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The Innervisions Of Stevie Wonder

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"If I sing about it and write about it, I have to DO about it". It was an hour or so after the gentle giant addressing us liad left Olympia and llie hysterical multitude, and that statement was offered to the representatives of the varioys news media as an explanation of Why, in tact. Stevie Wonder liad done this concert in Detroit and, morever, bad donated his earnings to the City to be sed to help ghetto di il dien. Apparcntly this explanation is by waj of : credo for this exemplarv musirían whose ity and forthrightness are so rare as u inspiro, initially, outright skepticism in people who've worked in-the music business fot any length of time and whose daily bread is dishonesty, cynicism, and the propsgaliou oí íllusion. Elton Jolin's statement in a recent "Creem" that his success formula consisted of "Vitantin E, quaaludes, heroin, plus intercourse with sneep", for all its offhand jokiness. was a criminally irresponsible thing to say and gives a pretty accurate idea of the coflsdousness of the average rock superstar. Now Stevie Wonder is unquestiönably at the top of the rock pile tin ree albums- Talking Book, Innervisions, and l-'ulfingness' Fint Finale (FFF) have all won plaiinum records, lic . led five, couni 'em, five Grammy awards last year including ones for "Album of the Year" (Innervisions), Best Pop Vocal Performance ("You Are The Sunshine Of My Ufe"), and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance ("Supetstitkm"). In June. 1972. Stevie toured with the Rolling Stones and won over a mass white audience that hadn't been his before. At this point in his career Stevie, like the Beatles before htm, is more popular than Jesus Christ, let alone a used Ford, and is hip to the fact that his every word and action is gospel to the millions of young people who buy his albums. The fact that four of his last five concerts have been benefits, the proceeds of which were directed to the. local black communities. is proof to the skeptic that Stevie Wonder is, indeed, about doing. (Stevie also played at the benefit to Free John Sinclair in Ann bor. Dec. 10, 1971). The musical story of the making of this remarkable citi.en begins carly. Bom blind on May 13, 1950. Stevie asserts that it didn't matter, that hts blindness "never realty separated him from other kids". Like Ray Charles and José Feliciai ie's overeóme any disadvanta by denying the tact of his blindness- "I never knew what it was to see. so it'sjust like seeing." According to a recent cover story in Dawii Beat, Stevie's uncle gave him a four-hole harmonica at age five and Stevie was off and running. He would sit by the radio and play along with bluesman Ss LittleWalter L3íS5tefc_ and Jimmy Reed. He began piano lessons at six and started playing the drums at eight. He was alrnost there. When Ronnie White of the Miracles iairoduced him to Brian Holland of the Hollaiui-Dozier-Holland Motown writing team. Holland took him straight to Berry Gordy, Jr. the big cheese there. Gordy signed him. changed young Steveland Morris' name to Wonder, and a superstar was boni. When he was 13, Stevie set the world all re with "Fingertips, Part 2" and never looked back. beginning the endless tours hotel to hotel, city to city -that are part of an aspiring musicians dues. Of that period he says, "When you are traveling on the road, you have to leani ; to know yourself, what your likes are. n n immiII ■ o n inin ti ini n n r - ■ r i ir r i in itii n m nili il r n n i ■■ n ii n n ! liad to leurn this at a young age, and fast." A more conventional type of learning was required by law and when he was stil! 13, Motown suggesled he attend the Michigan School For The Blind, in Lansing, from which he graduated. "They taught me all the usual things," Stevie says. "but what I liked was the swimming pool and the wrestling team. They had a ijiusic department. too, and that exposed me to all those classical dudes, like Bacil and Chopin. You can hear some of that on "They Won't Go When 1 Go" on FFF. When Stevie turned 2 1 . he battied for months with that patriarchal giant. Motown Records: the formula sound, the iron-fist controller of royalties, publications. production, publicity and direction. Stevie slashed loose and established an unprecedented Motown deal. He emerged with his own publishing company, Black Buil Music. his own production company, Taurus Productions, 50% of the royalties, the right to record whenever and however he chooses, and just recently , to power to decide which bjfc album cuts will be released as singles. yPTr-MllM nu - Also at 2 1 (1971) Stevie legally received his childhood earnings that had been held by a state-appojnted guardián. He moved out of his family's home to a NYC hotel, and got married to singer Syreeta Wrigiit (he discovered her musical talen ts when she was a secretary at Motown. They have sinee divorced.) During this time Stevie was also developing his taients as a producer. Besides producing (and writing much of) boih of Syreeta's albums, he also did the Spinnei's single "It'.s A Shame", David Ruffin's "We'll Have It Made", and "Afrodisiac", by the Main Ingrediënt. In addition, Stevie has produced every one of his own albums beginning with Music ofMy Mini. On August 6. lc73 Stevie got in a car crash and was in a coma for three days. a semi-corna for seven more. The brusli with death made for some serious reflection and Stevie sees the accident as a sign from God, "to slow down, to take il easy. 1 stilt feel l'm here to do something for God, to please people, to turn my world into music for God, to make it possible for people to communicatë with each othef better". He sees himself today. like John Coltiane before him, as a man with a mission. Two of us from the SUN went down to dig this missionury live on Friday. September JN. We were backstage when the long black RollsRoyce floated.into the building with Stevie and we watched the graceful way he bore the adoration of the folks who just had to talk to him. We watched as a mother brought her young blind son to Stevie and how Wonder, bent in half so as to be head to head with the kid, managed, with infinite charm and gentleness, to loosen the tongue of this boy spastic with shyness. We went out front, finally, and saw The Commodores open the show. They are a black quintet from the South built along the lines of Warlots of stone raunch and a thin veneer of Motown poüsh. They covered Roberta Flack's "That's The Time", Seals and Crofts "Summer Breeze", and tore ua MeCartney's "Live And Let Die", adding a "Star-Spangled Banner" feedback finale ripped straight from the Hendrix performance at Woodstock, that brought tears of crazed laugliter to the eyes. Simply psychedelic. "Wonderlove", Stevie's touring ensemblefull band and vocal arsenal of ten musicians -came on and continued to heat things up. Each of three woman vocalists got a chance to solo and each was a star in her own right, .firmly in control, great range, deeply expres'sive. And then Stevie was led on and we all went wild. I should add here that the arena was only ■ about half full due to the fatt that the advance publicity was scant hecause the date wasn't confirmed until only a week ahead of time. Even so, it was an inspirationally heterogenous crowd and uniformly enthusiastic. Stevie opened with "Bird of Beauty" from FFF and it was a revelation to learn that all the sounds we hear on his albums could be duplicated live. l've also got to emphasize that Stevie's music is wildly happy, as high ;as it gets and it took no more prompting than his asking, "Are ya havin' a gopd time" to get back a blast of assent. AfterHigher Ground", "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, l'rn Youi's", and "Looking For Another Pure Love", Stevie began to rap down some of his ideas about world harmony and brothersisterhood, openly wondering about the possibility of any of it coming together. He then launched into "Visions", the song he's said he.hópes to be remembered by. In it Stevie describes a Utopia - Peoplc hand in hand, -Have I lived tq sae the mük and honey land Where hare 's a dream and love forever stands, Or is this a visión ofmy mimi' He then asserts that he is in full control É of all his faculties, eminently J "'I know just what I say, today's not JA yesterday"-you may say that he's a ■ dreamer, but he's not the only one Jfl and yet the question remains: can this "milk and honey land" ever exist or "'do wa have to tlnd our wings and fly away, to the j visions in our minds?" Well, Stevie Wonder did his considerable best to share with us his visión of heaven on earth throughout the concert. Therewere j no low points but when that man started blowing his harmonica on "Youve Got It Bad, GirI" I almost jumped outof my skin. The entire crowd was up and dancing in that dead huil of a building and wouïd not j sil down for the last half hour of the show. We left that evening marveling that, despite Olympia's pitiful acoustics. anyone could be so good, so positive. Stevie is unique because he's sincerely cor cerned about communicating. "1 feel cvcryone should be able io grasp what you're doing. I shouldn't be so complicated that it's beyond everyone's capabilities, nor should it be so simple that you cannot use y our mind to think about it. "I would like to feel that as my albums change, my people-meaning all people-wil come with me, that we will grow together. Everything that 1 experience is in the songs that I write. You see, my music is my way of giving back love." It's part of the SUN's visión that musician like Stevie Wonder become the rule and not the exception, but since that isn't the way 'tis yet, we take this opportunity to celébrate the progressive stance of the WonderfL"One'. -BülAdler We are amazed but not amused By all the things you say that you 'II do TJiougfl mach concemed but nat involved With declsions that are made by you But we are sick and tired of 'hearing y our song Tel in howyoü are gomia change right front wrong 'Cause if you really want to hear our views j "You haven 't done nothin " "ƒ would like to feel that as my albums change, my people-meaning all people-will come WITHme, that we will grow together. Everything that I experience is in the songs that I write. You seef my music is my way ofgiving back love. "