#350: Music Of My Mind, Stevie Wonder
I’ve known that Stevie Wonder was a genius ever since hearing “Sir Duke,” but I’m only just now learning that he was a child prodigy, who has been releasing music since he was freaking twelve years old. This album is considered to be the first of his run of “classic” albums — and it’s his FOURTEENTH release! Most artists run out of gas before album ten. He’d barely gotten started.
Wonder was 22 when Music Of My Mind was released, and had just signed a revamped contract with Motown that earned him more money and more artistic control. Wonder took that and freaking ran with it, enlisting the creators of the TONTO as associate producers. The result is space-age R&B.
Sound weird? Not as weird as you might think. He straddles the line deftly — on “Love Having You Around,” he goes from sounding like the coolest, most laid-back dude on the planet, to croaking in a robot voice. The Moog he uses throughout doesn’t sound all Addams Family, like Moogs usually do — it makes the music sound like its ringing through space, most especially on “Seems So Long” and “Girl Blue,” which also utilizes a Talkbox long before those were popular.
Stevie plays every single instrument here, save for a couple on the opening tracks. Wonder can be all honky harmonica (“Sweet Little Girl”) or a funky, stately clavinet (“Happier Than The Morning Sun”). His biggest collaborator, though, was his then-wife Syreeta Wright, who not only has writing credits but also provides the badass backing vocals for the desperately urgent “Keep On Running.”
So yeah — prodigy. But of course, Stevie’s very best talent is making ladies swoon. “I Love Every Little Thing About You” is a party, but “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)” is an eight-minute vocal showcase. (Honestly, though, the lyrics of that one strike me as a tad hypocritical. Mary wants to be another movie star, and apparently it will hurt their relationship? Haven’t you been chasing fame since you were twelve, Stevland?)
I was caught off-guard by the straightforward ballad that closes it, “Evil.” I guess I was expecting more funk, like on the similarly named “Superstition.” Instead it’s a rich piano piece. It’s probably my least favorite track, but you can’t deny Stevie’s voice, which is virtually operatic.
There — we’ve reached the final Stevie Wonder album. But do yourself a favor and listen to “Sir Duke” one final time before we leave him behind completely.