stevie wonder songs in the key of life performance

"Village Ghetto Land". Announced during a press conference on Wednesday (Sept. 10) at the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live, the Songs in the Key of Life Performance Tour. Stevie Wonder will take his show on the road for the Songs In the Key of Life Performance Tour on an 11-city concert tour throughout the.
stevie wonder songs in the key of life performance

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Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life: Ranking the songs

Stevie Wonder had a run of classic albums in the ’70s — 1972’s Talking Book, 1973’s Innervisions and 1974’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale — but 40 years ago Wednesday, he released his crown jewel, 1976’s Songs in the Key of Life. That life-changing double LP would go on to become the Sgt. Pepper of R&B, a Grammy-winning work that other soul brothers and sisters are still chasing to this day. In honor of its anniversary, EW is celebrating that album by ranking all 21 songs.

21. “Easy Goin’ Evening (My Mama’s Call)”

One of four songs on the bonus EP A Something’s Extra — which came as a 45 in the original vinyl version — this harmonica-blown breeze is one of two instrumentals on the sprawling set (the other being the dizzying “Confusion”). It’s a mellow stroll of a victory lap.

20. “Ebony Eyes”

19. “Saturn”

18. “All Day Sucker”

17. “Confusion”

16. “Ngiculela—Es Una Historia—I Am Singing”

15. “Have a Talk with God”

14. “Isn’t She Lovely”

Although it was never officially released as a single, this jazz-kissed ode to then-infant daughter Aisha still became one of the most beloved tracks from the album. Beginning with a crying cameo from baby Aisha, it also features a precious father-daughter exchange toward the end.

13. “Black Man”

12. “Summer Soft”

11. “Village Ghetto Land”

10. “If It’s Magic”

9. “Knocks Me Off My Feet”

8. “Joy Inside My Tears”

7. “Pastime Paradise”

To ’90s hip-hop heads, this song is probably best remembered for being reworked by Coolio into his 1995 smash “Gangsta’s Paradise.” (Which, to Stevie disciples, is a travesty.) With its synth strings, the track boasts the same baroque soulfulness —and social consciousness — as “Village Ghetto Land.”

6. “Ordinary Pain”

5. “Sir Duke”

This tribute to jazz legend Duke Ellington — who died in 1974, as Wonder was writing Songs — also shouts out Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald. A swinging, horn-blasting groove, this exuberant celebration of music (“A world within itself, with a language we all understand”) makes you feel it all over.

4. “Another Star”

3. “I Wish”

As a fierce funk workout, this is right up there with Talking Book’s “Superstition,” Innervisions’ “Higher Ground,” and Fulfillingness’ First Finale’s “You Haven’t Done Nothin’.” But it’s the childhood reflection — “Then my only worry / Was for Christmas what would be my toy” — that is the real heart of this jam.

2. “As”

When Stevie sings about loving someone “until dear Mother Nature says her work is through,” it is the truth. Listening to this master get caught up in a melismatic rapture as he riffs on the single word “always” is an everlasting joy.

1. “Love’s in Need of Love Today”

The first track of Wonder’s magnum opus is a message song that is maybe even more relevant in today’s troubled times than it was 40 years ago. From its opening gospel-blues strains, this seven-minute PSA is an urgent call from “your friendly announcer” for a better tomorrow. It’s a big bear hug of a record that wraps its arms around the world.

Источник: https://ew.com/article/2016/09/28/stevie-wonder-songs-key-life-ranking/

Taking more than two years from conception to release, Stevie Wonder's classic 1976 double album, Songs in the Key of Life, is now generally considered his finest creative hour in an enduring, influential career of nearly four decades. Songs in the Key of Life is also regarded by many music fans as one of the outstanding albums to appear in that entire timespan.

Released in October 1976, Songs in the Key of Life entered the U.S. Billboard album chart at No. 1 and remained there for 14 weeks, topping off a 44-week chart residency in the Top 40. Its success amply rewarded Motown Records' earlier $13 million investment in Wonder when it had re-signed him to the label. The deal was the largest in recording history at the time.

Songs in the Key of Life also reached No. 2 in the U.K., remaining on the charts for over a year, and was a worldwide best seller. Two singles from the album, "I Wish" and "Sir Duke" (the latter dedicated to the great jazz legend Duke Ellington), both reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and were also U.K. Top 10 hits.

This outstanding chart success was consolidated when Steve Wonder won Album of the Year at the 1976 Grammy Awards. He was also named Producer of the Year and won the Best Male Vocal Performance category.

The remarkable story behind Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life project is told here. Stevie himself reminisces about the inspiration for the album, and there are also contributions from Motown founder (and Wonder father figure) Berry Gordy, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, and lyricist Gary Byrd, among many others. In addition, there is a unique reunion of the musicians who played on the original album sessions.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

Источник: https://www.abebooks.com/9786305320616/Classic-Albums-Stevie-Wonder-Songs-6305320616/plp

Stevie Wonder brings Songs In The Key of Life tour to London

By Mark Savage
BBC Music reporter

Stevie Wonder has closed London's BST festival with a meaningful but meandering stroll through his landmark double album, Songs In The Key Of Life.

The 66-year-old played for almost four hours, backed by a razor-sharp band of more than 20 musicians.

Addressing recent outbreaks of violence, Wonder said he wanted music to bring people together "in this horrible time we're living in.

"Choose love over hate... kindness over meanness, hope over no hope at all."

The soul legend said it "breaks my heart" that songs like Love's In Need Of Love Today and Village Ghetto Land remained relevant, "almost 40 years" after he wrote them.

Image source, Evening Standard / Getty Images

The tracks, which both appear on the first volume of Songs In The Key Of Life, tackle topics including racial hatred, police corruption and political inertia.

"I'm not happy that those conditions still exist in the world," Wonder told the 65,000-strong crowd in Hyde Park.

The sentiment was woven into the fabric of the show: Pastime Paradise gained the gospel refrain, "we shall overcome"; while Wonder added a raw, powerful cover of Curtis Mayfield's peace anthem People Get Ready to his set.

"Tell all the leaders of the world to cut the bull... and fix it," he implored the audience.

"We were all made in God's image. When you hate someone, you're hating that image.

"If I'm blind and I can see it, you can see it too."

His comments were applauded by an audience that included stars Julianne Moore, Bradley Cooper, Natalie Portman and Martin Freeman, supermodel Naomi Campbell and musicians Jarvis Cocker and Emeli Sande.

Released in 1976, Songs In The Key Of Life is regarded as Wonder's most accomplished album. An attempt to capture the nuance of existence - from the birth of his daughter to the politics of fear - it topped the US charts for 14 weeks and earned a Grammy for Album of the Year.

In a 1995 interview with Q Magazine, Wonder called it the record "I'm most happy about". But it is also a complex, sprawling experience. It comprises 21 tracks that originally filled two albums and a four-song EP. Many of those songs last almost 10 minutes and, on stage, Wonder extended them further.

A festival was probably the wrong setting for such an ambitious show. Some of the album's deeper cuts left casual fans bewildered; and an interlude in which each of Wonder's six backing vocalists was given a solo number dragged on for far too long.

"I just want Stevie," shouted one audience member in frustration.

But when the star rolled out hits like I Wish and Isn't She Lovely, the crowd sang and danced as one. Sir Duke even prompted fans to parp along with the brass section, before launching into the uplifting hook: "You can feel it all over"

Wonder was in superb voice throughout, recreating all the album's high notes, and even inventing a few new ones along the way. But he took no credit for his octave-scaling performance, confessing: "Earlier today I felt like I wasn't going to be able to sing nothing - "but then I prayed on it."

In fact, it was Wonder's warmth and humour (including a passable attempt at a Cockney accent) that stopped the show feeling indulgent or bloated.

On several occasions he suddenly declared, "I've had an idea", and led his band down a funky, improvised side alley, giving the highly-rehearsed set a sense of freedom and unpredictability.

The Songs In The Key Of Life set wrapped up with the joyous, Latin-funk excursion Another Star (prompting spontaneous conga lines around Hyde Park) but Wonder still had time left before the curfew.

Calling himself "DJ Tick Tick Boom" the star played recordings of Kiss and When Doves Cry, in tribute to his friend, and musical protégé, Prince.

