Songs in the Key of Life: Stevie Wonder's Magnum Opus
Songs in the Key of Life is the eighteenth studio album by American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Stevie Wonder. Released in 1976 by Motown's subsidiary label Tamla Records, the album is widely regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time and a landmark achievement in Wonder's prolific career. The album consists of two LPs and a bonus EP, containing a total of 21 songs that span various genres, styles and themes.
The album was the result of Wonder's creative peak in the 1970s, which earned him three consecutive Album of the Year Grammy Awards for Innervisions (1973), Fulfillingness' First Finale (1974) and Songs in the Key of Life (1976). Wonder had considered quitting the music business in 1975, but he was persuaded to stay by his fans and his label, who offered him a historic deal that gave him full artistic control and a high royalty rate. Wonder spent nearly two years working on the album, recording over 200 songs with various musicians and engineers at different studios across the country.
The album covers a wide range of topics, such as love, spirituality, social justice, racism, childhood, parenthood and mortality. Wonder showcases his musical versatility and innovation by incorporating elements of funk, soul, jazz, pop, rock, gospel, classical and world music. He also makes extensive use of synthesizers, especially the Yamaha GX-1, which he used to create rich orchestral sounds and complex harmonies. Some of the album's most notable songs include \"Sir Duke\", a tribute to Duke Ellington and other jazz legends; \"I Wish\", a nostalgic look at Wonder's childhood; \"Isn't She Lovely\", a joyful celebration of his newborn daughter; \"Pastime Paradise\", a social commentary that samples the Hare Krishna mantra; \"As\", a romantic ballad that features a long fade-out; and \"Another Star\", a Latin-infused disco track that closes the album.
Songs in the Key of Life was a critical and commercial success, topping the Billboard 200 chart for 14 weeks and selling over 10 million copies worldwide. It also received numerous accolades and awards, including four Grammys and an induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame. The album has been praised by many musicians and critics as an influential masterpiece that showcases Wonder's artistic genius and musical vision. Rolling Stone ranked it number four on its list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Songs in the Key of Life is more than just an album; it is a musical journey that explores the joys and sorrows of life through Wonder's unique perspective and voice. It is an album that transcends time and genre, and remains relevant and inspiring to this day.The album also features a bonus EP titled A Something's Extra, which contains four additional songs that were not included on the original LPs due to space limitations. These songs are \"Saturn\", a cosmic ode to an ideal planet; \"Ebony Eyes\", a funky love song; \"All Day Sucker\", a humorous tale of infatuation; and \"Easy Goin' Evening (My Mama's Call)\", a mellow instrumental. The EP was later incorporated into the CD reissue of the album as bonus tracks.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Songs in the Key of Life is the variety and quality of the musicians who contributed to the album. Wonder played most of the instruments himself, but he also enlisted the help of some of the best session players and singers in the industry, such as Herbie Hancock, George Benson, Minnie Riperton, Michael Sembello, Deniece Williams, Syreeta Wright, and many others. Wonder also collaborated with some of his musical heroes and influences, such as Ella Fitzgerald, who sang a scat solo on \"Another Star\"; Dizzy Gillespie, who played trumpet on \"Black Man\"; and Ray Charles, who sang a duet with Wonder on \"Isn't She Lovely\" (this version was not released until 2002).
The album was also notable for its innovative use of technology and production techniques. Wonder was one of the first artists to use the Yamaha GX-1 synthesizer, which he nicknamed \"the Dream Machine\". The GX-1 was capable of producing realistic orchestral sounds and complex polyphonic textures, which Wonder used to create lush arrangements and harmonies. Wonder also experimented with digital recording and sampling, using devices such as the Computer Music Melodian and the E-mu Emulator. He also employed various effects and processing tools, such as flanging, phasing, delay, reverb, and auto-tune. aa16f39245