (well, maybe not "Galaxy Paradise"), and I'll take this set any day over whatever Bob Seger's latest retread sounded like, the latest teen sweetheart like Debbie Gibson or Tiffany, or Chicago's pale attempts to sound relevant. The biggest single was the "Superstition"-like dance track "Skeletons" (number 19 pop, number one R&B), and Wonder also charted with the pretty "You Will Know" and an up-tempo duet with Michael Jackson, "Get It.
Stevie Wonder - Characters (flac 361mb)
01 You Will Know 5:00
02 Dark 'N' Lovely 4:39
03 In Your Corner 4:30
04 With Each Beat Of My Heart 5:28
05 One Of A Kind 5:10
06 Skeletons 5:24
07 Get It (Voc Michael Jackson) 4:31
08 Galaxy Paradise 3:52
09 Cryin' Throught The Night 5:48
10 Free 4:12
11 Come Let Me Make Your Love Come Down 5:20
12 My Eyes Don't Cry 7:05
Stevie Wonder - Characters (ogg 146mb)
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Jungle Fever is the 1991 soundtrack album by American R&B musician Stevie Wonder to Spike Lee's movie Jungle Fever, a 1991 American romantic drama film written, produced and directed by Spike Lee, and stars Wesley Snipes, Annabella Sciorra, Lee, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Samuel L. Jackson, Lonette McKee, John Turturro, Frank Vincent and Anthony Quinn. As Lee's fifth feature-length film, the film explores an interracial relationship—its conception and downfall—against the urban backdrop of the streets of New York City in the 1990s.
This album was released by Motown Records on May 28, 1991. Despite all of the hype surrounding it, the soundtrack to Jungle Fever is Stevie Wonder's best work in years. Although it can't compare to Wonder's glory days, Jungle Fever is a considerable improvement from his bland late-'80s albums. Wonder still borders on saccharine on his ballads, although even the sappiest of them ("These Three Words") is never as sickening as "I Just Called to Say I Love You." While the keyboard funk of "Chemical Love," "Gotta Have You," and "Queen in the Black" doesn't sound new, it does sound alive, which is better than Wonder has sounded in years.
Stevie Wonder - Jungle Fever (OST) (flac 317mb)
01 Fun Day 4:40
02 Queen In The Black 4:46
03 These Three Words 4:54
04 Each Other's Throat 4:17
05 If She Breaks Your Heart 5:03
06 Gotta Have You 6:26
07 Make Sure You're Sure 3:31
08 Jungle Fever 4:56
09 I Go Sailing 3:58
10 Chemical Love 4:26
11 Lighting Up The Candles 4:09
Stevie Wonder - Jungle Fever (OST) (ogg 115mb )
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Following the relative commercial failure of Conversation Peace, Stevie Wonder rushed out this double-disc live album drawn from an international tour during which he was backed by different symphony orchestras, his older songs featuring string parts in place of the synthesizer lines. He introduced several new songs -- "Dancing to the Rhythm," the instrumental "Stevie Ray Blues," "Stay Gold," and "Ms. & Mr. Little Ones" -- which demonstrated that his melodic muse was still with him and that he remained an awkward lyricist when he was more interested in the political stance than the poetical scansion. But for most of the running time, he acted as a human jukebox, pumping out his bits with enthusiasm and humor before an audibly enthralled audience. That made Natural Wonder entertaining, but inessential.
