Stevie’s funk

Some genres of music ask that you remain still–to listen closely, and to reflect.  Some compel you to move.

stevie-wonder-131

Between March of 1972 and September of 1976, Stevie Wonder released five hugely influential albums: Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness’ First Finale, and Songs in the Key of Life, the latter three of which won Grammy Awards for Album of the Year.  All five albums feature funk numbers, but the best of the bunch–for me– is “You Haven’t Done Nothin'”, from 1974’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale.

2012-12-30-Stevie_Wonder_Fulfillingness_First_Finale

Wonder plays a Hohner clavinet, hi-hat and cymbal; Reggie McBride delivers the strong electric bass line that is the sine qua non of any funk song; and the Jackson 5 chime in with background vocals.  If this music doesn’t have you in some kind of motion 10 seconds in, I suggest you check your pulse.

Unlike many songs rooted in funk, “You Haven’t Done Nothin'” has lyrics that offer  pointed political and social commentary, in this case a scathing critique of President Nixon, who, at the time of the album’s release, was about two weeks away from resigning in disgrace in the wake of the Watergate scandal.  In response to a comment about the song’s pairing of stinging lyrics with an infectious rhythm, Wonder explained:

“The best way to get an important and heavy message across is to wrap it up nicely. It’s better to try and level out the weight of the lyrics by making the melody lighter. After all, people want to be entertained, which is all right with me. So if you have a catchy melody instead of making the whole song sound like a lesson, people are more likely to play the tune. They can dance to it and still listen to the lyrics and hopefully think about them.”

Alas, the lyrics could be as appropriately directed at any number of dishonest/corrupt/blinkered/ineffective elected officials in Washington D.C. today as they were 39 years ago.

Take a listen.  And move!

We are amazed but not amused
By all the things you say that you’ll do
Though much concerned but not involved
With decisions that are made by you

But we are sick and tired of hearing your song
Telling how you are gonna change right from wrong
‘Cause if you really want to hear our views
“You haven’t done nothing”!

It’s not too cool to be ridiculed
But you brought this upon yourself
The world is tired of pacifiers
We want the truth and nothing else

And we are sick and tired of hearing your song
Telling how you are gonna change right from wrong
‘Cause if you really want to hear our views
“You haven’t done nothing”!

Jackson 5 join along with me say
Do da walk- hey hey hey
Do da walk- wow wow wow
Do da walk- co co co
Do da walk- naw naw naw
Do da walk- bum bum bum
Do da walk

We would not care to wake up to the nightmare
That’s becoming real life
But when mislead who knows a person’s mind
Can turn as cold as ice un hum

Why do you keep on making us hear your song
Telling us how you are changing right from wrong
‘Cause if you really want to hear our views
“You haven’t done nothing”!
Yeah

Jackson 5 sing one more time say
Do da walk
Do da walk- oh
Do da walk- co co co
Do da walk- sing it Jackie!
Do da walk- bum bum bum
Do da walk- um
Sing it loud for your people say
Do da walk- um um um

Do da walk- stand up be counted, say
Do da walk- co co co
Do da walk- ow
Do da walk- bum bum bum
Do da walk- ah hum


Even Andy Williams can’t keep still when introducing Wonder at the 1975 Grammy Awards.

One comment

  • Stevie Wonder was a close friend of my high school basketball coach (Detroit) and several times sang the National Anthem before our games and would then sit at the end of our bench for the games. Sadly, he was a young skinny person at that time and there were always hecklers in the crowd.

    Derrik

    Sent from my iPhone

    Like

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