Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

Welcome To B&S



Stevie Wonder: 8th Wonder

Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder 'Little' Stevie Wonder Stevie Wonder Sharon Davis & Stevie Wonder Stevie Wonder 'Hotter Than July' tour 1990 Stevie Wonder tour 1971 Stevie Wonder 1971 Stevie, Marvin & Diana Ross at Wembley Arena Sep '90 Stevie Wonder & Sharon Davis

There’s so much that can be said about this man that it’d be foolish to try to cram it all in within the confines of these few paragraphs. Suffice to say though, he’s a multiple Grammy award winner for his compositions, his productions and performances – a staggering twenty-two awards at the last count - and the recipient of hundreds of gold, platinum and double platinum discs, and honours, including the Polar Music Prize. He’s been inducted into the Songwriters’ and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Halls of Fame, and was the most prominent figure in popular music during the latter half of the 20th century.

His tireless work for charity often goes by unnoticed because he doesn’t broadcast it, and being blind, he ploughs a lot of energy into raising funds for various societies. He’s also been considering the latest medical techniques to restore his sight, saying there’s been much progress in this field and - “I’m all for stem cell research. I am all for anything that is going to better equip a person who is physically challenged in any way… There was a doctor that I did see and I was able to do some testing. The thing with my condition is it’s very possible that I might not be eligible … but the goal for talking about this with various people was not necessarily for me to see, but by me getting the information people will hear about it.” * And that’s always been his outlook on life – anything to help others. He also offers advice with the actual technology that’ll benefit all blind people: from, for example, raised buttons on a microwave to a touch phone that can be made more accessible. He said he remembered the first Kurzweil reading machine. “I was one of the first to meet Ray Kurzweil and purchase the machine in Boston. To think that the machine was at least two and a half large suitcases at the time, and now you have a camera and it takes a picture and you have sound. To be able to read information, to read books, magazines, papers, whatever you might need to read. Technology is really advanced and made things easier.” He also took on the American government – and won, when, following his tireless lobbying of Congress, the late Dr Martin Luther King’s birthday on 15 January was recognised as public holiday. “Like no other American, Martin Luther King stood for, fought for and died for American democratic principles” he pointed out. “The holiday (is) the first commemorating the enormous contributions of black people in the United States.”

Martha Reeves first introduced me to him at London’s Hammersmith Odeon during the seventies when he burst into her dressing room where she and the two Vandellas were changing into their stage clothes. And I was hooked. Through the years, like so many millions of his fans, I’ve grown up with him.

Yep, who else but Stevie Wonder.

Stevie has provided the musical backdrop to our lives and, on the way, has changed the way soul music evolved. He set out on his professional musical journey with Motown Records in 1962 when he was twelve years old with his debut single “I Call It Pretty Music But The Old People Call It The Blues Part 1”. Using the name Little Stevie Wonder two further singles followed that year - “Little Water Boy” and “Contract On Love”. But it was “Fingertips Part 2” in 1963 that gave him his first hit, and US chart topper. The track was lifted from a live recording and featured him on vocals, harmonica and bongos. Marvin Gaye played the drums. After a few minor hits, and losing the “Little”, Stevie once again hit the big time with “Uptight (Everything’s Alright) in late-1965 and to be frank, he’s never looked back. Titles like “I Was Made To Love Her”, “For Once In My Life”, “My Cherie Amour”, “Superstition”, “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life”, “I Wish”, “Part-Time Lover” and “I Just Called To Say I Love You”. Albums were issued alongside the hit singles - check these out “Where I’m Coming From”, “Music Of My Mind”, “Talking Book”, “Innervisions”, “Songs In The Key Of Life” - and Stevie’s selling power increased as his star ascended to the dizzy heights it is today. And this year he celebrated his 60th birthday, some forty-eight years after be began his musical adventure.

This little preamble leads nicely into Stevie Wonder – the performer, and as he’s more of a regular visitor here than ever before, here’s a reminder of some of his performances over the years. But where to start?!

Thirty years ago I attended his press conference in Amsterdam when Stevie told attending journalists – “I want to thank the people who have followed me and given me a great deal of support in this career of mine. I’ve been performing for twenty years and I’ll be 31 on the thirteenth of this month (May). It’s a funny thing but I love doing everything…producing, writing… and I have come to the point where I am comfortable.” Although he loved touring, he said, he believed this current world tour would be his last - “Whenever I do perform it’s my desire to make people feel as good as they make me feel. What I call my musical celebration. If people want to come again, then I will come again.” Another point he made here was his refusal to allow his performances to be filmed for TV or video use, claiming people wouldn’t attend future shows if they could be seen elsewhere. Happily for us, Stevie changed his mind on both counts: he continued to tour, and in 2008 he allowed his performance at London’s 02 Arena to be filmed over two nights (30 September and 1 October) before an audience of 15,000 each performance. During these shows, he involved the audience from the word go, and their musical celebration lasted two hours covering a lot of the songs that were instrumental in shaping today’s music. His voice was perfect, his enthusiasm overpowering and wholly infectious, as his body swayed to the music. He explained at one point, that the death of his mother in 2006 inspired him to return to touring now – “I want to take all the pain that I feel and celebrate and turn it around.” Then added that he’d been blessed in this life because “I’ve been able to go places I’ve never imagined, and I meet so many wonderful people like yourselves.” The release of the special DVD titled “Live At Last – A Wonder Summer’s Night” coincided with Motown’s 50th anniversary and was a reminder of his first tour in over a decade, which sold more than 120,000 tickets in the UK alone.

Digging into his touring memories even further, one British concert comes to mind immediately. In 1990 Marshall Arts announced the “Stevie Wonder’s Hotter Than July Music Picnic” during September. To coincide with the visit, Motown released “Master Blaster (Jammin’)”, the only track available from the pending “Hotter Than July” album. To digress a moment. Tapes for the album actually arrived while Stevie was in London, so a playback reception was organised by Motown at Abbey Road Studios on 2 September, where attending journalists – and celebrities! – heard the album in its entirety while sipping wine. Everyone who attended was searched for tape recorders before admission, and when a European hack was later discovered with a machine secreted on his person, he was ejected in a most undignified manner, with the tape snatched from his recorder.

Sharon Davis' full interview (+ exclusive pictures) with Stevie Wonder can be found in our special printed edition of Blues & Soul out on August 13, and can be ordered now from this very site.

*******************This intervew is EXCLUSIVE to Blues & Soul ONLY******************* The reproduction of this article/photos in any manner on any other site/magazine/
newspaper/blog/fourm is strictly prohibited. WE WILL PROSECUTE - Copyright duplication is fraud, whatever the intention... so please continue to enjoy our material on this site - Thank you. B&S

* Interview by Ian Youngs, music reporter BBC News, Birmingham

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

Join the B&S Mailing List

Blues and Soul on Twitter