Monday, June 17, 2013

Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life. His masterpiece.

Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life.  If ever there were a masterpiece - this is it.  It was made in part and three very distinct recording studios:  the Record Plant in Hollywood, Sausalito Music Factory in Sausalito, CA, and The Hit Factory in New York City.   I just read quite a bit about the Hit Factory in the book about Double Fantasy - John Lennon's final album.   I had no idea that Songs in the Key of Life is the 18th (eighteenth!)  album of his.  It was released in September, 1976, on the Motown Records label.  I remember my brother bought and us playing it on dad's hi-fi in the living room.  It is said that this album was the capstone or culmination of Stevie's  "classic period" albums.  Quite an ambitious effort - it is of course a double LP that also contains a four-song bonus EP.  Songs in the Key of Life became among the best-selling and most critically acclaimed albums of Wonder's career.  In 2003, the album was ranked number 56 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.  here is an interesting wiki entry I read about the Grammy Awards.

"On February 19, 1977, Wonder was nominated for seven Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, an award that he had already won twice before, in 1974 and 1975, for Innervisions and Fulfilligness' First Finale.  Since 1973, Stevie's presence at the Grammy ceremonies had been consistent – as he attended most of the ceremonies and also performed on stage.  But in 1976, he did not attend as he was not nominated for any awards (since he had not released any new material during the past year).  Paul Simon, who received the Grammy for Album of the Year in that occasion (for Still Crazy After All These Years) jokingly thanked Stevie "for not releasing an album" that year.  A year after, Wonder was nominated for Songs in the Key of Life in that same category, and was widely favored by many critics to take the award.  The other nominees were: Breezin' byGeorge BensonChicago X by ChicagoSilk Degrees by Boz Scaggs, and the other favorite, Peter Frampton's Frampton Comes Alive!, which was also a huge critical and commercial success.  Wonder was again absent from the ceremony, as he had developed an interest in visiting Africa.  In February he traveled to Nigeria for two weeks, primarily to explore his musical heritage, as he put it. A satellite hook-up was arranged so that Stevie could be awarded his Grammys from across the sea.  Bette Midler announced the results during the ceremony, and the audience could only able to see Wonder at a phone smiling and giving thanks.  The video signal was poor and the audio inaudible.  In all, Wonder won four out of seven nominations at the Grammys: Album of the YearBest Male Pop Vocal PerformanceBest Male R&B Vocal Performance and Producer of the Year."

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