Stevie Wonder – The Definitive Collection

Stevie Wonder
The Definitive Collection

My mother, who has been unsure of what to get me for Christmas for the last 10 years, was quite confused when this album appeared on my wish-list around the holidays along side my normal list of noise bands she’s never heard of and never will. The very idea of her stumbling across a name she was familiar with on a wish-list for a boy who spent the better part of his younger teenage years blasting incoherent punk rock at ear damaging volumes, slamming lots of doors, and butchering Plow United songs on his Kent studio series strat copy, was actually what confused her the most. She assumed it was a mistake. She even asked someone I used to know back in high school if that album was something I’d ask for; he responded ‘no’. So she ordered my replacement copy of The Shape of Punk to Come and a Godspeed You! Black Emperor album, I believe, but no Stevie for Daniel.
It wasn’t till I came home for the holidays and made a reference to the album that it clicked in my mother’s head that no mistakes were made, and that I really did want the album. “Why?” she asked. I wasn’t really sure what to say. On one hand, Mr. Wonder has probably influenced more musicians than anyone ever; injecting them with golden Midas touches of soul, groove – and, need I say, the funk. Stevie pops up in other people’s music all over the place, even though he has been quite out of his own personal limelight in the past 10 years. It’s his relevance that is so important; and how he plays such a giant role in all the other music that makes up my life. How people still pull from his creativity and fuse it into their own work. But trying to explain The Dismemberment Plan to my mother would simply just take too long.
On the other hand, it’s simply too good of a collection not to own. I wish he had found his way into my conscious years ago, before I started picking up Ramones and Queers albums and dumbing myself down. As a musician, those simple punk bands taught me how to write the pop songs that years later I would be deconstructing. Those basics are crucial to almost any other genre in music writing, but just imagine if I had learned my basics from Stevie instead of Joey? I can’t even imagine where I’d be.
The Definitive Collection is just magical first song to last. No question about that. It’s perfect. Well, except the chorus of “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” I always hated that part, even though the silky smoothness of the verses is simply mind-blowing. Starting off with his 1963 performance of “Fingertips (Part 2)” as a 13-year-old boy, he tears the roof off with the energy of four James Browns stuffed in a young childs body. Moving through his career of musical staples such as “Superstition,” “Higher Ground,” and “Sir Duke,” to all the songs It just never occurred to me he wrote (“Signed Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours.” I JUST NEVER KNEW.) (Unfortunatly, “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)” was not included.) It’s like a religious experience.
The rather complete liner notes say it best. “He is always caring, giving, and joyful. That joy is contagious. His music is infused with it. People are drawn to him because of it – they share in his joy and love him for it.”