But he returned to his own material for the closing number - a medley of Part Time Lover; Signed, Sealed, Delivered; and Superstition.

"I love you," Wonder said as he left the stage. "Maybe next year, we'll do it again. Are you with me on that?"

The crowd seemed to agree.

Follow us on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, on Instagram at bbcnewsents, or email [email protected].

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Источник: https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-36761254

Stevie Wonder promotes 'Songs in the Key of Life Performance' tour with free D.C. concert

Recording artist Stevie Wonder gave a free performance Monday morning at the Armory Mall in Washington, D.C., the first stop on a three-city mini-tour to promote the remaining dates on his “Songs in the Key of Life Performance” tour. 

Mr. Wonder, 65, performed a short set list interspersed with answering questions and pontificating on contemporary America.


“I’ve decided to do 20 more shows in the U.S.,” Mr. Wonder said, including a stop at the District’s Verizon Center on Oct. 3. “Then that’s the last time I’ll [tour] in the States.

“For me the world is in need of more love than ever before,” the singer added, “and the most important thing, as far as I’m concerned, [is] I’m concerned I don’t feel enough leaders [are] talking about fixing the heart of humankind.”

Mr. Wonder went on to decry gun violence and the need to seek solutions to the ongoing issue. He made mention of his “Claim the Bullet” campaign to curb gun violence.

He also took time to praise former President Jimmy Carter, who announced last week he was battling an aggressive cancer.

“One president took him commitment to God and to help every single man,” Mr. Wonder said of the ex-president, 90.

Free water and donuts were handed out to concertgoers for the unannounced hourlong performance and Q&A. The gathered included community residents as well as curious servicemen and -women from the Armory.

Mr. Wonder also brought up onstage his two very young children to say hello to the audience. Mr. Wonder collectively has nine children and is also a grandfather.

Never one to rest for long, Mr. Wonder will perform two other “surprise” shows later today in Philadelphia and New York to continue promoting the tour.

Tickets for Mr. Wonder’s Oct. 3 show at Verizon Center go on sale Friday.

• Eric Althoff can be reached at [email protected]

Источник: https://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/aug/17/stevie-wonder-promotes-songs-key-life-performance-/

Stevie Wonder thrills crowd with marathon ‘Songs in the Key of Life’

Oh, it’s good to get schooled by a pro once in a while. Keeps your mind on your business.

Stevie Wonder’s ambitious, all-in road show celebrating 1976’s ambitious, all-in classic Songs in the Key of Life could have gone either way. The onetime child prodigy, still something of a wonder at 64, brought more than 30 musicians – a 10-piece string section, a half-dozen backing singers, and featured guest vocalist India.Arie on top of a dauntingly nimble and virtuosic core ensemble tautly conducted by keyboardist Greg Phillinganes and propelled by four ace percussionists – with him to recreate that sprawling masterwork onstage at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night.

In the wrong hands, that’s exactly the sort of superstar indulgence that can take a dire turn for Vegas- or Broadway-styled “revue” territory, but this is one expensive pile-on that totally got away with it.

It was slick, sure. But Songs in the Key of Life was slick to begin with. Wonder laboured over the record for three long years in the ’70s, for so long that – as he recalled during his charmingly rambling pre-show intro – someone in his crew eventually had a bunch of T-shirts reading “WE’RE ALMOST FINISHED” printed up.

At the end of it all, he wound up delivering to Motown Records a boldly eclectic, lavishly orchestrated and stirringly optimistic soul-funk appeal to the human spirit spanning four vinyl sides and an additional, four-track EP that, altogether, clocked in at nearly 120 minutes. It sold 10 million copies in the U.S. alone, outperformed on the charts in 1977 only by Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, which was the biggest album of all time until Michael Jackson’s Thriller showed up a few years later. Songs was a blockbuster, all around. Born slick, proven slick.

“Slick” doesn’t mean “sterile” on this 12-date tour, however. Indeed, so limber and fluid and palpably joyous is the musicianship being practised by Wonder and his accompanists onstage that the two-hour Songs in the Key of Life had been stretched closer to a jam-happy three between the album’s pensive opener “Love’s in Need of Love Today” and its life-affirming finale, “Another Star,” at the ACC on Tuesday.

His name might be on the marquee, but Wonder is uncommonly generous with the spotlight. We’d have all been there until daylight if he’d trotted out every single person flanking him onstage for a solo, although India.Arie received some much-deserved star turns on a lovely, lazy-groovin’ “Have a Talk With God,” “Summer Soft” and “Ngiculela/Es Una Historia/I Am Singing.”

Vocalist Keith John (son of Little Willie) was lured into a crowd-pleasing, between-song bout of duelling melismatics with Wonder at one point and the gals singing backup — one of whom happens to be Wonder’s statuesque daughter, Aisha Morris, to whom “Isn’t She Lovely” was dedicated — were given a number of their own in which to trade wailing leads.

Mostly, though, Wonder’s musical munificence took the form of stepping aside and letting his killer band take the reins when it counted, allowing tunes like the très ’70s jazz-fusion workout “Contusion” or the freaky coda’d “Ordinary Pain” to spiral off wherever they might for however long they might while he simply (and visibly) delighted in the role of composer and convener.

“The one thing all musicians have in common,” no matter what style they play, he observed, “is they loooove to jam.” So he let them jam. And, clearly, he enjoyed jamming with them as much as they enjoyed jamming with him and with each other. I haven’t witnessed such a high standard of musicianship combined with such an evident, celebratory delight in that musicianship in a big-ticket performance like this in eons, in fact, which leads me to believe that the Songs in the Key of Life tour is largely being done for the right reasons.

Top-shelf tickets for the ACC date ran at $169.50, a relative bargain when one considers that the likes of Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones have passed through Toronto with far less personnel onstage in recent years demanding $250 and $625, respectively, for their choicest seats. Stevie’s got a lot of people to pay over these 12 Songs dates, so this might actually be one of those “doing it just to do it” situations instead of an opportunity to wallow in easy money.

Wonder had his eye on the clock, in any case, as the gig – further lengthened by a 15-minute intermission and a lengthy encore – blazed past the Air Canada Centre’s typical 11-p.m. curfew and then a touch past midnight to ensure that everyone in the sold-out crowd got to hear “Superstition” before they went home. While, no doubt, several bean-counters wrung their hands in the wings at the overtime fees involved.

“Let the promoters know if the price is right, I can play all night,” he quipped, growing somewhat less cocky when a technical snafu stopped the encore’s planned progress in its tracks – he was supposed to call someone in the crowd for “I Just Called to Say I Love You” but his phone didn’t work or something – several seconds closer to midnight later. His sweet-natured façade cracked just a bit and the Detroit came out in him. “It’s my money,” he growled, albeit good-naturedly. “It gets really expensive in 15 minutes.”

Stevie didn’t need the encore, anyway. The power could have gone out in the ACC and killed the show after the second set’s staggering one-two-three run at the swaying heartbreaker “Joy Inside My Tears,” a majestically grooving “Black Man” and the more labyrinthine, but equally smooth “All Day Sucker” and no one would’ve cared. The job was done, and yet there was still a whole fourth Songs in the Key of Life side’s worth of material – including a touching rendition of “If It’s Magic” sung to the late Dorothy Ashby’s original harp track – and more (and a bit more) to come.

Generous? Stevie Wonder? Hell, yeah. In more ways than one. Come back any time.

Источник: https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/music/2014/11/26/stevie_wonder_thrills_crowd_with_marathon_songs_in_the_key_of_life.html

Inside Stevie Wonder’s Epic Magnum Opus ‘Songs in the Key of Life’

“Just because a man lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision,” Stevie Wonder once said, a warning to any who doubted the potency of his imagination. In the first half of the Seventies, he had visualized an untried musical path, one that took him far from the assembly line pop of his “Little Stevie, the Boy Genius” era during the early days of Motown. This road ultimately led to 1976’s majestic Songs in the Key of Life, a multi-disc 21-song collection that would be the 26-year-old’s crowning achievement. It’s the sound of a creatively emancipated young artist coming into his own, surrendering himself to his ambition and harnessing his power and potential.

