Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Little Stevie Wonder
Little Stevie Wonder Stevie Wonder Stevie Wonder: Motown - Late 60's Stevie Wonder: Motown 1967 Sharon Davis and Stevie Wonder Sharon Davis and Stevie Wonder Stevie Wonder: Live At Last (with daughter Aisha @o2 Arena) 01/10/08 Stevie Wonder: Live At Last  (@ London's o2 Arena)  01/10/08 on Stevie Wonder: Live At Last (L-R) Sundray Laurence , Terry Hendricks and Lynda Laurence Lynda Laurence Stevie Wonder TV appearance (L-R) Sundray Laurence , Terry Hendricks and Lynda Laurence Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours - Happy 40th!

With Stevie Wonder once again being an extremely high profile artist for several reasons, I thought now’s the time to chat about him in MT by four.


First things first though. It’s been a long time coming but at long last, as Motown celebrates its 50th anniversary, Stevie releases his first ever live concert on dvd. Titled Live At Last – A Wonder Summer's Night it was filmed at the o2 Arena, London, over two nights (30 September and 1 October last year) before an audience of 15,000 each time. As you know, these concerts were part of his first tour in over a decade which, I’m told, sold more than a massive 120,000 tickets in the UK alone.

Anyway, last Saturday afternoon was show time in my household, and with three young men, I danced and sang through a series of songs that marked milestones in Stevie’s career. We watched as he introduced the show with All Blues, As If You Read My Mind and Master Blaster (Jammin’) before singing grossly out of tune, we helped him sing the familiar My Cherie Amour, Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours, Isn’t She Lovely, Lately, I Just Called To Say I Love You, Higher Ground, You Are The Sunshine Of My Life before changing direction with All I Do, Overjoyed, Don’t You Worry 'Bout A Thing' and Knocks Me Off My Feet. (Not necessarily in that order.) Off the wall musical moments included Chick Corea’s Spain instrumental, and his tribute, or salute, to the British audiences with a medley of two Beatles’ tracks, I Want To Hold Your Hand and Fool On The Hill plus The Rolling Stones’ version of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction which he book-ended with London Bridge Is Falling Down! I kid you not. It was great, great fun! Superstition nearly killed me but I took my medication and went to lay down for a while! My funking days are over, but the guys danced on, playing penny whistles and waving paper sticks as they did so. They had no idea who Stevie was, and had never heard his music before. When I explained a little about who they were watching, one said it was such a shame he couldn’t see all the people in the audience dancing and waving at him!

So thanks for the impromptu concert you guys. Oh by the way, Joshua is ten years old; my godson Mitchell is eight and Samuel, a mere six years.

Stevie Wonder was magnificent; truly, truly outa this world. His musicians and support singers (including his daughter Aisha”) were of another planet as they produced a full, rich and funky sound from start to finish. They played as one and obviously enjoyed themselves as they did. I could have been in his audience, I felt that involved. So Live At Last - A Wonder Summer’s Night comes highly recommended!


Talking about [H]Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours, I’m reminded of an earlier email exchange with Lynda Laurence who, like others, are celebrating the 40th anniversary of this song being recorded. Prior to joining The Supremes, Lynda was, of course, a member of Stevie’s Wonderlove, and she told me that when Stevie’s asked which of his songs he wrote and recorded is the most requested he answers Signed, Sealed, Delivered. “And recently it was used on the campaign trail for President Barack Obama. So this song continues to find new life through each generation since its creation. I can’t believe it’s been forty years since I had the honour of recording the song with Stevie. It was even more wonderful when he asked me to do – what is called in the business – to step out in the background to sing an ad lib and a ‘yell’ as it were. It’s amazing how many people still think that Stevie’s doing the ‘yell’ and it’s me! It would take too much time to tell the story of how this all came about, but the late Syreeta Wright was also one of the singers (she also co-wrote the song) …and the third is Venetta Fields who now lives in Australia. ..Together we had a strong sound and I think that’s what Stevie wanted on that song. Although it has been forty years I still marvel when I see old and young alike dancing and singing along with it. It’s just one of those songs that has great lyrics, great music and, of course, the music man himself!” Thanks my friend! Oh, Lynda also added that she’ll write in more detail about this and other aspects of her life in her forthcoming autobiography. In the pictures featured here L-R is Lynda’s sister Sundray, Terry Hendricks and Lynda herself. OK? Thanks Eric for your prompt reply here!

Before we leave the subject, a few more facts about Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours …it was released in 1970, peaked at number three on the US chart and spent six weeks at the top of the R&B chart, while over here it reached number 15. The song was the first to be produced by Stevie; the first to feature Wonderlove, and his first Grammy nomination. (The winner was Clarence Carter’s Patches by the way. Yeh, a good song too.) Stevie credited his late mum Lula for coming up with the phrase “signed, sealed, delivered I’m yours” after hearing him experiment with the song’s melody.


