The way his music is able to command your mood and thoughts is a power I don’t think any artist will ever be able to master completely.
“You are the sunshine of my life/ that’s why I’ll always be around,” belted a man on the radio. “You are the apple of my eye/ forever you’ll stay in my heart.” Those were such sweet lyrics and are still the words I aspire to be to someone.
If you haven’t started singing the rest of the song in your head, and are still puzzled as to whose song it is, let me relieve your confusion: It’s the incomparable Stevie Wonder. I can’t recall when I first heard his music, but I fell in love with it in college. There was something about the way the lyrics were perfectly put together and expressed love so deeply that I connected with. Whether it was love toward family, a lover, or friend, the love was always seen in its highest regard.
It is the key that can unlock our every treasure, desire, fear, and emotion. It’s the feeling that’s described in “If It’s Magic” and the questions that go through our head as we experience the imagined—and sometimes very real—aftermath of disappointment.
“If it’s magic, then why can’t it be everlasting/ like the sun that always shines/ like the poets endless rhymes/ like the galaxies in time,” Wonder sings. A full simile song, it makes us all wonder if and how things can be different. One thing I noticed writing this is that, unlike the slow ballads I absolutely adore, many of Stevie Wonder’s songs about love have rhythm and melodies you can dance to.
That is such a definitive trait of the man to me. Who can make you want to love harder, be proud of who are, and dance all at the same time with lyrics that, if you really listened to them, you’d probably cry? The way his music is able to command your mood and thoughts is a power I don’t think any artist will ever be able to master completely.
“Ma Cherie Amour,” “Isn’t She Lovely,” “As,” and “Happy Birthday” are songs that make you smile with glee as they play. They are odes to Stevie Wonder’s muses; I can’t think of a better tribute than to be immortalized in song for all to hear over and over again.
But that’s the magical thing about Stevie Wonder. He knows there is a time for everything: a time to smile, a time to cry, a time to love, a time to stand up for what you believe, a time to be proud of who you are—and that’s what he did. Songs like “I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It,” Don’t You Worry about a Thing,” and “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” revealed his character and commitment both to enjoying life and exposing the injustices that people faced at the same time. He’s never forgot his ability to use music as a way to influence someone with the right words over a jamming tune.
By this time I thought I would have narrowed down my favorite Stevie Wonder song, and I think it’s a tie between “That Girl” and “Ribbon in the Sky,” the former because he’s described me to a T in the first verse:
“That girl thinks that she’s so fine that soon she’ll have my mind/ That girl thinks that she’s so smart that soon she’ll have my heart/ She thinks in no time flat that she’ll be free and clear to start…/ She doesn’t use her love to make him weak, she uses love to keep him strong/ and inside me there’s no room for doubt that it won’t be too long… before I tell her that I love her.”
“Ribbon in the Sky” has always been the quintessential wedding song. I remember hearing it at the first wedding I attended, its music and the image of that wedding having stuck with me ever since. Every time I hear that piano intro, my heart smiles and I just feel the love.
“…If allowed, may I touch your hand, and if pleased, may I once again/ So that you too will understand there’s a ribbon in the sky for our love,” Wonder passionately crooned before he harmonized into the second verse: “This is not a coincidence, and far more than a lucky chance/ But what is that was always meant is a ribbon in the sky for our love, love/ We can’t lose with God on our side; we’ll find strength in each tear we cry/ From now on, it will be you and I and our ribbon in the sky for our love.”
Such a beautifully written ode to love, to loving, and to its purity. If this column hasn’t been enough, I sure hope it is a sprinkling of that same ode to you, Stevie Wonder, for your brilliance, your candor, your 32 albums (yes, I know: mind-blowing, and that alone could honestly have been the whole post that made him Brown Suga), your lyrics, your command of music, and your trueness to you.
I hope I get the chance to see you perform in all your glory one day, but until then, I’ll keep the songs in rotation.