Have you ever found yourself in one of those comments chats that takes you somewhere unexpected? I have done just that this week. If you follow the excellent blog Filosofa’s Word, by Jill Dennison, you will know that she plays a song each day amongst her other posts. Her taste and mine sometimes coincide, but there are elements for both of us which the other doesn’t appreciate. Jill’s taste is more towards pop and what I call ‘crooners,’ with a lot of Motown: a particular favourite of hers is Stevie Wonder. But she doesn’t do much rock music, especially the louder, heavier sort. So I jokingly suggested that she play an AC/DC song, and encouraged her to step outside her comfort zone by what I described as being ‘a hundred miles.’ To my great surprise Jill took up the challenge, as you can see here: Whole Lotta Rosie. If you follow the link it will give you a chance to see the band’s epic performance of the song in their 2009 River Plate gigs, which became the Live At River Plate DVD. Excellent, and highly recommended for all rock music aficionados. You will also see in Jill’s post that she said I should reciprocate by playing some Stevie Wonder or Lionel Richie on my blog, and I accepted her challenge. So here we are.
50% of Jill’s challenge isn’t hard for me to do, as I like a lot of Stevie Wonder’s music, though most of it is after he dropped the ‘Little’ from his name. So you won’t be seeing the one about his Cherry Hammer here. But Lionel Richie? Meh. A promise is a promise, though, so here is the only Lionel Richie song to which I’d give house room:
In many ways, my ex-wife’s musical taste bears some similarities with Jill’s, and we therefore had to have the Can’t Slow Down album on which this song was included. And it got played. Boy did it get played a lot! I didn’t really like much of it, but even I am prepared to admit that this is a brilliant pop song, and I do enjoy watching this video. It’s just a shame about everything else he did.
OK, that’s Lionel out of the way. let’s get onto the better stuff. As the Seventies began, Stevie Wonder cast off his child prodigy image and recorded a series of superb albums which showed a greater maturity in his songwriting. It is those in particular that I like and still play now, so I may not be sharing some of the songs that Jill might have expected or wanted. Sorry, but this is me doing me! My all time favourite Stevie Wonder song is up first. Forget the Art Garfunkel cover, or those by George Michael, Rag’n’Bone Man, Josh Groban, or anyone else, come to that – the original is by far and away the best:
Magnificent! I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever) was, as the video showed, a track on Stevie’s Talking Book album, the second in what I regard as his more mature phase. It was the final song, and I still haven’t come across an album closer as good as this: it is one of those songs that make you need to hear the sound of the needle clicking on the record player, as it nearly disappears down the hole in the middle, to bring you back to reality.
Having said that about closing tracks, the final song on his next album, Innervisions, is pretty damn fine too:
Another fabulous song. He’s produced a few of those in his time!
He didn’t only give us wonderful songs at the end of his albums, though. How about this one to open with:
Love’s In Need Of Love Today is the first track on the epic double album Songs In The Key Of Life, which I think might just be my favourite of his records, though it’s a hard choice and I wouldn’t want my life to depend on it!
This next one is from the same album. Frankly, I could have just played you the whole thing, but I wouldn’t want this post to stretch out for ages! Another great song, which has been adapted by Coolio, though my favourite alternative version is the one by ‘Weird’ Al Jankovic. This is the real one, though:
I’ve rather jumped ahead through the Seventies and overlooked the first of Stevie’s run of great albums in that decade. Time to put that right:
That chorus is just so catchy! This is another of his songs that may have gone under the radar for many, but I still love it.
Hopefully Jill will agree that I have kept my promise, even if she might not have been expecting some – or any – of these songs. I’ll leave you with a couple that might be a bit more familiar. First, this one:
And finally, this:
Looking through this selection, I think it is fair to conclude that I’m more in tune with Stevie’s slower songs, so I added in that last one for some balance, and to show that I like his music just as much when he rocks it. I hope you’ve enjoyed this set: I’ve had a lot of fun putting it together, and as this all came out of a throwaway line in a comments chat it has been interesting for me to see where going down a rabbit hole can lead us. See you again soon 😊