Author(s): Mark Ribowsky
This is the first definitive biography of Stevie Wonder; it covers his incredible fifty-year career and sets it against the history of Motown and the last half century of popular music, showing his influence in shaping music throughout his career and still today, particularly in laying the groundwork for the evolution of hip-hop and rap. The 60s can be called his development era, from infectious kid-soul-pop to ever-maturing themes guided by Motown's mainstream maestros. Then, freed to make the music that drove his sensibilities, came his period of massive innovation and peak influence from the early 70s through the end of the decade, which saw innervision and his other masterpieces. The next decade was a jumble of personal and musical confusion, uncertainty, and crass commercialism; and the mid-90s to now his renaissance toward a second coming with his 60th birthday in 2010. His music spans a great deal of territory it mutates from the R&B of Fingertips to smooth pop sound to gradually increasing social themes â when he sang of hardtown, Mississippi and having the empty pockets of a a poor man's son it moved Motown away from love songs and into the meridians of inner-city blues that Marvin Gaye would plumb as a result of Stevie's early forays, and which Stevie would explode into vapors of psychedelia, funk, free-form jazz-metal fusion, and long album-oriented, semiautobiographical novellas of personal agonies.
"...a good read..." (Echoes, May 2010) "...a fluid and lively read, critical and celebratory..." (Time Out, May 2010) From the rollicking debut of "Fingertips-Part 2" to the funk piano and synthesizers of "Superstition" to the political rap of "Superstition," Stevie Wonder's brilliant music has managed to capture the hearts of his listeners while at the same time probing the limits of musical styles and moving soul and rhythm and blues to new musical levels. Born in poverty in Saginaw, Mich., Wonder lost his sight soon after he was born. His blindness heightened his sense of hearing, and he soon began to master the toy musical instruments that his absentee father brought him. Very soon, Wonder graduated from toys to the real things: his barber gave him a Hohner chromatic harmonica; his church choir director, as well as his neighbor, allowed him to play for hours on their pianos; and the local Lions Club gave a drum set to Stevie after hearing him play it. Soon Wonder was the hit of Motown, and his career took off like a comet, only to burn out and lose some of its fiery glow in the 1980s and 1990s. Music journalist Ribowsky (The Supremes; He's a Rebel) traces the rapid ascent of Wonder's musical career as well as the tumultuous ups and downs of his personal life in this workmanlike and pedantic book. Ribowsky's exploration of Wonder's music is first-rate, but his tendency to overlook Wonder's faults turns this into one fan's hagiography. (May) (Publishers Weekly, March 22, 2010)
MARK RIBOWSKY is the New York Times Notable author of The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success, and Betrayal; He's a Rebel: Phil Spector—Rock and Roll's Legendary Producer; and Don't Look Back: Satchel Paige in the Shadows of Baseball. He has written for Sport magazine and Inside Sport, was a staff writer for TV Guide, and has been a semi-regular contributor to Playboy and Penthouse. Mr. Ribowsky has been a guest on Dateline NBC, Primetime Live (ABC), Connie Chung, Geraldo Rivera, The Tavis Smiley Show, and many other network and cable TV shows.
Acknowledgments. Introduction. 1 A World of Hurt. 2 Motorin'. 3 "That Shit Is Just Fantasticness!" 4 Jazz, Soul, and Grab-Ass. 5 "Take a Bow, Stevie". 6 No Wonder. 7 The Motown Way. 8 Outta Sight. 9 You Met Your Match. 10 Pretty Heavy. 11 The Direction of Destiny. 12 Apocalypse Now. 13 Stevie in Wonderland. 14 "We're Almost Finished". 15 The Clock of Now. 16 Epilogue ... Prologue. Discography: Stevie Wonder's Chart Hits. Index. Photo Gallery.