The high watermark of Wonder’s so-called “classic period” – an unparalleled streak also encompassing Music of my Mind (1972), Talking Book (1972), Innervisions (1973), and Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974) – it was the culmination of all that came before. “He took his life experience and put them all into Songs in the Key of Life,” Motown founder Berry Gordy reflected in a 1997 documentary. “And it worked.”

Wonder had been under contract to Gordy’s label since he was just 11 years old. Now a self-assured adult with a steady string of hits stretching back a decade, a “quarter life crisis” malaise began to take hold. The superstar began to openly discuss quitting the music industry altogether and moving to Ghana, where he believed his ancestral lineage could be traced. There, he planned to devote his considerable energy to assisting handicapped children and other humanitarian causes. Brightly colored dashiki tunics replaced his standard Motown-issue mod suits, an outward expression of the changes he felt within.

Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life

Wonder briefly touched on his fascination with the African nation in a 1973 interview with Rolling Stone, and soon these abstract notions began to solidify into something more concrete. During a press conference in Los Angeles the following March, he tentatively announced a final concert tour slated for the end of 1975 – when his recording contract was set to expire – with all proceeds earmarked for Ghanaian charities.

“I’ve heard of great needs in that part of the world, the African countries,” he told the Associated Press. “I believe that you have to give unselfishly. … You can sing about things and talk about things, but if your actions don’t speak louder than your words, you’re nothing.” The words were admirable, but some took the cynical view that this dramatic farewell tour was merely a ploy to put pressure on Motown when renegotiating his new contract.

He hardly needed the leverage. Gordy’s empire had taken a beating in first half of the decade due to changing musical tastes and economic depression. Knowing that he stood to lose his most consistent seller to a life of philanthropy – or lucrative offers from rivals at Epic and Arista Records – the label chief was prepared to move mountains of cash.

Wonder sent high-powered lawyer Johanan Vigoda to discuss his lengthy list of stipulations with new Motown president Ewart Abner, and board chairman Gordy, who described the negotiations in his memoirs as “the most grueling and nerve-racking we ever had.” When the dust cleared and the papers were signed, Wonder had a seven-year contract that promised him a $13 million advance (with the opportunity to net up to $37 million if he delivered more than his album-per-year minimum), 20 percent royalties, and control of his publishing. At the time, it was the biggest deal that had ever been done in the music industry. Time magazine noted that it was more than Elton John and Neil Diamond’s contracts combined.

“In those days $13 million was a lot of money,” Gordy wailed in the 1997 Classic Albums: Songs in the Key of Life documentary. “I’d heard that was an unprecedented deal, the most that had ever been paid. But I had to do it, because there was no way I was going to lose Stevie. … I was shaking in my boots!”

In addition to the financial windfall, the contract also offered Wonder the creative freedom to work anywhere he wanted, with any artist he desired, and veto power over any potential singles. A forthcoming triple-disc greatest hits package was canceled at the artist’s insistence, with all 200,000 copies sent to the incinerator. Most remarkably, Wonder’s permission was now required if Motown was ever to be sold in the future. The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra: None of them wielded that much influence on their own label. The deal was the ultimate testament to Wonder’s status as Motown’s supreme talent.

“He broke tradition with the deal – legally, professionally – in terms of how he could cut his records and where he could cut,” Vigoda told Rolling Stone‘s Ben Fong-Torres. “And in breaking tradition he opened up a future for Motown. They never had an artist in 13 years. They had single records, they managed to create a name in certain areas, but they never came through with a major, major artist.”

The contract did a lot for Wonder, but Motown had done a lot for him. The imprint was a shining African-American success story.

“I’m staying at Motown, because it is the only viable surviving black-owned company in the record industry,” he said in a statement announcing the deal. “Motown represents hopes and opportunity for new as well as established black performers and producers. If it were not for Motown, any of us just wouldn’t have had the shot we’ve had at success and fulfillment. It is vital that people in our business – particularly the black creative community, including artists, writers and producers – make sure that Motown stays emotionally stable, spiritually strong and economically healthy.”

Three decades later in the Classic Albums documentary, Wonder remained appreciative of Gordy’s trust. “He was brave enough to take the chance – to take that challenge to say, ‘You know what? I believe in him enough to do this. I believe in the gamble.’ And he was a smart man.”

With the technicalities in place, Wonder immersed himself in a new project – his 18th album since 1962.

He had momentum from his previous record, 1974’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale. It was a comparatively somber assortment brimming with self-reflection and even traces of anger (see the Nixon blasting “You Haven’t Done Nothin'”). The disc was originally slated to be his first double album, and when those plans failed to materialize he announced that the excess tracks would be issued on a sequel, Fulfillingness’ First Finale Part II (or, naturally, Fulfillingness’ Second Finale).

Wonder previewed the work-in-progress to writers from Crawdaddy and Melody Maker in late 1974, playing a track called “The Future,” which included the cautionary line: “Don’t look at the world like a stranger, cause you know we are living in danger.” The gloomy song was “fantastically influenced” by the televised police ambush of the Symbionese Liberation Army – a far left revolutionary group then on the run with kidnapped heiress Patricia Hearst – in which many members were killed. “Livin’ Off the Love of the Land” is hardly any sunnier, containing lyrics like “Seems the wisdom of man hasn’t got much wiser,” and “Seems to me that fools are even more foolish.”

Perhaps aware that such caustic songs could alienate his audience and compromise his commercial performance, they were shelved and Fulfillingness’ Second Finale was abandoned. He vowed to start fresh on his next project, which was temporarily known as Let’s See Life the Way It Is. The final title came to him in a dream: Songs in the Key of Life.

For Wonder, the banner was a personal dare to expand his compositional range. “I challenged myself [to write] as many different things as I could, to cover as many topics as I could, in dealing with the title and representing what it was about,” he says in Classic Albums. “The title would give me a challenge, but equally as important as a challenge it would give me an opportunity to express my feelings as a songwriter and as an artist.”

It was a challenge he met head on, working to the point of obsession. Nonstop sessions stretched across two-and-a-half years, two coasts, and four studios: Crystal Sound in Hollywood, New York City’s Hit Factory, and the Record Plant outposts in Los Angeles and Sausalito. More often than not, he could be found in one of those spaces, sometimes for 48 hours at a time, chasing his muse with a rotating crew of engineers and support musicians. Over 130 people were involved in the recording, including Herbie Hancock, George Benson, “Sneaky Pete” Kleinow and Minnie Riperton. “If my flow is goin’, I keep on until I peak” became Wonder’s mantra.

“It went on for two years almost every day, many hours and huge amounts of material,” recalls John Fischbach, who co-engineered the majority of the sessions with Gary Olazabal. “I guess it was really his most prolific time. He did more songs in those two years I think than he had done before.”

Though the exact count is unknown, Wonder claims to have recorded several hundred tracks during the Songs in the Key of Life sessions – nearly all of which remain in the vault. The Prince-like figure is corroborated by Fischbach, who puts the number at “something like 200 songs” in various stages of completion. “Some would be sketched out, some were more finished than others and we just kept working until he had what he wanted,” he says.

Olazabal describes Wonder’s working methods as “frighteningly spontaneous,” often resulting in late night (or early morning) calls to collaborators. Gary Byrd had a particularly harrowing experience while co-writing the lyrics to the track “Village Ghetto Land.” He had labored for three months perfecting the words to what he believed to be the complete song. Then Wonder called him from the recording studio and casually informed him that he had added another verse. Could he whip up some more lyrics in the next 10 minutes? The band was waiting.

“There are ‘sessions’ and then there’s Stevie Time,” laughed keyboardist Greg Phillinganes on WBEZ’s Sound Opinions podcast in 2006. “We didn’t have formal sessions. We went to the studio and that was where you were.”

In addition to his loyal crew, Wonder had a secret weapon: a state-of-the-art analogue synthesizer called the Yamaha GX-1. The enormous instrument boasted three keyboards, multi-octave foot pedals, ribbon controller, a galaxy of buttons to recall sounds and modulate pitches, and even a built-in bench. “It could house a family of eight,” Phillinganes says with a touch of hyperbole. “It was huge.”

