Artist: Stevie Wonder
Title: “Songs in the Key of Life”
No, I’d never heard “Songs in the Key of Life.” Stop judging me.
Not only that, I’d never heard – in its entirety – any of the albums from Stevie Wonder’s incredible ’70s stretch.
What surprised me was how much of “Songs” I actually did already know. “Sir Duke” and “I Wish” were familiar funk R&B classics, I just didn’t know their names. “Pastime Paradise” lays the framework for Coolio’s ’90s rap hit “Gangsta’s Paradise.”
A double album, the first side is bangin’, but really takes flight with “Duke,” written in tribute to Duke Ellington, who died in ’74. The second platter starts with “Isn’t She Lovely?,” perhaps the most enduring track on “Songs.”
There are a few tracks that feel like filler, but “Songs” truly covers a spectrum of human emotion, as the title would suggest: birth, first love, the birth of children, racial harmony, social issues.
It’s considered the height of Wonder’s ’70s output and there’s no question why: quality songs, innovation, emotion. I honestly don’t know why I’ve never heard this before.
Our Music Year is Daily Republic popular culture writer Nick DeCicco’s yearlong online review in 2012 of albums he had previously not listened to. The reviews will appear in print on their corresponding days during 2013. Reach him at 427-6966 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ndeciccodr.