Two for Tuesday: Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder had seven songs in the Top Ten in the early Seventies, spending a total of 33 weeks there. He had been around since the early Sixties, and was just coming into his own as an adult act. We featured him in June 2014, but he was one of the powerhouses of the decade, so we’ll do him again.

His biggest hit of the decade, and maybe of his career, is “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life,” which spent seven weeks in the Top Ten in 1973, peaking at #1.

His next single, “Higher Ground,” reached #4 and spend six weeks in the Top Ten.

Stevie Wonder, your Two for Tuesday, March 28, 2017.

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Author: John Holton

I'm a writer and blogger who writes and blogs about things that interest me.

29 thoughts on “Two for Tuesday: Stevie Wonder”

  1. Stevie Wonder was/is so good. I am always amazed how musicians can create amazing works or have such a talent which I sorely lack. If I sing, the dogs and cats start chiming in.

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  2. Hmmmm… very superstitious… (with Stevie playing the “springs,” a Horner Clavinet.) Or my favorite (spoken) line in Living for the City – “New York City – just like I pictured it.”

    For awhile there in 1976, my local Champaign, IL DJ was constantly saying, “Seems like my duty in life is to play Sir Duke and Lido Shuffle.” Never played anything live by Stevie, but did Lido Shuffle ad Infinitum on stage.

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      1. That song got me hired into my second college band. Horizon Brass Rock needed somebody to play the synth triads in Lido Shuffle’s instrumental bridge (and I did it with the Farfisa).

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          1. The Farfisa had a knee bar that controlled a low-pass filter’s cutoff, so you could swep the highs like a wa-wa pedal. I used the extra trebly sound for that part in Lido Shuffle.

            A traditionalist, I resisted buying synthesizers until the Yamaha DX-7 came out in 1982. And I picked up a Sequential Prophet V around the same time. Had the Prophet retrofitted for MIDI when I worked for Sequential in 1985.

            I still have them both. The DX-7 is stacked on top of my grandmother’s 7-foot Steinway B in my garage studio.

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            1. I remember the knee thing, but I also remember you built some type of stomp box that had an envelope generator in it, and used it in the 1972 Potpourri. Do you remember that?

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              1. Your memory is correct – I built a crude envelope generator and set it up for Potpourri. That thing used relay switches, so it was pretty unrealiable. We didn’t have operational transconductance amplifiers (OTAs) to make proper VCAs with that mere mortals could buy.

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                  1. A VCA or voltage-controlled amplifier controls your synthesizer’s output, kind of like a volume pedal. An envelope generator defines the shape of the volume level, like what your foot does on that volume pedal. From the envelope generator you have an attack – a ramp from silence to some initial loudness, a decay to a somewhat lower level, a sustain time at that level, and a release back down to silence. This ADSR happens for each note you play. And every instrument has a characteristic envelope. Horns have an initial high attack peak, the so-called horn blip. An organ has a nearly instantaneous attack to the same level as the sustain, then an almost instantaneous decay when you release the key.

                    You can make a VCA with an operational transconductance amplifier. In later years, these were standard integrated circuit blocks. So if you were Dave Smith at Sequential in 1977, you could pick five of these to make part of your five-voice Prophet V synthesizer. That thing let you play five notes at a time – a big change from the previous one-note-at-a-time monophonic synthesizers.

                    Yup, we were maybe 16. I had just a rudimentary understanding of how the ADSR-VCA combo worked. John Wroclawski understood circuits better, and I always wanted to get to his knowledge level. That’s part of what drove me to get the EE degrees – I wanted to understand how circuits worked, and design my own.

                    If any of this seems unclear, I understand – I’ve just consumed a pint of Kilt or be Kilt Scotch ale from Quarter Celtic brewpub here in Albuquerque. I may be able to explain it better tomorrow. I’ll certainly be able to type better then. ;^}

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                    1. I think this explanation will suffice. 😄

                      Mom tried very hard to push me into engineering, but having seen you and Wroclawski at work told me no, it’s probably not a good idea. Besides, I didn’t do that well in physics, and engineering is pretty much all physics.

                      Do you talk to John? I looked him up, and he’s moved on from MIT to USC, and possibly has retired since then.

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                    2. I’ve tried several times over the years to contact John Wroclawski, both at MIT / Lincoln Labs and USC, with no response. Can’t tell if he’s retired or not. I suspect not – he’s probbaly too intensely interested in his work to reitre just yet.

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    1. If it’s any consolation, he hasn’t seen you, either… 😄

      I’ve never been much of a concert guy, but if there are live performances on TV, I’ll watch. He is quite talented, and I think he still plays the harmonica. Speaking of which, here he is with Toots Thielemans….

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        1. I actually did see Stevie Wonder in the Newark airport, but didn’t bother going up to say hello because he was there with a guy the size of the Colossus of Rhodes that I assumed was his bodyguard, who I assumed would twist my head off if I tried to say hello. A similar thing happened to me with Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, and that’s when I learned if the bodyguard tells you to f*** off, you do it.

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          1. LOL – I was really surprised when we saw Ross Valory from Journey at a Bob Seger concert and my husband was able to go up to him without any problems. He actually left his friends to come over to me and say hello and give us his autograph! Guess he’s not quite as protected as those guys.

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    1. My mother always thought he was a no-talent bum, but then she couldn’t play anything or write any songs, so I think you have to take that with a block of salt. I can’t exactly call myself a Stevie Wonder fan, but like you, I wouldn’t give the radio dial a spin when he came on.

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  3. Mmm, sing it Stevie! He’s a mood thing for me. I’m picky about his songs, and I have to be in the right mood. “I’ll be lovin you always” is right up there with Higher Ground for me.

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    1. The only album I ever bought of his was the soundtrack from “Jungle Fever,” because there were a couple of good songs on it. Most of the rest of it wasn’t to my liking. I’m like you, I like the stuff on the radio.

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