Many soul artists in Atlanta and beyond wish today's music scene was more like Stevie Wonder's glory years. They openly acknowledge him as an influence, as if to claim that their recordings are just as innovative and groundbreaking as Wonder's legendary run. But few of them are willing to do what he did.
Wonder spent most of the '60s as a teen soul star on Motown Records, making lively and upbeat hits such as "I Was Made to Love Her" and "My Cherie Amour." When he turned 21 in 1971, he formed a partnership with Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff, two relatively unknown musicians who designed one of the world's first synthesizers. Despite being in the midst of a contract renegotiation with Motown Records, he made
Music of My Mind, a meandering concept suite that essentially documented his exploration of this new instrument.
Music of My Mind arrived in 1972 amid a fertile period in soul history. The year before brought Marvin Gaye's What's Going On and Sly & the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On, both classics that proved hugely successful. In contrast, Music of My Mind drew a mixed reception from critics and audiences. It has only been in recent years – as we've come to understand how pivotal Music of My Mind was to Wonder's career – that it has been hailed as an artistic triumph.
Motown's patience with Wonder soon paid off with Talking Book later that year. A smash hit, it led to a string of masterpieces that cemented his reputation as an adventurous and bankable force, including 1973's Innervisions and 1974's Fulfillingness' First Finale.
Modern-day artists often pay homage to Wonder's harmonious balance of mass-market innovations without understanding the risks he took. For example, it's extraordinary that Wonder gave Cecil and Margouleff full production credit on their four albums together. Compare that generosity with modern big shots such as Timbaland and Dr. Dre who often don't publicly acknowledge their invisible "helpers"; or how Lauryn Hill didn't credit her many songwriters and producers on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. And it's unimaginable that a contemporary teen pop star such as Chris Brown would record a major album, and potentially sacrifice his career, with two anonymous gearheads like Cecil and Margouleff.
But Wonder wasn't a functionary for two revolutionary musicians. A multi-instrumentalist, his mastery of the keyboard and harmonica established high standards akin to Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix on the guitar. He "humanized" the synthesizer, imbuing it with feeling and warmth. And after Music of My Mind, he coupled his organic synthesizer arrangements with brash and sharply defined funk.
Wonder's melodic instincts and lyrics turned his personal journeys on love, sex, race, politics and society into universal statements – from "Living for the City" to "Boogie on Reggae Woman" – easily embraced by his audiences. And despite his new sonic direction, he didn't abandon the sentimental favorites that initially made him a star, composing pop chestnuts such as "You Are the Sunshine of My Life."
As a genius in the truest sense of the word, Wonder was blessed with gifts most artists never have. But it's only when someone of his caliber blazes a path that the rest of us realize how far we have to travel. It's unimaginable today that a major pop star would put out an album like Music of My Mind. Some hip-hop and soul acts such as the Roots and Van Hunt are willing to take chances. But OutKast's recent Idlewild failure is a stark example of how little patience current audiences have with a superstar who steps too far outside the box.
After his 1977 masterwork Songs in the Key of Life and, to lesser extent, 1979's strange and underrated Journey to the Secret Life of Plants, Wonder himself retreated to less challenging fare. But his '70s oeuvre, a string of masterpieces rarely equaled before or since, remains a benchmark for popular music.
Yes, 14 is the correct answer. I'll pass your info along to the group's manager,…
That was January of 2007, and they are 21 now, so I'm guessing 14?
WWW you trying to date big boi? Sounds like you got a lil bromance bruh