October 10, 2005
He was “Little Stevie Wonder” at just 12 years old, fresh from his first appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. Since that debut, Wonder has recorded more than 30 Top 10 hits and won 19 Grammys.
After a ten-year absence from recording, Wonder is back. He is motivated by a special message, the message some say “has formed the cornerstone of his legendary career.” Gathering reporters to his studio for a special studio session and interview, he interspersed performances of the 15 tracks on his new album with reflections on his career and his purpose for writing and singing.
“Of all the needs that we have right now,” Wonder tells them, “more than anything, we need a time for love.” Each track on his new album touches on love in one of its forms, “from physical to unrequited to family affection to the way people treat strangers on the street.”
Leaning forward during his interview, he drives his point home to his audience. “We need to have more respect for each other.” Wonder is responding to the lack of respect he senses coming “from people in their relationships as well as our leaders in government.”
Born as Steveland Morris Judkins Hardaway, on May 13, 1950, Wonder was only 12 when he began to record for Motown. He had his first hit at the age of 13, “Fingertips.” While his own performance as a singer won him critical acclaim, he also worked behind the scenes, writing for such groups as The Spinners and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.
Blind from infancy, Wonder developed a love of music. He began to learn the piano at the age of seven and had also mastered drums and harmonica by the age of nine. After his family moved to Detroit in 1954, Steveland joined a church choir, planting the root of a gospel influence on his music.
The enduring quality of Wonder’s music over a span of 40 years owes much to his ability to express optimism, faith in the future, and love. Sylvia Rhone, who heads up Motown Records, says, “Nobody can illuminate our greatest hopes, soothe our deepest fears, and put us on the musical high road like Stevie Wonder.”
Even his song titles inspire the high road. How can anyone repress a smile when reading, “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “My Cherie Amour” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours”? His 1984 hit, “I Just Called To Say I Love You”, is Motown’s biggest-selling single in the UK and won him an Oscar for best song.
“Ever since Songs in the Key of Life,” Wonder says, “I feel it’s been a blessing from God giving me the titles, but ultimately, all songs must stand on their own. I’ve always written about love, but the ones that spoke to me the loudest are the ones you’ll find on A Time 2 Love.”
We owe a debt of gratitude to Wonder and other entertainers who use their talents to inspire the finer and nobler sentiments in life. The unfortunate truth is that we humans have both love and hate pulsing through our blood. And it is the rhythm and sound of our culture that is needed to beat the drum, stirring our passions and filling our spirit with the life-giving message of love.
A Time 2 Love is a message worth passing on — in music and in life.
December 10, 2004 – The Best Part of Snuggling
See Archives for more past editorials.