Wonder still records for Motown, but was almost dropped from the label when his early, somewhat shrill, vocal style (he began his recording career at the age of 11) changed. He is extremely frail physically, and at one point was rumoured to be existing on a diet of one lemon a day. However, he has managed to adapt his style to the changing musical landscape of each successive decade, and scored his first UK number 1 single in 1984 with I Just Called To Say I Love You. Even albums considered relative failures, such as The Secret Life Of Plants (1979), contain much of interest and showcase Wonder's thrilling and emotive vocal style.
Links to Peel
Although Peel had little time for Motown's musical style after the label's chart heyday in the first half of the 1960s, he expressed approval of Stevie Wonder's hit single "I Was Made To Love Her" after playing it on a Radio London early evening show on 17 July 1967. He later gained an appreciation for Wonder's series of 1970s LPs: John claimed to have played his 1972 release Talking Book and his 1976 double album Songs In The Key Of Life in their entirety on Kat's Karavan. In his profile of Wonder on Where It's At, JP called him "arguably the most influential artist, black or white, recording today."
Of Motown's major artists, only Wonder and Marvin Gaye managed to appeal to the audiences who listened to Peel's programmes and the other Sounds Of The 70s evening shows on Radio One. That Peel regarded Stevie Wonder as an iconic figure is scarcely in doubt: when he attended the Nelson Mandela Concert at Wembley in 1988, he regarded the moment when Wonder appeared on stage "as if from nowhere" as the most moving moment . He returned to his LPs during his visit to New Zealand in 2002, when he played a track from Talking Book that he claimed had followed him around at the time. Apparently John Walters too was a big fan of Wonder's music.
Festive Fifty Entries
- None in his own right, but in 1967 Wonder recorded a jam with Jimi Hendrix during the latter's first session which remained unaired until an outing on Tommy Vance's Friday Rock Show in 1979.
Other Shows Played
- 17 July 1967: 'I Was Made To Love Her (7")' (Tamla Motown)
- 06 June 1972: 'Keep On Running (LP-Music Of My Mind)' (Tamla Motown)
- 23 July 1974: unknown
- Where It's At: 'Boogie On Reggae Woman (LP-Fulfillingness' First Finale)' (Tamla Motown)
- 29 September 1976: Songs In The Key Of Life (side 2)
- 30 September 1976: Songs In The Key Of Life (sides 3 & 4)
- 13 June 1988: 'Superstition (LP-Talking Book)' (Tamla Motown)
- 09 April 2002: 'I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever) (LP-Talking Book)' (Tamla Motown)
- 27 February 2003: I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever) (LP - Talking Book) Tamla Motown
Top Of The Pops
- 25 December 1982 (TOTP): 'Ebony & Ivory (with Paul McCartney)'
- 06 September 1984 (TOTP): 'I Just Called To Say I Love You' (video)