Along with the gargantuan size came a gargantuan cost. The GX-1 retailed for a staggering $60,000 (or $320,000 adjusted for inflation). Intended as a prototype for future consumer synths, only a handful were ever made – let alone sold. Most landed in the hands of industry heavyweights like Keith Emerson of prog rock legends Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, and ABBA composer Benny Andersson. Wonder bought two.

The GX-1 had much to recommend itself to the multi-instrumentalist. Realistic (for the time) instrument samples allowed him to single-handedly layer complex orchestral beds. And unlike others synths available in that era, it was polyphonic, which allowed him to play multiple keys at once and create lush backing tracks in a fraction of the time.

Wonder dubbed the metallic behemoth “The Dream Machine,” and promptly put it to use on many of the album’s tracks – most notably “Village Ghetto Land” and “Pastime Paradise.”

The latter opens with an insistent cartwheeling fugue that borrows its first eight notes from Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Prelude No. 2 in C Minor.” Intended to mimic the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby,” the anxious instrumental phrase is made even more disorienting by the sound of a backwards gong that anticipates the chanting of Hare Krishnas heard on the fade out. The devotees were pulled in off the street on in a spur-of-the-moment burst of creativity.

“Gary [Olazabal] rounded them up on Hollywood Boulevard,” Fischbach recalled to Sound on Sound. “We had decided it would be great to have them on the song, so he went and talked to a bunch of those people and made arrangements for them to come to the studio.”

Crystal Studios was located in the east side of Hollywood, not far from the local headquarters. “They walked in line all the way from the Self-Realization Fellowship,” Olazabal added. “There must have been about a hundred of them, chanting and praying as they showed up to perform on the song, but Stevie never showed up. We didn’t know what to do, and so we just let them go into the studio. The main room was not very live-sounding, but it was very big. Well, they were in there for hours, chanting – they didn’t really interact much in any other way – and when Stevie didn’t appear we knew they’d have to walk all the way back and return another day.” Despite Wonder’s no-show, the Hare Krishna’s remained positive. “There was not a lot of hostility,” Olazabal says. “Except from us. It wasn’t easy to listen to that chanting for hours on end.”

The West Angeles Church of God Choir was also mixed into the outro, performing a version of the civil-rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” that weaved in and out of the Krishna’s incantations. The blend of higher consciousness and social consciousness, the eternal and the urgent, gave voice to the dreams swirling inside the young maestro.

But it was another vocal cameo that hit closest to home. Wonder became a father on February 5th, 1975, when partner Yolanda Simmons gave birth to Aisha Morris. “She was the one thing that I needed in my life and in my music for a long time,” he told Women’s Own magazine soon after. “Isn’t She Lovely” – a joyous celebration of parenthood – is perhaps the most obvious beneficiary of Wonder’s new inspiration. While actual birthing sounds edited onto the song’s intro are from another infant, Aisha can be heard laughing splashing around the bathtub with her father on the extended fade.

Wonder’s sister Renee Hardaway also makes a vocal contribution to Songs in the Key of Life, delivering the scornful “You nasty boy!” that punctuates the album’s lead single, “I Wish.” The final track completed for the project, its lyrics originally dealt with war and “cosmic spiritual stuff” until Wonder attended a Motown company picnic. The label had effectively served as a grammar school for the former child star, and the fun afternoon triggered a wave of nostalgia. He hastily scribed new lyrics about those early days, and at 3 a.m. called bassist Nathan Watts – who had just arrived home from a long day of recording. “Stevie called and said, ‘I need you to come back,” Watts told Bassplayer. “I’ve got this bad song!”

“Saturn,” a track on the album’s bonus EP, A Something’s Extra, also began as a fond look backwards. The lyrical location was originally “Saginaw,” Wonder’s Michigan birthplace, and intended as homage to his home in the mold of the Jackson 5’s “Goin’ Back to Indiana.” But the song was shifted into outer space when guitarist Mike Sambello (later to score a hit with the Flashdance favorite “Maniac”) misheard the title as the ringed planet. Much like the past, it’s described as an idealized utopia just out of reach.

Traces of Wonder’s family and personal history can be found all over the album. Wonder’s brother Calvin Hardaway co-wrote “Have a Talk With God,” and his former wife Syreeta Wright provides backing vocals on “Ordinary Pain.” Some even believe that “Ebony Eyes” – with its reference to a “Miss Beautiful Supreme” – is an ode to Wonder’s childhood infatuation with elder Motown labelmate, Diana Ross. “I had a crush on her,” he admitted to Vanity Fair in 2008. “When I came to Motown, she walked me around the building and showed me different things – she was wonderful.”

There’s also a compelling theory that the tune is actually a tribute to another Supreme, Florence Ballard, who had died in February 1976 of cardiac arrest at the age of 32. She had been fired from the trio nine years earlier for erratic behavior stemming from substance abuse and resentment over being usurped by Ross’ as the band’s frontwoman (it was she who came up with the group’s name). Her career remained mired in a morass of lawsuits, domestic-assault incidents, poverty, and alcoholism, never to recover.

Wonder would have been well acquainted with Ballard. A subtle nod to her premature passing would be in line with his mission to write about all aspects of life – even death.

Mortality, and musical immortality, is central to a much more blatant tribute, the jubilant “Sir Duke.” The song honors the jazz legend Duke Ellington, a formative influence on the young Wonder, who had died in 1974 before they were ever able to work together. “I knew the title from the beginning but [I] wanted it to be about the musicians who did something for us. So soon they are forgotten. I wanted to show my appreciation.” He namechecks Count Basie, Glenn Miller and Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald in the pantheon of greats, perhaps suspecting that his own name would one day be among them.

If it wasn’t already. Sessions for Songs on the Key of Life yielded some of the finest songs in his entire canon, including the celestial “Knocks Me off My Feet,” the intricate harmonies of “Love’s in Need of Love Today” and the Herbie Hancock-assisted “As.”

After basic recording was complete, Wonder insisted on endlessly remixing the tracks in an unlimited series of configurations. “It was a marathon, and at times we wondered if it would ever finish,” says Olazabal. “We had T-shirts with ‘Are We Finished Yet?’ printed on them, as well as others with ‘Let’s Mix ‘Contusion’ Again.’ Without exaggeration, we must have mixed that track at least 30 times. It became part of the joke of our lives.”

Wonder took to wearing these T-shirts around Motown headquarters to tease the supremely stressed-out executives who had never waited anywhere near this long for a product. “Nobody thought this project would go on as long as it did,” confirms Fischbach. Deadlines came and went with little concern from the artist, as the label made do with over a million advance orders on an album that didn’t technically exist.

By the fall of 1976, Wonder was ready. He had completed a double LP and bonus EP bursting at the seams with musical innovation. Songs in the Key of Life was a groundbreaking blend of funk, soul, pop and jazz, seasoned with cutting-edge technology. Amazingly, this bumper crop of forward-looking musical brilliance had its grand debut in the pastoral paradise of Long View Farm in rural North Brookfield, Massachusetts.

But that was just the final step in a long journey. The world press met in the lobby of Manhattan’s elegant Essex House on September 7th, 1976, at 7:30 a.m. There they gulped down a quick complimentary breakfast before being ushered onto three buses that drove them to Kennedy International Airport – but not before passing through Times Square for a peak at the $75,000, 60-by-400-foot billboard that had trumpeted the album for the past four months. Soon they were airborne in a chartered DC-9, well stocked with champagne and appetizers. Once the plane touched down at a small airport in Worcester, Massachusetts, the journalists were loaded onto a fleet of school buses for a short ride to the listening party.

Long View Farm was a 143-acre equestrian ground that had recently been renovated to include a world-class studio (used by the Rolling Stones, Cat Stevens, Aerosmith and the J. Geils Band, among many others). Guests were treated to hearty meals of roast beef, pie and more champagne while waiting for Wonder to make his entrance. He arrived resplendent in a gaudy cowboy get-up, complete with 10-gallon hat, leather fringe and a gun holster emblazoned with the words “Number One With A Bullet.” The whole gala cost Motown upwards of $30,000.

“Let’s pop what’s poppin’,” he announced as he hit play on the reel-to-reel tape machine, unleashing the music that had been gestating in the studio – and his soul – for so long.

Wonder’s opus popped immediately to the top of the charts. It became the third album in history to debut at Number One, remaining there for 14 weeks. It also earned him four Grammys, which he accepted via satellite while he was visiting Nigeria to explore his musical heritage. The experience was only slightly marred by a poor connection signal, prompting presenter Andy Williams to clumsily inquire, “Stevie, can you see us?”

Four decades have failed to dull the album’s power and awe-inspiring scope. It’s been cited as a favorite by figures like Prince, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey – and Wonder himself.  “Of all the albums, Songs in the Key of Life I’m most happy about,” he told Q magazine in 1995. “Just the time, being alive then. To be a father and then letting go and letting God give me the energy and strength I needed.”

Источник: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/inside-stevie-wonders-epic-magnum-opus-songs-in-the-key-of-life-124478/
stevie wonder songs in the key of life performance

Stevie Wonder

Legendary singer, songwriter, musician and producer Stevie Wonder is bringing his SONGS IN THE KEY OF LIFE PERFORMANCE tour to Barclays Center on April 12.

Rolling Stone declared that “the show is possibly 2014’s greatest testament to the limitless potential of American music itself,” while Billboard stated that “the music still resonates” and that Wonder provides an “electrifying concert… and had the audience roaring and standing on its feet.”

Throughout his career, the celebrated singer has amassed 49 Top 40 singles, 32 #1 singles and worldwide album sales of more than 100 million units. He has received 25 Grammy Awards, an Oscar, and a Golden Globe; is an inductee into the Rock and Roll, Songwriters’ and NAACP Halls of Fame; and is the youngest recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors.

Tickets for this event are on-sale and can be purchased at www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000. Tickets are also available at the American Express Box Office at Barclays Center.

For information on individual suites, please call 718-BK-SUITE.

 

Make your dinner reservations today by calling 917.618.6340 or emailing [email protected]

Click Here to see the event menu at the 40/40 CLUB & Restaurant by American Express.

Источник: https://www.barclayscenter.com/events/detail/stevie-wonder-songs-in-the-key-of-life-performance

Taking more than two years from conception to release, Stevie Wonder's classic 1976 double album, Songs in the Key of Life, is now generally considered his finest creative hour in an enduring, influential career of nearly four decades. Songs in the Key of Life is also regarded by many music fans as one of the outstanding albums to appear in that entire timespan.

Released in October 1976, Songs in the Key of Life entered the U.S. Billboard album chart at No. 1 and remained there for 14 weeks, topping off a 44-week chart residency in the Top 40. Its success amply rewarded Motown Records' earlier $13 million investment in Wonder when it had re-signed him to the label. The deal was the largest in recording history at the time.

Songs in the Key of Life also reached No. 2 in the U.K., remaining on the charts for over a year, and was a worldwide best seller. Two singles from the album, "I Wish" and "Sir Duke" (the latter dedicated to the great jazz legend Duke Ellington), both reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and were also U.K. Top 10 hits.

This outstanding chart success was consolidated when Steve Wonder won Album of the Year at the 1976 Grammy Awards. He was also named Producer of the Year and won the Best Male Vocal Performance category.

The remarkable story behind Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life project is told here. Stevie himself reminisces about the inspiration for the album, and there are also contributions from Motown founder (and Wonder father figure) Berry Gordy, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, and lyricist Gary Byrd, among many others. In addition, there is a unique reunion of the musicians who played on the original album sessions.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

Источник: https://www.abebooks.com/9786305320616/Classic-Albums-Stevie-Wonder-Songs-6305320616/plp

Stevie Wonder promotes 'Songs in the Key of Life Performance' tour with free D.C. concert

Recording artist Stevie Wonder gave a free performance Monday morning at the Armory Mall in Washington, D.C., the first stop on a three-city mini-tour to promote the remaining dates on his “Songs in the Key of Life Performance” tour. 

Mr. Wonder, 65, performed a short set list interspersed with answering questions and pontificating on contemporary America.


“I’ve decided to do 20 more shows in the U.S.,” Mr. Wonder said, including a stop at the District’s Verizon Center on Oct. 3. “Then that’s the last time I’ll [tour] in the States.

“For me the world is in need of more love than ever before,” the singer added, “and the most important thing, as far as I’m concerned, [is] I’m concerned I don’t feel enough leaders [are] talking about fixing the heart of humankind.”

Mr. Wonder went on to decry gun violence and the need to seek solutions to the ongoing issue. He made mention of his “Claim the Bullet” campaign to curb gun violence.

He also took time to praise former President Jimmy Carter, who announced last week he was battling an aggressive cancer.

“One president took him commitment to God and to help every single man,” Mr. Wonder said of the ex-president, 90.

Free water and donuts were handed out to concertgoers for the unannounced hourlong performance and Q&A. The gathered included community residents as well as curious servicemen and -women from the Armory.

Mr. Wonder also brought up onstage his two very young children to say hello to the audience. Mr. Wonder collectively has nine children and is also a grandfather.

Never one to rest for long, Mr. Wonder will perform two other “surprise” shows later today in Philadelphia and New York to continue promoting the tour.

Tickets for Mr. Wonder’s Oct. 3 show at Verizon Center go on sale Friday.

• Eric Althoff can be reached at [email protected]

Источник: https://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/aug/17/stevie-wonder-promotes-songs-key-life-performance-/

Songs in the Key of Life

Track numberPlayLoved Track name Artist name BuyOptionsDurationListeners
1 Play track Love's in Need of Love Today 7:05 136,625 listeners
2 Play track Have a Talk with God 2:42 105,717 listeners
3 stevie wonder songs in the key of life performance Play track Village Ghetto Land 3:25 101,253 listeners
4 Play track Contusion 3:45 98,341 listeners
5 Play track Sir Duke 3:52 stevie wonder songs in the key of life performance 553,221 listeners
6 Play track Ngiculela – Es Una Historia – I Am Singing 3:48 215 listeners
7 Play track If It's Magic 3:11 78,824 listeners
8 Play track As 7:07 195,069 listeners
9 Play track Another Star 8:19 101,671 listeners
10 Play track I Wish 4:12 355,787 listeners
11 Play track Knocks Me Off My Feet 3:35 136,627 listeners
12 Play track Pastime Paradise 3:20 183,409 listeners
13 Play track Summer Soft 4:16 97,002 listeners
14 Play track stevie wonder songs in the key of life performance Ordinary Pain 6:22 86,098 listeners
15 Play track Isn't She Lovely stevie wonder songs in the key of life performance 6:33 stevie wonder songs in the key of life performance 437,775 listeners
16 Play track Joy Inside My Tears 6:29
Источник: https://www.last.fm/music/Stevie+Wonder/Songs+in+the+Key+of+Life
Wonder At The Rainbow

Stevie Wonder is heading out on a short tour that will bring him to Madison Square Garden on November 6, performing his landmark classic album, Songs in the Key of Life, from start to finish.

The album is an emotional juggernaut, an immensely generous gift from the heart of a genius, and a masterpiece by almost any measure. Mr. Wonder set forth to cover the breadth suggested by the album’s title, nothing less than the “key of life.” And if he did not quite hit it all, his aim was true. It was the culmination of a four-album run (astonishingly released in just a 39-month timeframe) of sustained excellence unmatched aside from the Mt. Rushmore of 1960s-1970s giants of popular music—the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and maybe Van Morrison. Over the course of the sprawling record, two full-length LPs and a four-song 7-inch EP, he makes nary a misstep. From the musical compositions, to the lyrics, astonishing performances and sterling production, it has to be counted as one of the greatest records of all time. If simply judged as an album of vocal performances, I can think of none better. Here is one of the greatest singers of the 20th and 21st centuries at the prime of his abilities, commanding our attention for 22 songs spread over three slabs on vinyl.

Retailing for $13.98 in 1976, it was a gargantuan hit record, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart. It spent 13 weeks at No. 1 and 35 weeks in the Top 10, yielding four Billboard Top 40 singles, two of which went to No. 1. It was the first album released under Mr. Wonder’s staggering new seven-year, $37 million contract with Motown Records.

