I can remember many years ago, when my daughter Nicole was maybe eight or nine years old, that I noticed she was reading a book she had pulled down from my shelf. It was one given annually by my employer, Turner, which had a very academic and detailed look at the state of the world we lived in. It was above my head in many places, not to mention a nine year old’s. I asked her why she was looking at it and she replied that she heard in a song she liked, You Gotta Be by Des’ree, the encouragement to “read the books your father read”. Fortunately for her, I was able to admit that I had never read that particular book, and she could pick something more fun, like The Alchemist. WHich she did read and that is another story.
This one is more about the music. My daughter is almost 26-years-old, a talented actor and remains my best friend and the most important person in my life. So how can I stay close, grow even closer, as we go our grown up directions (though I always discourage growing up too much!)? I am of the nostalgic type, for sure, and with the release of remastered music and movies, it’s easier than ever to get back in touch with what may have helped define us as younger folk. I’ve always shared movies and plays with her, but music… not as much.
So I am embarking on what will likely be an irregular but largely sincere effort to share important music from my life with her. I hope she will explore and do the same in kind. We won’t connect to the same things, but we will learn more about each other and that, after all, is more important than agreeing to like the same “things”.
I had Steve Wonder’s Innervisions on 8-track tape. It came out in 1973 and was his 16th studio album. I probably got it for my 12th birthday, so I was in 8th grade, just starting high school. Albums were new to me, frankly. Like most kids I bought 45s and listened to music on the radio or heard the crooners my parents played or musical theater my sisters had on the big stereo turntable in our living room. My brother wouldn’t let me near his rock and roll yet. There were nine songs on Innervisions, and played together they were unlike any music I had ever heard before.
The songs are varied and powerful. Funky, and sweet. Powerful and deep. Strong messages about the human condition in America, especially racism – which I was just starting to gain an intelligent understanding of. And spirituality, which ironically became more associated with Wonder’s work AFTER the album become a huge success, since he nearly died in an accident just a few weeks after it was released.
Little Stevie Wonder was born blind, that I knew. But I learned he had been a child protegé and pop star long before I discovered this piece of musical art. I am not even certain I ever bought another Wonder album, but I certainly listen to his music. Not so long ago I watched with amazement when he performed on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert stage. I recommend that DVD to everyone.
What are my favorite songs? Living for the City is, beyond a doubt, the one I still get fired up to, the beat and the passion, the connective vision of the call to understanding. All In Love Is Fair – I’m not sure I can even explain the message in this music. It is experiential and will mean something different as we all grow older. Higher Ground and Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing are also among my favorites.
The musical quality and production opened up an entire new world (Universe) to me, more than any other aspect of this album. I’m sending you the CD, Nicole. I hope you like it and when you listen to it – and read the lyrics – let me know what you think?
I’ll send you another soon.
And here’s a link to the Wikipedia page about the album Innervisions .