Stevie Wonder - Natural Wonder 1 (flac 410mb)
01 Dancing To The Rhythm 7:07
02 Love's In Need Of Love Today 6:02
03 Master Blaster (Jammin') 3:36
04 Stevie Ray Blues 2:28
05 Higher Ground 4:00
06 Rocket Love 4:47
07 Stay Gold 4:21
08 Ribbon In The Sky 8:37
09 Pastime Paradise 3:23
10 If It's Magic 3:35
11 Ms. & Mr. Little Ones 4:18
12 Village Ghetto Land 3:26
13 Tomorrow Robins Will Sing 4:25
. Stevie Wonder - Natural Wonder 1 (ogg 154mb)
Stevie Wonder - Natural Wonder 2 (flac 317mb)
01 Overjoyed 3:58
02 My Cherie Amour 3:21
03 Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours 2:46
04 Living For The City 4:27
05 Sir Duke 2:46
06 I Wish 4:07
07 You Are The Sunshine Of My Life 2:21
08 Superstition 5:38
09 I Just Called To Say I Love You 4:39
10 For Your Love 5:06
11 Another Star 5:56
. Stevie Wonder - Natural Wonder 2 (ogg 114mb)
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During times of extreme political and social change, Stevie Wonder's voice and songwriting served as cultural and spiritual guideposts to many a listener, often lending insight and a barometer with which to measure the ways of the world. But that was largely during the golden phase of his career, generally regarded as being the late '60s through 1980's Hotter Than July. His work in the mid-'80s through the '90s was marginal in comparison, only hinting at glimpses of former brilliance, sugar-coated by over-polished production and radio-friendly content. So with a decade passing since his last full-length, 1995's Conversation Piece, people waited with bated breath for a sign of his return...and wondered which Wonder would show up: would it be the socially conscious genius who wrote anthems for a generation, or the R&B crooner who dominated quiet storm radio? Thankfully, it's a blend of both. For every forward-moving song with a theme, there's a gentle moment of tranquility to cancel it out. Many of these songs, save for their warm and polished digital production values, could have easily found a home in Talking Book, Music of My Mind, or any of the other albums for which Wonder will forever be praised. In an age when the majority of R&B is about money, drugs, infidelity, or getting it on, Wonder's lyrics (especially during the love songs) recall the simplicity and innocence of early Motown without sounding trite. It's definitely a refreshing change of pace and hopefully something one or two aspiring producers and songwriters are paying attention to. These are love songs of maturity that are carefully crafted, which would more or less explain why it took nearly a decade to get them finalized, with many of them feeling like mature revisitations of the classics. (If "Happier Than the Morning Sun" and "Little Girl Blue" were a pair of teenagers in love, "Sweetest Somebody I Know" is that couple 30 years later at its class reunion.) The jazzy "How Will I Know," featuring Wonder's daughter on lead vocals (the same Aisha sung about nearly 30 years ago on "Isn't She Lovely"), is the gateway to the album's second half, a five-song cycle of ballads and quiet storm jams that will appease fans of Wonder's later work. Especially notable is "My Love Is on Fire," featuring a beautiful guest appearance from jazz flutist Hubert Laws, which exemplifies the other thing that makes A Time to Love the comeback album of the year: the never-ending list of celebrity cameo appearances so extensive it would make Carlos Santana and Clive Davis blush with modesty. Guest appearances from rap pioneer Doug E. Fresh, Bonnie Raitt, Sir Paul McCartney, Kim Burrell, Prince, Kirk Franklin, and India.Arie just scratch the surface of who contributed to this record. It's one Michael Jackson and one Lionel Richie cameo short from being a USA for Africa reunion. But while each artist lends his own style to the mix, the songs definitely remain 100 percent Wonder thanks to his distinctive singing and arrangements. The album begins its landing with "So What the Fuss," a chunky block of funk with a distorted bassline. It served as the lead single and was met with surprisingly little fanfare, especially since it's one of Wonder's most straight-ahead slices of funk in some time. And the album's title track serves as a fitting conclusion to the album, spreading Wonder's message of love and peace as strongly and convincingly as any other song he's ever done. On the whole, A Time to Love is the record Wonder fans have been waiting for, and the wait has more than paid off. Through exploration and balance, A Time to Love finds the two halves of Wonder's adult career finally coming to home to roost in peaceful harmony with one another, and it's one of the finest records he has done in decades.
Stevie Wonder - A Time To Love (flac 527mb)
01 If Your Love Cannot Be Moved 6:12
02 Sweetest Somebody I Know 4:31
03 Moon Blue 6:45
04 From The Bottom Of My Heart 5:12
05 Please Don't Hurt My Baby 4:40
06 How Will I Know 3:39
07 My Love Is On Fire 6:16
08 Passionate Raindrops 4:50
09 Tell Your Heart I Love You 4:30
10 True Love 3:32
11 Shelter In The Rain 4:19
12 So What The Fuss 5:04
13 Can't Imagine Love Without You 3:45
14 Positivity 5:07
15 A Time To Love 9:17
.Stevie Wonder - A Time To Love (ogg 188mb)
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