Yesterday marked Stevie Wonder’s birthday.
Many of the people who know me know that music is very important to me. It has the power to change a whole nation of people. I grew up in a house where music was used to inform, to comfort, and to educate my siblings and I. My dad and I would drive around town listening to Earth Wind and Fire and listening to him tell anecdotes about the exact moment he first heard “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.”
I had always known about Stevie Wonder, but at the end of my junior year, Stevie’s music started really speaking to me.
There was a boy at a private school across town who I was just in love with…you know, that high school type of “love.” He was a year older and I thought maybe he’d take me to his prom. He told me he hadn’t found a date yet.
And then, as high school drama goes, I found out he indeed had a date, and it wasn’t met.
The night of his prom, to take my mind off of the disappointment, my dad came to my room and said, “Let’s go to Marina Del Rey.”
At the time there was a HUGE Tower Records in Marina Del Rey, California where dad and I would go to buy music and sometimes just to stroll around and talk. This time, though, he said we should get a copy of Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions album. At this point I had only heard a few tracks: “Don’t you Worry ‘Bout a Thing,” “Higher Ground,” “Living for the City,” and I think I was at least familiar with “Golden Lady.”
But when dad and I got home, we listened to the album in its entirety. By the time we got to the end of the album, I had forgotten all about not being at my high school love’s prom. Besides realizing how much of the conscious rap I had been into at the time was influenced by Stevie’s work, I realized that my Dad gave me this incredible opportunity to think deeper about the stories Stevie told in his music.
Visions made me consider my dreams, and my goals for the future as I looked forward to college.
“Higher Ground”, “He’s Misstra Know-it-All”, and “Livin for the City” made me think differently about social change, not only as a career but as a life passion.
I still revisit Innervisions for days when I need inspiration and an example of the way that music informs a generation and, sometimes, invokes a higher power.
Thank you Dad, for teaching me about Stevie Wonder that Friday night.