[Monday Notes no. 92] Stevie Wonder is one of the most creative and innovative musicians in soul music and beyond. On the album Music Of My Mind Stevie Wonder plays all the instruments, so it is a ‘one man album’ like those recorded years later by Prince and Paul McCartney, to give other examples. Let’s listen to one of the most beautiful tracks, Where Were You When I Needed You.
Besides being an excellent instrumentalist and an even outstanding singer, Stevie Wonder is no less as a composer. Harmonically, the song is built on the shift between the keys of F# Major and F# Minor. However, neither key is established in a really definite way.
In the example below, chords from the F# major scale are highlighted in pink, those from the natural F# minor scale in yellow.
The melody also confirms Stevie Wonder’s desire to mix the major and minor modes. Indeed, we see that in the first phrase the theme is formed by the first five notes of the major mode (measures 1-2) and immediately afterwards by the first five notes of the minor mode (measures 3-4).
The lyrics of Where Were You When I Needed You are well crafted, and metrically perfect. Three moments, past present and future, are treated in the song. The lyrics also touch on three different seasons: the breakup occurred in summer and continued in winter. The protagonist of the song is worried about what will happen in the spring, when the temptation to resume a love that which has already ended will be stronger.
Anche come paroliere Stevie Wonder è tutt’altro che superficiale. In questo album ha messo a frutto tutti i suoi talenti: ha scritto la musica, le parole, ha cantato e suonato Even as a lyricist, Stevie Wonder is therefore all but superficial. On this album, he put all his talents to good use: he wrote the music, the lyrics, he sang and played all the parts. And in all areas he proves to be fully up to the mark, if not outstanding. A truly astonishing result!
Until next Monday