I was 10 when it came out and after being swept away by the unrelenting groove of the single, “I Wish,” I marched right down to the record store and plopped down my allowance money. It was the first album I bought on my own. I knew Stevie Wonder’s music already from the radio. Funky singles like “Superstition,” “Higher Stevie wonder songs in the key of life performance and “Boogie on Reggae Women” were all big hits. As the oldest kid in my Long Island family, AM radio was my main exposure to music in the early 1970s. I had already amassed a collection of Top 40 singles I had purchased, plus some key LPs and ’60s singles I had inherited from neighbors. But “I Wish,” a song by a 26-year-old man waxing nostalgic for the time when he was the age I was right then, propelled me to commit to my first significant musical investment. I wanted that record like most of my friends coveted a 10-speed bike.

I think if I had been my adult self and bought the record on the basis of the hard R&B heard on “I Wish,” I would be initially let down by how the album opens, enigmatically on a kind of mellow note. As a kid, though, my mind was open. In fact, while I loved those funk-infused singles, I was also a big fan of Stevie’s smooth ballads. “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” and “My Cherie Amour,” also spoke to me. That chorus change of “My Cherie Amour” (“Oh Cherie Amour, pretty little one that I adore…”) in particular buckled my knees.

Here are some of my personal faves, the songs that are the most representative of the album and those I most look forward to hearing performed live:

Loves in Need of Love Today

Songs in the Key of Life opens with a rich a cappella ensemble of male voices introducing “Love’s in Need of Love Today,” which could be all layered overdubs from Stevie. It’s hard to tell. While the album came with a 24-page booklet with lyrics and liner notes, with an extensive personnel list—and a gratitude page that nods to everyone from Kareem Abdul Jabaar, to David Bowie, on down to Frank Zappa—the credits listing who does what on each song is as haphazard as the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street. Mr. Wonder, though, plays much of the instrumentation on the album himself, including drums, and is surrounded by a core band that forms the backbone of the album. The stellar bass player, Nathan Watts, is a standout among an impressive group, and remains a steady sideman with Mr. Wonder to this day.


You don’t want it to end. It takes you by surprise. You thought the guy was just warming up. He is already out-singing anyone you have ever heard.


Mr. Wonder enters softly, “Good morn or evening friends/Here’s your friendly announcer.” All at once, we get a glimpse of some of the strengths and perhaps one of the few faults in the record. We get the warmth and a bit of the humor that remain themes throughout the record. But we also have a bit of the clumsy syntax that peppers the text of the songs. Stevie is one of those songwriters who will make an end run—at times, more like a flea-flicker double reverse—to complete a rhyme. In that regard, he is less like Cole Porter and more like Bob Dylan and who can complain about that? Like Mr. Dylan, the words are submissive to the master rhythm. So consistently does Mr. Wonder reimagine syllabic accents and leave us hanging on rhymes, that it appears to be by design and has become a lovable trademark of sorts.

The song’s message is simple. The Beatles sang that “all you need is love.” Ten years later, here is a dire warning that love itself is in need of love. In the voice of a broadcast news anchor, it serves as a perfect introduction to the album, which in addition to intimate moments, offers a wide-lens view of the state of the world during the mid-1970s, subject matter as broadly ambitious as the extensive scope of musical styles it contains.

The sonics, the warmth of the track itself, draws you in. You surrender yourself to the overall sound, rich and with a crisp presence. But then you also get all this ear candy put together like Brian Wilson’s layered work for the Beach Boys. It’s a classic headphone record, with perfectly placed percussion and thoughtful overdubs.

The song stays fairly restrained for the bulk of the arrangement. But as with many songs on the album, Mr. Wonder adds an improvised vamp over a repeated chorus ad-libbing with a call-and-response gospel style. His vocal starts to climb up in octaves. The slow-burn arrangement takes on a new layer of excitement, then another. Before you know it, you are completely swept up in it. The trust you showed in Stevie Wonder when you went and plopped down $14 on the LP based on “I Wish” turned out to be well placed.

“Love’s in Need of Love Today” goes on for over seven minutes. And you don’t want it to end. It takes you by surprise. You thought the guy was just warming up. He is already out-singing anyone you have ever heard. Inspired singing. Technically brilliant singing.

Village Ghetto Land

The Beatles are as much an influence on the album as Sly Stone, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye. And not just in scope and ambition, but musically speaking as well. Indeed, “Sir Duke” sounds like it could have been written by Paul McCartney, and the Hare Krishnas who sing on the song “Pastime Paradise” is an idea out of the George Harrison playbook. “Village Ghetto Land” is a sort of 1970s synth “Eleanor Rigby.”

Herbie Hancock, who played on the song “As,” says he admired Stevie’s “orchestral use of synthesizers … Stevie doesn’t fall into the trap that I do” in trying to duplicate the sounds of acoustic strings. “Stevie lets the synths be what they are, something that’s not acoustic.” These parts, from an ARP synthesizer, sound just enough like strings to let you know the faux minuet vibe is satirical, a tip-toe tour across the typical 1970s American urban ghetto. The lyric was written by Gary Byrd, who spent months on it only to have Wonder call him during the recording with the urgent need for a new verse, which Mr. Byrd provided in about 20 minutes. The song is directed at out-of-touch, and presumably white, fellow citizens who look the other way or even disparage the poor. “Some folks say we should be glad for what we have.’” Meanwhile, families eat dog food while “politicians laugh and drink, drunk to all demands.”

Mr. Wonder takes us off the course set by the first two songs. “Loves in Need of Love Today” contains a warning but is ultimately a hopeful message that we can turn around “the force of evil plans.” The groovy slow funk song, “Have a Talk with God,” offers one source of that hope via devotional faith. “Village Ghetto Land” has a bite, though. It is not a Dylan-esque finger-pointing personal indictment; Mr. Wonder and Mr. Byrd merely offer a realistic litany of what life is like in America’s urban ghettos during a particularly low ebb for the country’s cities. It asks simply, if not naively, “Tell me, would you be happy in Village Ghetto Land?”

Sir Duke

The track that leads into “Sir Duke,” the fusion workout “Contusion,” was about the new direction jazz was taking in the 1970s. “Sir Duke,” though, is a direct tribute to the “pioneers that time will not allow us to forget.” Mr. Wonder had started the album around the time of Duke Ellington’s 1974 death. The song was the second single off the album and a second No. 1 smash.

A blast of brass opens the song with the riff that serves as the first of three main hooks. As a pop-jazz number, it reaches back to the early days of the big band era, with a jaunty 1930s-era hot jazz rhythm, something along the lines of “Diminuendo in Blue,” rather than the sexy languid swing heard on, say, “Jeep’s Blues,” both of which can be heard on Ellington’s big comeback record, Live at Newport 1956. The throwback vibe and the soaring melody of the chorus line “you can feel it all over” (the second hook) has Paul “Your Mother Should Know” McCartney written all over it. But the third hook of the song, which comes with the stevie wonder songs in the key of life performance and syncopated bass, brass, keyboard and guitar lines also tips to the modern influence Earth, Wind & Fire was having on Mr. Wonder. At the time of the recording, that band was reaching its zenith with effervescent horn-driven pop-flavored R&B recordings like this one. “Sir Duke” is a remarkable ensemble arrangement, which makes it even more astounding to notice how Nathan Watts stands out with a staggering bass part. If you think you’ve heard the song enough, try listening one more time with your headphones while concentrating on the bass.

We also get more than a small bit of Stevie’s color-blind philosophy. This is not some pedantic lesson in the significance of African-Americans’ contributions to American music meant to induce guilt (as maybe “Village Ghetto Land” is); it is a celebration of all—white, jewish, black, male and female—who have helped build that quintessentially American art form of jazz.

I Wish

Eric Clapton said in 1974 that Stevie Wonder is “the greatest drummer of our time.” As music journalist Eric Sandler rightly points out, this was “hefty praise coming from a man who played with Ginger Baker.” A true musical prodigy, Stevie had become proficient on drums, piano and harmonica by the age of 9. By his late teens, he was not only a pop star himself, but he was writing and producing for others, including “It’s a Shame” for the Spinners, on which he plays the delicious drum groove himself. (Here is the backing track without vocals.)

