Stevie Wonder: Songs That Are Key To His Life

Stevie Wonder: Songs That Are Key To His Life

Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park 2019

A legend of soul music and himself a kind-hearted widely adored soul, Stevie Wonder this week reached his 69th year on Earth; beginning his career as a child prodigy on Motown Records, he's celebrated the best part, if not the majority, of his birthdays/life in the public eye.

Coincidental that he wrote the most jovial birthday-related song, well, ever? He wrote it to commemorate Martin Luther King's birthday, so not quite serendipity. But as birthdays are usually a time of reflection, what better moment to offer a retrospective into his extensive back catalogue. 

With an impending headline performance at this year's Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park in July, we've emphasised not just his biggest hits per se (over a five-decade vocation, he's accumulated a fair few..) but the tracks that pinpointed discernible changes in his career trajectory, either sonically or personally.

You could call them the 'Songs That Are Key To His Life' (get it?). Bad puns aside, check out the tracks that we consider particularly significant to Stevie Wonder's life. All live versions, of course, so you can see his trademark, gleaming smile in action:


'Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours' - 1970


Already a pop-soul phenomenon having been signed to Motown Records at the age of 11, it was 'Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours' that saw Wonder become a bonafide artist/producer of his own accord, with his first self-produced track. Though he already began writing his own material, taking monopoly over its production enabled more creative control over his output.


'Superstition' - 1973


One of, if not his most famous song, 'Superstition' marked evolution from his Motown roots, incorporating elements of jazz and rock rhythms with a progressive, jam-focused troupe of musicians.

The levels of funk, heart, and soul are unprecedented; to this day, the track remains a sure-fire floor filler nearly 50 years on from its initial release.


'As' - 1976

 
Disillusioned with the political climate at the time, Wonder deliberated quitting music entirely and emigrating to Ghana, leaving his stellar career behind.

Thankfully, he had a change of heart and created Songs in the Key of Life which went on to become his signature album, winning Wonder four GRAMMY Awards, and spawning singles 'Isn't She Lovely', 'Sir Duke', and 'As' which is the pick of the bunch.


'Master Blaster (Jammin')' - 1980


Becoming an increasingly vocal political activist, Wonder took inspiration from the anti-war messages of Bob Marley with 1980 album Hotter Than July, merging his soulful aesthetic with reggae-tinged sonics.

Both creative and personal goals were achieved; alongside the album's acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, Wonder campaigned for Martin Luther King's birthday to become a national holiday. The campaign, as we now know, was a resounding success.


'Skeletons' - 1987


Maybe a curveball in regards to what we recognise as Stevie Wonder's oeuvre as 1987 album Characters critically received mixed reviews, but GRAMMY-nominated single 'Skeletons' proved that he continued to progress, soaking up influences from new genres and scenes.

Though it was his final Top 40 hit to date, what attests to the track's lifespan is that it achieved a cult renaissance with the release of computer game Grand Theft Auto V in 2013. Funk never dies.


Stevie Wonder headlines Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park 2019 on Saturday 6 July. Tickets are now sold out for that particular day but check out our guide for further info on the other artists playing at Hyde Park.

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