When discussing the music of the 1970s, you can’t go too long before the name Stevie Wonder comes up. Three of his albums, “Innervisions”, “Fullfillingness’ First Finale” and”Songs in the Key of Life” won Grammy Awards for Best Album. Twelve of his twenty-five Grammys were won during the decade.
However, his transformation from the thirteen-year-old billed as Little Stevie Wonder to the mature, serious musician didn’t come overnight. You don’t go from “Fingertips” to “You Haven’t Done Nothin'” and “Sir Duke” overnight. There has to be a transition period where your musical chops develop. For Stevie Wonder, that period was the few albums right before the triad of Grammy winners.
In 1971, Wonder was frustrated by the track of his career. His music was tightly controlled by Motown owner Berry Gordy. Although he was putting out one top ten hit after another, he was looking for a change. Stevie wanted more input into the songs and the production of his records. He felt he needed this to become more of a serious musician. He threatened to leave the label unless he could control these things. The album “Where I’m Coming From” was the first where all the songs were written and produced by Wonder.
It’s now fifty years since the release of this album. Although it’s obvious that in the record you can see the start of his musical growth, how does the music hold up five decades later?
Two of the songs should be considered as Wonder classics. “If You Really Loved Me” and “I Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer” stand out. You can find both of them on a greatest hits collection. Also, on an album that consists of mostly songs about current events commentary, they’re the two tunes about love and relationships. The rest of the album is forgettable. If you look at the track list, you won’t see anything else that you remember, fifty years later.
Although “Where I’m Coming From” is far from Stevie Wonder’s best music, it does set the stage for the greatness that is soon to come. That in itself makes it worth a listen.
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