“I Wish” is unmistakably a Stevie Wonder drum pattern. Aside from having an innate sense of groove, there is a musical inventiveness that might stem from being a well-rounded multi-instrumentalist, as opposed to someone who strictly defines themselves as a drummer. There is a consistent thread that runs from that Spinners track, through “Superstition,” and can be heard yet again on “I Wish”; a trademark Wonder bouncy beat. It has something to do with the way Mr. Wonder works the hi-hat cymbals. On “I Wish,” for example, notice how on the doo-wop-influenced post-chorus breakdown, he opens and closes the hi-hat in a wholly unexpected and unorthodox way, creating a rhythmic hook under the actual melodic hook. And that hi-hat gloss is there right from the top of the track. While the kick and snare drum beat asserts itself as the backbone of the track, the flossy triplets and accents he plays on the hi-hat, so prominent in the mix, is the excited heartbeat that makes our own pulses race.

Which brings us to that groove, one of the most famous in funk. As a musical colloquialism, “groove” is hard to define but we know it when we hear it. A groove is achieved when a drummer lays back in a rhythmic pocket and keeps the band from letting excitement mess with the tempo that was set at the top of the track. It provides a comfortable and predictable spot for the ensemble, knowing they can lean into the beat, or back away from it as musical choice, as in the jazz-coined term, “swing.”

On “I Wish,” as demonstrated in the Classic Albums documentary about the album, Stevie started the recording on the Fender Rhodes electric piano, which is the instrument on which he started almost all the songs on the album. His left hand played the continuous walking bass line, which was later doubled and embellished with growling slides by bass guitarist Nathan Watts. Then Mr. Wonder went in and laid down that drum track, stevie wonder songs in the key of life performance shortly by what sounds like pizzicato chicken-scratching guitar parts, which are actually two competing synth parts playing countermelodies.

It’s an infectious, badass track that’s made even badder by a hard-hitting brass attack. Mr. Wonder spins a nostalgic lyric that’s at once witty and poignant. Can we still laugh at a line like “Trying your best to bring the to your eyes/Thinking it might stop her from whooping your behind/I wish those days could come back once more/Why did those days ever have to go?” If not, we can still smile at the famous “Smoking cigarettes and writing something nasty on the wall,” followed by Mr. Wonder’s own sister, Renee Hardaway’s admonishing answer “You nasty boy!” And many of us recall the same reply we made to younger siblings who claimed they were going to tell on us: “Just don’t tell I’ll give you anything you want in this whole wide world.”

Mr. Wonder recorded the song the day after a Motown picnic. The label and studio served as a sort of middle school and high school for the boy genius, which might partially explain the wistful look back at his childhood.

Pastime Paradise

Mr. Wonder built this track up from a prototype polyphonic (ability to play multiple keys/notes simultaneously) Yamaha synthesizer, which he dubbed “the Dream Machine.” Gary Olazabal, who was one of the main engineers on the record told SoundonSound.com that Mr. Wonder was interested in using equipment that nobody else had. “Stevie’s still trying to get the next new thing,” he says. “He’s just like a kid that way.”

It is important to understand that this was still the very early days of synthesizers. Analog synthesizer sounds, pioneered by the Moog company, were first starting to be heard on popular records around the time of the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.” But the technology that enabled fairly reasonable facsimiles of acoustic sounds like strings was still in its nascent stage. Digital technology would revolutionize it even further, but that was years away. With tracks like “Pastime Paradise,” Mr. Wonder was blowing our minds as we strapped on Radio Shack headphones in our parents’ living rooms in the same way the Beatles did a decade earlier for slightly older music fans.

It is easy to take a track like “Pastime Paradise” for granted now, when any kid with Garage Band can quickly dial up a wide variety of sonic textures. And yet rapper Coolio lifted the whole track as a sample to form his own variation of the song with the hit “Gangsta’s Paradise” in 1995, long after the digital tools were available to easily create new sounds. In 1975, to even achieve something as simple as the reverse gong sound that opens the track meant cueing up a reel of tape, turning it over, and meticulously locating just the right spot—just as Mr. Wonder starts to sing the first line—to drop the sound into what would make up the final master. A few years later, the same trick would literally be a push of a button.

In the Classic Albums documentary, Mr. Wonder points to “the whole Earth, Wind & Fire groove that was happening back then,” as an influence. He illustrates it by tapping out a rhythm that sounds like the band’s “Can’t Hide Love” from 1975, the year Mr. Wonder was in the thick of recording the album. The tension of the “Pastime Paradise,” ratcheted up by Afro-Cuban percussion and Hare Krishna bells, reaches an apotheosis when a chanting Krishna chorus, literally brought in off the streets, meshes with a gospel choir singing “We Shall Overcome.”

The title is a play on words about being trapped in false nostalgia and not facing the harsh realities of the present. While one might reasonably ask if that is not what Mr. Wonder himself does with “I Wish” and “Sir Duke” from the same album—after all, wasn’t he “living in some pastime paradise” in the amber of nostalgia, where even “whoopin’ [his] behind” was recalled wistfully?—it is a matter of application.

Sure, we all enjoy looking back. But a few years before the election of President Ronald “It’s Morning Again in America” Reagan, “Pasttime Paradise” warns of political manipulation of such sentimentality. “Glorifying days long gone behind/They’ve been wasting most their days in remembrance of ignorance…” While Southerners looking fondly back at the time of segregation are one target here, Mr. Wonder also takes a swipe at those who are so faithful that they accept living in poor conditions with some future promise of salvation.

Though the song takes on some hefty subjects in its lyric, Mr. Wonder gets a bit bogged down in the litany of “-tion” words, as Bono would a decade later. “I remember, when he was writing that song in the studio, he was struggling to come up with all of those ‘-tion’ words like ‘dissipation,’ ‘segregation,’ ‘exploitation,’ ” engineer Mr. Olazabal said. “He was trying stevie wonder songs in the key of life performance come up with enough of those lyrics that would actually mean something and make sense.”

Ordinary Pain

The next song, “Summer Soft,” serves as a breezy antidote to “Pastime Paradise” and the light mood continues into the next song of the album, “Ordinary Pain.” But it is a short-lived respite. This Al Green-flavored song starts with the voice of Stevie-as-naif, continuing the “Songs of Innocence” thread of the album, which can be divided along the lines of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience. The melancholy tune that forms the first part of the two-part “Ordinary Pain” suite is not without its humor. The truly Wonderously phrased “Tell her you’re glad/It’s over in fact/Can she take with her the pain she brought back” is perhaps his most gymnastic maneuver to finish a rhyme.


What makes such musical moments so effective? If we could explain it, would we need music? It’s the music itself that goes beyond what words alone can articulate.


But this ambling hangdog “woman done me wrong” tale takes a harsh turn for its he said/she said second part. As the bittersweet loping first half peters out, listen for how Stevie adds ever-darker descending bass notes on his electric piano, ending on a dissonant note that launches into the hard funk of the second section. Leading a call-and-answer female Greek choir of sorts, Shirley Brewer lashes out with a rebuttal to the woe-is-me narrator of the first song, opening with the blunt “You’re just a masochistic fool/I thought you knew my love was cruel.” With that line, Mr. Wonder’s self-awareness is laid bare. The idealistic worldview he has presented thus far on the album comes from an imperfect narrator. Ms. Brewer slaps him out of his hazy daze.

Two can play a game of cruel love. Now that we hear her counterpoint, we think, Well, hmmm. Maybe he wasnt such a good boy after all. Ms. Brewer’s character rails at a few offenses that the Stevie character is responsible for: “You’re crying big crocodile tears/To match the ones I cried for years/When I was home waiting for you/You were out somewhere doin’ the do.” She drives the nail in hard with the line “I knew our love would have to end/The night I made it with your friend.” I was afraid of her voice when I was 10.

Ms. Brewer’s point of view is one of empowerment, backed up by a sisterhood chorus consisting of Linda Lawrence, Terri Hendricks, Sundray Tucker, Charity McCrary and Madelaine Jones, a hard-R&B-type backing part in the tradition of the Ikettes and LaBelle. On a record with some great 1970s funk, the beefy synth-driven groove of part II of “Ordinary Pain” is a standout that hits hard, a link between later Sly Stone, Funkadelic, and—with the horn riffs over a heavy bottom—stuff that came in the next year or two, like the Commodores’ “Brick House.”

