Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Stevie plays "Living in the City" in 1974

He was born Stevland Hardaway Judkins, but most people know him as musician, singer, songwriter, record producer and all around musical genius Stevie Wonder. His list of hits is too great to run here, but they include "For Once in My Life," "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," "Superstition," "You Are The Sunshine of My Life," and every damn thing on "Talking Book" and "Innervisions." I'm skipping your favorite, I'm sure, but there are plenty more.

Stevie is world famous. During the eighties, I had the surreal pleasure of hearing a Nicaraguan lounge band singing "I Just Called to Say I Love You" in the icy air-conditioned heart of the Hotel InterContinental in Managua. That was the reach of Stevie's music. With the matching outfits, and the phonetic English, obviously mimicked from the record by non-English speakers, you could almost forget a war was going on outside. It was a perfect pop moment. Stevie was global.

His tunes have been covered by everyone, and bastardized versions of his ballads have oozed over the Musak and through shopping malls until you might forget that the man could also rock hard with songs like "Superstition" or "Master Blaster." I saw him perform only one time live, back in the seventies, when somehow my sister Bekki scored front row tickets. He burned the house down. It was an unforgettable experience.

Stevie Wonder is a one man band and plays countless instruments. On his first big hit he just clapped and played a harmonica. He has performed in practically every country, and sung duets with everyone from the Stones to Tony Bennett (who incidentally also changed his name, being born Anthony Dominick Benedetto). Stevie Wonder does it all, from sweet soul music to hard funk, love songs to reggae, ballads to big band a la Duke to Motown pop, you name it. Enjoy these clips.

Stevie performs a killer medley on the "Motown 25 Anniversary Special"

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