And, of course Barack Obama used it to round off his speeches at presidential campaign events. In fact, Stevie sang the song in Denver, Colorado, on the final night of last year’s Democratic National Convention. And at Obama’s election night rally in Chicago, the song was one of three played before his victory speech. It was, apparently, also used on David Axelrod’s mobile (he was the chief campaign strategist) to indicate it was a call from Obama. As one journalist pointed out – as great as the song is one can’t help wondering if the opening line “Like a fool I went and stayed too long”, or on the bridge “I’ve done a lot of foolish things that I really didn’t mean” really are applicable to a new president!

It’s been well documented in the media that Stevie recently performed in the East Room of the White House before a celebrity audience including the new President and the First Lady, Michelle. She presented the Motown star with the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, telling the audience that Talking Book was the first album she had ever bought. Her grandfather was a real ‘music junkie’ and they would sit and listen to Stevie’s music together. “And then there was the album cover, a first that was in Braille. Years later, I discovered what Stevie meant when he sang about love. Barack and I chose the song You And I as our wedding song….He recently performed with the Jonas Brothers, thrilling a new generation of young girls, including our own.” (They performed together at the 51st Grammy Awards gala. This was Stevie’s 12th performance – a record by all accounts) The President took over from his wife saying Stevie had always drawn from the incredible range of traditions in his music and from then he created a sound that at once was uniquely American and uniquely universal – “…As Stevie knows I’m a huge fan, and he has been a great supporter. When I was first discovering music, just like Michelle, it was Stevie’s albums that I found, and his songs became the soundtrack of my youth….And I think it’s fair to say that had I not been a Stevie Wonder fan, Michelle might not have dated me. We might not have married. The fact that we agreed on Stevie was part of the essence of our courtship.” In reply, Stevie, clearly touched and taken aback, cheekily expressed his delight at being part of their um relationship! “But what’s really exciting for me today is that we truly have lived to see a time where America has the chance to live up to the greatness that it deserves to be seen and known as, through the love and the caring and the commitment of..President Obama. It’s exciting because I know my children will be able to say ‘I was born when there was the first African American president.’ Yeh, I can do that too! “ He then reflected about Dr Martin Luther King and a united America, before closing with “I want you to know that I love you til my last breath. Thank you.”


In his most recent past, Stevie and Raphael Saadiq were nominated for a Grammy in the Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals category for Never Give You Up, a song on which Stevie plays harmonica; he contributed to the cd release of the inauguration of the (then) President elect by singing the new song All About The Love Again (which he recorded partly in his own voice and partly in a futuristic voice) and later went on to close the NAACP awards gala with 'Black Man.'


He also called upon technology companies to produce products more suited to the blind by making changes in their designs which would make a huge difference to people with impaired vision. For example, why not make microwaves with raised buttons to enable a blind person to navigate the cooking range? Or provide equipment with speech synthesis, like iPods. In an exclusive interview with Richard Taylor, editor of Click, Stevie said he owned an iPod and a reading machine but added – “..if they are not the units that go around and around, if they stop at a certain point, it is a matter of counting the clicks to know where you are. An example is the blackberry phone. I understand they are going to make it more accessible and being more accessible is always a plus.” Naturally, touch screens are a nightmare. “I think someone was going to show us something that could be attached to either a phone, making it tactile so that a blind person would be able to know where he or she was on the phone.” And on recovering his sight, Stevie said he was aware of the remarkable stories about people who have recovered their sight through technological advances and treatments. He was all for stem cell research, he said, and added – “I am all for anything that is going to better equip a person who is physically challenged in any way, to have an opportunity to be able to do what they are able to do.” Stevie was tested but, apparently, there may be a problem with his particular type of blindness which might make him not eligible for the treatment. However, technology is changing constantly, so he’ll never give up hope.

And, finally...

On the music front. Well, there’s a remastered Songs In The Key Of Life due (just turned on the radio and He’s Misstra Know It All is playing – how bloody spooky is that!) and The Gospel Inspired By Lula a tribute to his late mum. This will include cover versions of her favourite songs although the album isn’t all traditional gospel. “I’m gonna have a wide spectrum..I might do a song in Arabic. I might do one in Hebrew and one in Zulu. (Or) I might do one that has an East Indian feel to it. It will be songs of celebration really.” But he cautioned Billboard’s Gary Graff – “If it’s not good enough I might not put it out – you know how we roll!”

Phew! I’m writing on empty now, so will bid you farewell. Just think, this Motown Tracking came about simply because I received a dvd in the post! Hope you enjoyed it all. Next time we’ll start a rolling section titled “What Motown’s 50th Anniversary Means To Me” within these pages. Sounds like fun? You bet it is!

Love you
Sharon Davis xx

Please feel free to contact SHARON DAVIS at B&S with any Motown news that you feel would benefit others - Thank you.



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