Happy Birthday Stevie Wonder: The Cliff's Notes Version

Today pop legend Stevie Wonder turns 61 years old, and to this day he continues to thrill audiences around the world with his pop prowess and ear for a hook. And damn, 61 is pretty young, but consider he's been in music since he was all of 12, back when he released The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie in 1962.

Just yesterday, in our Rocks Off round-table discussion about our favorite Detroit artists, Houston Press staff writer Steve Jansen shouted out to Wonder, writing, "Wonder paved the way with his outer-planetary string of albums that he cut from 1972 to 1976 (starting with Music of My Mind and ending with Songs in the Key of Life) that feature him in full creative control. Aside from 1961 to 1967 John Coltrane, I have yet to be knocked upside the head by any other musician's consecutive multi-year output like I have with Wonder's."

It's hard to argue with that assessment. 1976's Songs is an amazing and sprawling album, a two-LP creation that even included another EP inside the original vinyl packaging upon its release. This year the album turns to 35 years old, and aside from singles like "Sir Duke" and "Isn't She Lovely," it's got bite to it. Listen to "Black Man" or "All Day Sucker," to hear another side of Wonder you may have never knew existed.

Our first intro to Wonder was probably hearing "I Just Called To Say I Love You" in the late '80s while watching the Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner comedy The Woman In Red. We wouldn't hear his early classics, the Little Stevie stuff, until a few years later while immersed in oldies radio in Corpus Christi. Then once we started collecting vinyl on our own, we picked up as much as we could handle from Wonder, like Innervisions, Songs and Talking Book.

Oddly enough, he has only released nine albums in those 35 years since Songs, which in itself wrapped up on extremely busy and creatively fertile period. Right now, we are living in a time in music when most young R&B artists are directly channeling him too, so he's due to come back with a whip-cracking album or two.

Until then, and to say "Happy Birthday," Rocks Off compiled a sort of audio Wonder Cliff's Notes for anyone who isn't down with the funkiest blind man since Ray Charles.

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty