In a post last month celebrating Stevie Wonder’s birthday, I commented on how there has been no music from him in some time. Turns out that’s about to change. While no timeline has been set, Wonder recently spoke to Rolling Stone about some projects he’s been working on, including an album of new tracks and remakes of classics with producer David Foster and a symphony orchestra. You can read all about it here. While I don’t need to hear a reworked version of “I Just Called To Say I Love You”…ever…I look forward to new music from the r&b legend.
Until then, a classic for your listening pleasure:
Glee. Dancing With the Stars. American Idol. What do these shows have in common? Well for one thing, they’re three shows that in my opinion make a strong case for reading a good book. But in recent months, they’ve each aired episodes featuring the music of one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time, and who happens to be celebrating a birthday today: Stevie Wonder. While the aforementioned shows are not to my liking in general, I do have to give them kudos for featuring Stevie’s music so that their massive audiences appreciate the genius that is Stevie. And while it’s great to hear his old stuff, I’d love to hear something new from the man. A look at his website shows the last news update was four years ago, and his most recent album of new material, A Time To Love, was released in 1995. Stevie, has the well gone dry? Are you destined for the nostalgia circuit? I certainly hope not.
If you’re looking to augment your Stevie collection, I highly recommend tracking down and investing in the 1999 four-disc box set At The Close of A Century. While the music on disc-four doesn’t stand up to the quality of discs 1-3, there are still a few hidden gems to be found. And as for discs 1-3…wow. Just…wow.
Happy Birthday Stevie. It’s impossible for me to pick a favourite track, but this one comes close. Do your neighbours a favour and turn it up:
Here are the last 10 songs I listened to, in order, on my iPod in shuffle mode. No editing, no skipping. It is what it is.
1. Frosty–Albert Collins
4. That Girl–Stevie Wonder
5. Skinny Legs–Lyle Lovett
6. All Around The World–Garland Jeffreys
7. Jailbreak–Thin Lizzy
8. Roll Over Beethoven–Chuck Berry
9. Let It Be–The Beatles
10. The Trouble With Never–Van Halen
On this day in 1977, Stevie Wonder started a three-week run at the top of the U.S. singles chart with this tribute to Duke Ellington, who passed away three years earlier. “Sir Duke” was the second single from the album that also produced the hits “I Wish” and “Isn’t She Lovely”. Songs In The Key of Life went onto to be one of the biggest successes of Wonder’s career and in 2003 was ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the 500 greatest albums of all time, coming in at #56. A must own.
(Extra musical tidbit: the song that replaced Sir Duke at #1 back in 1977? This one.)
Legend doesn’t even begin to describe B.B. King. There isn’t a word big enough to capture not only the vast catalogue of music the man has released over the years but the influence he has had on younger rock and blues musicians alike.
His latest album, 2008’s One Kind Favour (pictured at right) finds the veteran in great form, performing 12 top-shelf cuts that in all his years as a performer he’s never recorded. I saw King perform in Toronto about 10 years ago and while he spent most of the evening seated and tended to allow his band to take the reins for a chunk of show the vocal and guitar skills had not diminished one bit. There’s something to be said for watching a legend (there’s that word again) doing what he does best and trying to imagine all the musicians who wouldn’t be where they are today were it not for his influence.
And now this true king of the blues is getting ready to hit the road once again. He’ll be touring sporadically between April and November and will be making several stops on this side of the border including dates in Coquitlam (November 5th), Calgary (November 8th), Regina (November 10th), Winnipeg (November 11th) and the final date of the year in Ottawa on November 21st. Tickets available via Ticketmaster.
I don’t know if Mr. King has his eyes set on retirement any time soon, but if you’re a fan of the blues and have never seen him in concert before, check him out while you still can. He turns 85 on September 16th.
Here’s a great clip of him performing at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary show in New York back in October. He’s playing alongside some kid named Stevie Wonder.
The new issue of Rolling Stone provides a comprehensive look at the two recent RnR Hall of Fame concerts held in New York City at the end of October. By all accounts, the two shows featuring the likes of the three kids pictured above plus Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, CSN and a whack of other legends were nothing short of historic.
You can see some great photos here.
Also, HBO will be showing a highlights special on November 29th (and sure to be re-run) so if you’re a subscriber, it will be worth tuning in. If you’re not a subscriber, footage is bound to show up somewhere on the internet, so no worries. Speaking of which, here’s a fan-filmed clip of U2, Springsteen and Patti Smith coming together to perform Springsteen’s ‘Because of the Night’, famously recorded by Smith: