Collection: 4. Stevie Wonder - Songs in the Key of Life

Months before the recording sessions for Songs in the Key of Life ended, the musicians in Stevie Wonder’s band had T-shirts made up that proclaimed, “We’re almost finished.” It was the stock answer to casual fans and Motown executives and everybody who’d fallen in love with Wonder’s early-Seventies gems – 1972’s Talking Book, 1973’s Innervisions, and 1974’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale – and who had been waiting two years for the next chapter. “I believed there was a lot that needed to be said,” Wonder said. More, in fact, than he could fit onto a double album – also included was a bonus EP, a seven-inch single with four more songs from the sessions.

Songs, released in 1976, encompasses an incredible range of life experiences – from the giddy joy of a baby in the bathtub (“Isn’t She Lovely,” featuring the cries and giggles of Wonder’s infant daughter Aisha Morris) through tributes to his musical heroes (“Sir Duke”) to dismay about the indifference of the wealthy (“Village Ghetto Land”). Wonder pulled from every imaginable musical source — the ecstatic “Sir Duke” references Duke Elington and Ella Fitzgerald, while “As” featured Herbie Hancock on Fender Rhodes.

Though Wonder’s blindness meant he could record faster by memorizing lyrics, some songs had four or five intricate verses, so somebody had to prompt him. Often it was engineer John Fischbach, reading lines into the headphone mix just seconds before Wonder sang them. “He never got thrown off,” engineer John Fischbach told Rolling Stone years later. “His vocals had so much power.”

The album’s mastery of many styles remains astonishing, but the feat might not have meant so much had Wonder not delivered some of his most impassioned political art as well, like the autobiographical “I Wish,” the takedown of wealthy complacency “Village Ghetto Land,” and, perhaps most movingly, “Black Man,” in which he runs down a funky list of global Afro-diasporic aspirations and heroes. Songs in the Key of Life linked all this together, in Wonder’s all-encompassing innervision. - RollingStone.com

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  • STEVIE WONDER - SONGS IN THE KEY OF LIFE (2LP + 7") VINYL
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  • STEVIE WONDER - SONGS IN THE KEY OF LIFE (2LP + 7") (USED VINYL 1976 AUS M-/EX-)
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