Sir Duke is one of the most easily recognized songs in Wonder's catalog, even if most casual listeners don't know its name; the title is uttered once in a verse, while the "you can feel it all over" chorus gets the more hallowed transcendent repetition treatment. One of its most endearing qualities is how self-consciously it documents the thrill of good music; it's embedded in the melody and arrangement, and further emphasized by the lyrics. Call it meta-pop, a dictated blueprint of the very sensation it evokes; like a cigarette, part of the Sir Duke addiction is concealed in its design. In the autumn of 1976, when Stevie Wonder unveiled Songs in the Key of Life to the world, it was immediately apparent that this was an album of considerable genius and undeniable scope. Here, Zeth Lundy tells the compelling story of the album's background, creation and enduring influence.Zeth Lundy is Music Columns Editor at online magazine PopMatters.33 1/3 is a new series of short books about critically acclaimed and much-loved albums of the last 40 years. Focusing on one album rather than an artist's entire output, the books dispense with the standard biographical background that fans know already, and cut to the heart of the music on each album. The authors provide fresh, original perspectives - often through their access to and relationships with the key figures involved in the recording of these albums. By turns obsessive, passionate, creative, and informed, the books in this series demonstrate many different ways of writing about music. (A task which can be, as Elvis Costello famously observed, as tricky as dancing about architecture.) What binds this series together, and what brings it to life, is that all of the authors - musicians, scholars, and writers - are deeply in love with the album they have chosen.More
Stevie Wonder's 1976 grand soul pop double LP, Songs in the Key of Life, debuted at number one on the charts, surpassing all of its highly anticipated success and going on to become one of the most influential and beloved albums of the 20th century. An ambitious, expansive effort, it contains multitudes; fittingly Zeth Lundy opens his discourse on the album with a quote from Walt Whitman. Lundy takes a holistic approach, splitting his analysis of the album into sections on the themes of birth, innocence, experience, death, and transcendence. Allyson Johnson brings vibrancy to her performance of the audiobook, reflecting Wonder's joys and pains while creating this single minded and celebratory work.
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- T. Griffin