How was Stevie Wonder discovered

Stevie Wonder | biography

Stevie Wonder - biography 2005

"There's been a time for war, a time for strife, a time set aside for everything under the sun. We must now set aside a time for love. " - Stevie Wonder

Talking about numbers is currently difficult to en vogue in the world of pop and glittering glamor. Nine (50 cents had to receive shots before he could become the global poster figure of hip hop). 28 (Usher spent weeks last year with his singles on the billboard sun). And 41 (Kylie Minouge's hips measured centimeters after putting on her latest corset). So maybe we should talk about numbers too ... 19 (Grammys). 24 (number one hits). 72 million (albums sold). No question about it: Stevie Wonder is one of the greatest the music world has ever seen.

The now 55-year-old exceptional artist doesn't really like talking about numbers. Its theme is love. “The time is ripe for the language of love,” he says about his great new album “A Time To Love”, which is now his 36th. “And I'm talking about every conceivable form of love. The love for your partner, your brother or your sister. The love for humanity, the love for faith - it doesn't matter. When working on this project, I had all forms of love in mind. "

In this way a mature album full of soul has emerged, the manifesto of a musical genius who has made it its business to renew itself again and again. “A Time To Love” combines the entertainer qualities of the former miracle boy Stevie Wonder with the earthy, experimental spirit of the early seventies and this unique feeling for moving melodies, world hits like “I Just Called To Say I Love You” or “Happy Birthday ”. The best example of this timeless greatness is the first single “So What The Fuss”, which features none other than Prince on guitar and En Vogue as background singer.

The other songs, however, are in no way inferior. There is the programmatically titled “Positivity”, which could hardly fit better into this sometimes depressing time full of worry and need. There's the brilliant “From The Bottom Of My Heart,” which shows a mature songwriter at the peak of his creative abilities. And of course there is the wonderful title track “A Time To Love”, a duet with Grammy-winning Motown colleague India.Arie. “I try to make music that is timeless,” said Stevie Wonder about his work. “For me, it's always about the energy that I feel. The single song is just one way of expressing this energy. " His label boss Sylvia Rhone sums up how well he succeeded in doing this with words that are as simple as they are apt: “It's a very lively album by a great artist, without whom the music world would be a lot poorer.”

Stevie Wonder was born Stevland Morris in Saginaw, Michigan in 1950. His early years in the music industry were indeed meteoric. Discovered by Ronnie White of the Miracles (who once launched the Motown era and brought Berry Gordy his first gold record), he will have his record deal in his pocket before his eleventh birthday. In September 1962 Tamla released his first album “The Jazz-Soul Of Little Stevie”. Wonder plays piano, harmonica, organ and drums on it, his skills on all instruments drive and spur the critics to a myriad of hymns of praise. His next LP, the Ray Charles homage “Tribute To Uncle Ray”, is at best received as an amiable okskurität and should at best still be of interest to die-hard fans today. But as early as 1963 Stevie Wonder celebrated the first big triumph of his incomparable career: As the first artist in Billboard history, he was simultaneously featured in single (“Fingertips Pt.2”) and album charts (“Recorded Live - The 12 Year Old Genius ”) The place in the sun.

Stevie Wonder's first major creative period up to 1971 brought no fewer than 14 other albums, including two “Greatest Hits” couplings, a live album and the Christmas record “Someday At Christmas” from 1967. The title track shows his outstanding political talent early on Conveying messages through poignant melodies: Stevie refers, among other things, to the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement, which a few years earlier had reached its climax in the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have A Dream” speech.

1971 represents a major turning point in Stevie Wonder's career, as his first recording contract expires in that year. He freed himself from the guidelines and marketing mechanisms of the industry, which he had increasingly felt as a restriction of his personal and artistic freedom, and went to New York for a while to experiment musically and personally. When he finally signs a new (production) deal with Motown, it happens on his terms. Once again, Stevie Wonder proves to be an early bird: at only 21 years old, he has complete creative control over his work.

