After a lifetime of being a fan, I’ll see Stevie Wonder tonight. He is not only a master of pop, soul and other styles, a genius keyboardist, smart songwriter and supreme vocalist. Stevie Wonder is a ray of light in the dark halls of music history.
Born in 1950, Steveland Hardaway Judkins grew up sightless yet was so musically talented that he was noticed at the age of eleven by fellow Detroit artist Ronny White.
White took him to Barry Gordy at the Motown label who helped Stevie put out his first live record. 12-year-old Genius dropped in 1963.
Just a few years later “Little Stevie Wonder” would be a household name.
At the age of 14 Stevie co-wrote this song “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”. It hit number one in the R&B and pop charts.
When you see footage of his concerts live, it’s easy to forget that Stevie Wonder is blind. He’s so present with the audience and writes a lot about seeing.
When you hear him sing this song “Boogie On Reggae Woman” it’s hard not to believe him.
In the film documentary Soul Deep you can follow Stevie’s work with synthesizers in the 1970′s. He was only 21 when he hooked up with a couple engineers who were experimenting with electronic music, Bob Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil.
Bob and Macolm put Stevie in a small recording room and enjoyed trying to get him mad (they thought he played best that way). Stevie would jam on the keys while they turned the knobs. When Stevie liked the sound he’d signal for them to use that setting.
These three worked full days, holidays and weekends. The engineers knew Stevie so well that they taunted him into singing some of the best vocal performances of his life.
On “Superstition” Stevie plays on the clavinet keyboard. The result is one of the funkiest dance songs of all time. If there’s a song better performed and written than this one, I’d like to know what it is.
Other Stevie Wonder songs to have for your collection are “Living for The City”, “Higher Ground”, “You Haven’t Done Nuthin” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”
Stevie Wonder has sold over 100 million records and has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He performs his iconic record Songs In The Key of Life tonight at Key Arena in Seattle!
Tune in to DJ Michele Myers Friday nights at 9pm on KEXP 90.3FM Seattle, kexp.org. Michele will be spinning live sets all night at KEXP’s New Year’s Eve at Seattle Space Needle on 12/31. Music historian and producer, Michele’s made over 200 radio stories for KEXP Documentaries. She’s also written scripts, lesson plans and features for The Smithsonian, Experience Music Project, the University of Washington and NPR.