I have read or heard people who find this as a weak spot on the album. On the contrary, to state farm customer service bill pay it forms a central linch pin, brilliantly encapsulating much of what makes the record so satisfying, the soft/hard/naive/bitter/innocence/experience/joy/pain themes all rolled into one song.

Isnt She Lovely

When I was a kid, I would replay certain parts of some songs over and over, lifting the needle from my records and carefully placing it back down to listen again to a chord change, an inspired vocal, or a guitar solo. On “Isn’t She Lovely,” Stevie indulges those of us who want beloved songs to go on, comping the chord changes as he takes us to new planes of ecstasy with a chromatic harmonica (as opposed to blues harp) solo that soars past jazz harmonica virtuoso, Toots Thielemans, into Sonny Rollins territory. When the song became a popular album track for disc jockeys to spin, Mr. Wonder successfully resisted Motown’s pleas for a 45 RPM 7-inch single. But the version we most often hear on the radio is an edit that the label made. But too long? Please, son. That’s like telling Mr. Print a voided check from chase, “Hey Saxophone Colossus! Rein it in a bit on ‘Tenor Madness.’ ”

Incidentally, I have just now discovered that Mr. Rollins recorded a cover of the song, something I honestly did not know before making the comparison. This makes sense. Mr. Wonder’s original recording has the sort of swinging buoyancy found in some of the more popular jazz albums that Mr. Rollins recorded. And aside from its length and some 1970s production techniques, “Isn’t She Lovely” sounds like the classic jazz-informed pop that epitomized 1960s Motown recordings, right down to the tambourine work. Stevie plays almost everything on the song, even the infectious bass parts played on a synth.

The lyric is unabashedly and literally life-affirming. Over intimate home recordings of his baby daughter, Aisha—who now appears in performances with him and whose birth the song celebrates—Mr. Wonder’s harmonica takes flight in one of the best displays in improvisation on record. It is not self-indulgent soloing; each phrase is memorable. Each round of comping reveals original new melodies. I can whistle or hum the whole thing, right on down to his flub (around 4:40) much to the dismay of my children on long car rides. But few songs can make you feel as good as this one. If you believe otherwise, you have a heart of coal, my friend.

As

The album proper finishes with two more Latin-tinged compositions, “As,” and the grand finale, “Another Star.” On the latter, Mr. Wonder finally acknowledges the four-on-the-floor beat and glossy sounds of the then-trendy disco music. It’s a fabulous dance workout, with a large ensemble of A-plus players such as George Benson. But for many listeners, “As” has to be counted as one of—if not the—finest song on the album and I am loath to disagree.

“As” stevie wonder songs in the key of life performance another one that sneaks in as if on a summer’s soft-rock breeze but ends up working us over with a hard emotional punch. A jazzy turnaround between verses yields briefly to a gospel choir, a mere foreshadowing for the vamp the ends the song. In the meantime, Mr. Wonder sings yet another summation of time’s passage, seasons and elemental forces of life: “Just as hate knows love’s the cure/You can rest your mind assured/That I’ll be loving you always.”

But it is again the outro where Stevie shines, a blend of samba and gospel that, in Stevie’s hands, is unquestionably natural. Of course you can blend all that shit! After a minute-long 24-bar respite, Mr. Luxury homes for sale usa re-enters the song with a guttural bellow, as Sly Stone might, sounding like Big Bad Steve, not Little Stevie Wonder, with maybe the album’s greatest lyrical moment:

We all know sometimes life’s hates and troubles

Can make you wish you were born in another time and space

But you can bet your life times that and twice its double

That God knew exactly where he wanted you to be placed

So make sure when you say you’re in it but not of it

Youre not helping to make this earth a place sometimes called Hell

Change your words into truths and then change that truth into love

And maybe our children’s grandchildren and their great-great grandchildren will tell.

It is the album’s takeaway message. In all these decades, I’ve never listened to it without feeling the same knot of inspiration, catharsis and euphoria, as close to some vague belief that I have been healed by some divinity as I come.

Mr. Wonder ends the set with the much lighter “Another Star,” but for me, this is the climax and conclusion of the album. The rest is sweet desert.

Ebony Eyes

Somewhere along the line, my childhood collection of 45s vanished. Among them was the 7-inch “Something Extra” EP included in the Songs in the Key of Life album. It broke my heart that I could not find that record. For among those four songs on the EP was one of my personal eclectic favorites of the whole package, the song “Ebony Eyes.”

It seems that few people that love the album know this song. I think in the days on vinyl, the EP was presented as, and became an afterthought. Less than 10 years after I bought the album, I was in college, though, and we used to spend all night spinning discs, taking turns as dorm-room DJs. A friend of mine had a far more complete and far-less battered copy of Songs in the Key of Life and I immediately went for the EP and set the needle down on the New Orleans early piano funk throwback track, “Ebony Eyes,” which, from that point on became chief among our Saturday night rallying anthems.

Stevie channels Professor Longhair, with more than a bit of Allen Toussaint influence on the track. But with his mastery of the talkbox, which makes his synths, like Peter Frampton’s guitar, have a human-like enunciation. He trades solos with ace saxophonist Jim Horn, and there is a pedal steel part from Flying Burrito Brother, Peter “Sneaky Pete” Kleinow, each of who had played on records by the Rolling Stones, George Harrison and a huge list of others.

In Barry Levinson’s 1982 movie, Diner, the characters refer to good times, kicks, and even hot girls as “a smile.” “Ebony Eyes” is a musical smile. “She’s the sunflower of nature’s seed/A girl that some men only find in their dreams/When she smiles it seems the stars all know/‘Cause one by one they start to light up the sky.”

Knocks Me Off My Feet

I cannot imagine being one of those people who records songs at a show, never mind someone like this guy, who recorded the entire “Songs in the Key of Life” benefit performance in Los Angeles in December 2013. And I would hate to be the person seated behind him. But as someone who was unable to fly out to L.A. to witness the show in person, I am grateful that someone recorded it.

But now I am thrilled that Mr. Wonder decided to tour with the show. The last performance of his that I attended was an overwhelming experience, as he delved deep into his catalog. And I am preparing to be an emotional wreck again when I see the “Songs in the Key of Life” show. The music has been with me my whole listening life and, frankly, all it takes is one glass of wine for me to get weepy. But in the video of the L.A. performance, you will see Mr. Wonder himself welling up, seemingly unable to sing the chorus of “Knocks Me Off My Feet,” as the crowd takes over around the 49-50-minute mark.

What makes such musical moments so effective? If we could explain it, would we need music? It’s the music itself that goes beyond what words alone can articulate. There is the warm glow of nostalgia, not just the fact that everyone in the audience likely grew up with the album, but in the chords themselves. There is a familiarity to the changes that harkens back to “My Cherie Amour” and beyond, through bossa nova, jazz, and right on back to the standards of the 1940s. Over these warm piano parts—electric and acoustic—Stevie takes his melody from a simple verse, to a pre-chorus structure that contains its own step-up-and-down (literally illustrated with a staircase in the lyric booklet), to the soaring chorus. And it is taken to an even higher plane with the modulation of the key (around 2:40) for the final chorus.

Tension, release and ecstasy. It is a form he replicates throughout in the record with the same results, such as on the ultra-sensuous “Joy Inside My Tears,” which purrs with a surreal synth and brings Stevie to the most soulful vocal improvisations since “Uncle Ray” Charles. One of my great regrets in life is not going to see Ray Charles when he was still with us. You have to make every effort to go see the great ones. Stevie Wonder is one of the giants. He doesn’t perform often. I’ll be there this year.

Bill Janovitz is the author of two books on the Rolling Stones, including Rocks Off: 50 Tracks That Tell the Story of the Rolling Stones and Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street. The Longest Article Ever About the Best Record Ever

Источник: https://observer.com/2014/10/the-longest-article-ever-about-the-best-record-ever/
stevie wonder songs in the key of life performance

4 Replies to “Stevie wonder songs in the key of life performance”

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