One of the most interesting phases in Wonder's career begins. The albums “Music Of My Mind”, “Talking Book” (both ‘72) and “Innervisions” (‘73) show a self-confident, multi-instrumental and open Stevie at the height of his art. The range of topics is supplemented by spiritual and personal, but also social and political issues. The compositions and arrangements are becoming more complex and his songwriting more and more sophisticated. In 1976 his most impressive opus so far, “Songs In The Key Of Life”, appears - almost as a logical consequence of this artistic maturation process. A double album with an estimated ten world hits and a timeless, original soul signature, on which a compact soul song like “Pasttime Paradise” just as naturally finds space as the sprawling dance floor monsters “Sir Duke” or “Another Star”. What influence “Songs In ...” has on the further course of pop history is shown by the immense number of cover versions and remakes following this record: George Michaels and Mary J. Bliges “As”, coolios “Gangsta's Paradise” or “Outro Lugar ”are all hits 'in their own right'. Almost needless to say that “Songs In…” entered the Billboard pop charts - after “Fulfillingness' First Finale”, the second number one album in a row for the now 26-year-old Soulster.

Stevie Wonder, however, does not take the great success as an occasion to rest, but rather as an artistic challenge. In 1979 he recorded the largely instrumental “Journey Through The Secret Life Of Plants”, which served as the soundtrack for a documentary film. He performs this record with an Afro-American symphony orchestra in the “Metropolitan House”, thus continuing his subtle (racial) political work. Then in 1980 he replied to the accusations that were slowly growing louder that he could no longer write commercially successful music: his album "Hotter Than July" contains the great "Master Blaster (Jammin ')" (the 2-step garage version of the turn of the millennium by DJ Luck & MC Neat becomes one of the biggest hits of the dance scene) and of course the Martin Luther King homage "Happy Birthday".

The claims are now finally staked out. The seventies brought Stevie Wonder no fewer than 15 Grammys and four American Music Awards, and the unbelievable variety of his twelve albums between 1970 and 1980 made him musically untouchable. Time for the former child prodigy to further expand his sphere of influence and, in particular, to make it politically useful. In 1983 the now legendary "Saturday Night Life" episode is recorded, in which Stevie shows a fine sense of self-irony at the side of his brilliant impersonator Eddie Murphy. The first Oscar follows a year later: “I Just Called To Say I Love You” from the soundtrack to Gene Wilder's “Lady In Red” is awarded as the best song and also tops the charts in Great Britain, Germany and the USA. At the beginning of the following year, this huge popularity made him the second soloist on the benefit anthem “We Are The World” written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. And when, in January 1986, Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday was celebrated with an official holiday in 17 US states for the first time, it was also a victory for Stevie Wonder, who had been vehemently advocating this step for years.

In 1991 Stevie recorded the soundtrack to Spike Lee's “Jungle Fever” and once again demonstrated his unique ability to approach the emotions of the big screen with his own musical language. In 1996 he received - also for this - the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, then in 2004 the Billboard Century Award, the highest award that the Billboard holds for artistic achievements. Stevie Wonder is far from being a faint memory in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. “So What The Fuss” got 418 radio spins in its first week alone - more than any other single before on the Billboard Adult R&B charts. Hip-hop producer du jour, Madlib, recorded a tribute record called “Stevie” in 2003 under his “Yesterday's New Quintet” alias. And the protagonists of the Neo Soul Movement like Alicia Keys or Dwele bow closed before Stevie Wonder, this great singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist. They bow before his work, which has shaped theirs so decisively and will continue to shape them. They bow to songs like “Superstition”, “Too High”, “Part-Time Lover”, “Don't You Worry` Bout A Thing ”or“ These Three Words ”. They bow to his collaborations with Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, Bono, Paul Mc Cartney, Sting, Whitney Houston, Wyclef Jean, Barbara Streisand, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra. And they bow to his never-ending struggle against hatred and discrimination.

Stevie Wonder's story is the story of a musical icon who has found its way into the hearts of millions of people - with “A Time To Love” he has now added another impressive chapter to her.