I’m going to use this Stevie Wonder post as A) a final post of the series; B) a celebration of a great album and C) a sort-of belated concert review.
In late 1976, Stevie Wonder released a superb double album called Songs in the Key of Life. This album is, in the opinion of many, the apotheosis of everything he’d been trying to accomplish.
In 2005, it was ranked number 57 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In the same year it was preserved into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress which called it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
This album’s got it all: love songs, social consciousness, jazz-rock, celebrations of jazz artists, “Isn’t She Lovely,” about Stevie’s new daughter, and a cast of stellar backing musicians.
In 2014 – 2015 Stevie toured and played behind, for the most part, this entire album. (India.Arie joined him on tour, at least the night we saw him). I was pretty pumped because I’d never seen him live and so the chance to both do that and hear this album was irresistible. Like The Who, we saw him at Boston’s TD Garden.
It was a great night and unlike so many rock concerts I go to, a totally integrated audience just gettin’ down for the funk of it. (In a total oversight on my part, I initially neglected to put this on my Top Ten Live Shows post from a short while back. Since rectified).
Here’s Stevie’s tribute to Duke Ellington and other jazz greats (“Go Wonderlove!”)
As I was researching this post I found a number of live videos, many unfortunately taken by amateur videographers with shaky hands. So I’ll forego those for a better listening experience. You can find them online if you’re so inclined.
Here’s a beautiful love song, “Ngiculela – Es Una Historia – I Am Singing.”
During the course of the night, Stevie often got up and addressed the audience directly, just talking about stuff. I recall he got somewhat political about situations in the country but not so much as to have to have one take sides. I think he tries to draw that fine line between making a statement and making sure everybody enjoys the party.
Last tune – “Another Star.” The place just exploded when he did this. If this isn’t my favorite song of his, it’s pretty damn close.
There might be a brighter star
But through my eyes the light of you is all I see
There might be another song
But all my heart can hear is your melody
I hope you got a chance to listen to at least some of the tunes. Stevie still records and has done some really good stuff into the Eighties and Nineties. But like so many other performers, he had his greatest impact a while ago. Which is ok by me because the guy’s got nothing left to prove.
He influenced innumerable performers, and at age 66, will hopefully continue to do so for some time to come. As I mentioned in my “best shows” post, if he comes back to town behind 50 years of hits, I’m there.
I leave you with one of his most beautiful love songs, from 1982, “Ribbon in the Sky.” It’s unrelated to this album, but I couldn’t not post it.