Would Stevie’s Wonder stand a chance in our « Modern » Society?

 

It should come as no surprise that I –and probably everyone else on the planet– am a huge fan of Stevie Wonder.  I came across some rare « Stevie footage » recently (see below) and was amazed at the talent and passion this man has possesed for his ENTIRE career.  But then it hit me….. Today…..What network would air this? What label would sign this? What station would play this?
 

Do you think in our day and age, a boy named  Steveland Hardaway Morris (born Judkins), would ever be more than a momentary YouTube sensation?  Would he be forced to search for success by singing popular cover songs on American Idol, the Voice or (insert your show of choice), all the while suppressing his mastery of the written word?   How would he fare in the world of social media, dealing with twitter and Facebook updates?  Would he have to release free mixtapes containing songs like « Ribbon in the Sky, » « As, » and « Overjoyed » all in the hopes of getting discovered?  Furthermore, would we dismantle a standing work like « Songs in the Key of Life » for our iPod playlists–never to digest it as the artist intended?

Would our collective ADHD even allow his name to stay on our tongues for more than a month?

I would like to think that some things are just undeniable, but I see amazing talent flying under the radar everyday so………… I’ll just leave it for you to contemplate. 🙂

I, for one, am just happy that the « Machine » that would put artists like Al Green, Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack, James Brown (to name just a few) out to pasture once they were no longer « Marketable, » was not fully operational at the time.  Still, I am deeply concerned for the future icons that are so needed for the generations to come.

For now, If you see a Wonder in the making spread the word ……..and enjoy some videos from a National Treasure.

 Would he ever be allowed to become the Wonder that is Stevie Wonder?

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10 commentaires sur « Would Stevie’s Wonder stand a chance in our « Modern » Society? »

  1. Such a good observation! As an artist myself, the same concern has crossed my mind. Would the most amazing artists we’ve ever known, ever even have seen the light of day, in this modern machine of the « music industry ».

    Unfortunately, I agree with the assessment you’ve made. I think of artists such as Rahsaan Patterson, Lalah Hathaway, and countless more who are never given their just due as artists and fly, sadly, under the radar…

    My thought is that in another 20 years, the concensus will be « What were they thinking in not paying attention to this? » It leaves a horrible legacy to those who come after us who will go back to looking for the truth, passion, and captivating trueness that is soul music.

    Again, great observation… 🙂

    ~JaTonda

  2. Wow…. this article cut to the core. Chilling to think that a master like Stevie Wonder would be overlooked in the current and mindless lemming parade… popular music has become no more than a little ditty to dance the masses off the edge of the cliff…. And deep to think that the current fashion of picking and choosing singles would completely overlook the gift of a concept album… Songs In The Key of Life was my musical foundation… I came to it after the fact and listened to it constantly… It fueled my commitment to make music and, honestly, I really haven’t heard much since to stand up to its depth. Thank you for this article, as we strive to create worthy music and find a way to get it to appreciative ears, it’s sobering to think that maybe Stevie would be in the same boat, regardless of his mastery, in the current environment. Keep doing what you do, Darien… there are plenty hungry souls in the world, and more born every day.

  3. Good post. I’d like to point out Stevie had some trouble early on in his career too. After « Fingertips Pt. 2 » was successful he didn’t have another hit until 3 years after with « Uptight (Everything’s Alright). »

  4. Wow! Excellent observation Darien. This is certainly a topic worth thinking about considering the state of the music industry today. I can’t imagine a world without national treasures like Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack & the like. There is so much untapped talent out there who have clearly been inspired by the greatness of these legends.

    At one point, there was a consensus that soul music was making a comeback because people were getting tired of all the manufactured music that is saturating the industry. To a certain degree, I feel like there is a small resurgence of this with artist such as Ledisi, Esperanza Spalding and Janelle Monet, becoming more visible but I don’t feel like it’s happening at a rate that creates enough balance. I would love to say with confidence that Stevie Wonder would fare well in this modern music machine…but it’s hard to know for sure…and that in itself is disturbing.

    I feel that The Grammy’s are trying to create a balance to a certain degree by modifying award categories in an effort to keep their reputation for being a rare, distinct and coveted award and something that artists have to strive harder to earn; in other words, creative output must be outstanding (Stevie-Wonder-like) not just popular and widely accepted. Not sure if this is enough to influence greatness or bring overwhelming attention to all the hidden icons out there. But I know some of us can’t and won’t wait for that…we continue to seek amazing music and support it (buy it) on our own.

    I could probably go on and on about this. Great debate! Thanks D.

    Rae

  5. Hmm,
    Mine is going to be a bit of a contrarian screed 🙂

    I think amazing talent has always flown under the radar. For every Stevie that made it, there were a bunch of great artists who never got a look in. Not even a single opportunity to be heard, no demo, no youtube and no web site.

    Artists today have a better chance of being discovered. In Stevie’s day, you had to struggle to even get to the point of recording a demo. In 2011, you can roll out of bed with an idea at 9am and have a recording and a video available to the entire world by 9pm. Well you and a million other artists but I’d still take that over no opportunity at all.

    You could argue that the Machine has become more efficient by crowd sourcing the scouting of new artists, but do not be mistaken, the Machine has always been fully operational!

    Back in the « glory » days, the industry was just as fickle. A gang of great artists did not make it past a single 45 release. Tons of great songwriters languished in obscurity while sexier/cuter artists made hit recordings of their songs and labels constantly spewed out clones by having a million different artists cover hit records while the songs were still in the charts!

    I understand the Machine becoming more efficient though. Why should it pick a « great » artist with 100s of youtube views over a « wack » artist with a million hits?

    I think if Stevie were to come of age in this era, he would still have a very good chance of winning, provided he walked the same path that made him a superstar back in the day. I think Stevie blew up because he wasn’t a clone. His music stood out. His voice was his own. He brought new sounds and themes to the genre. Unfortunately, a lot of the good soul artists today are at best a clone of Stevie/Marvin/Donny. The genre is stuck in a bit of a rut with the endless regurgitation of 70s classics with a sprinkling of golden era boombap. In the age of iTunes, everyone has access to the original 70’s material so why would they buy the dildo clones?

    Soul artists need to gives the punters a reason to go gaga over them. They have to evolve en masse. In short, they need to kill their heroes and forge a new path. They need to make us feel like the audience in Back to the Future did when they heard Marty McFly play Johnny b good!

  6. Thanks so much for your responses!!

    @JaTonda You just named some of my favorite artists and –as an artist– it’s discouraging to see their amazing talent go so unappreciated. The question almost answers itself in the way just these 2 artists are received.

    @Lisa The « mindless lemming parade » comment is so true and I believe that it’s not by coincidence. With music of substance comes consciousness, and the puppeteers would much rather keep your eye off the ball as they send us into wars and plummet us into financial ruin for their own personal gain…. but that is a another blog entirely!!

    @Leon That is also true, but the question is not so much would everything he released be successful, but rather would he even have the initial opportunity

    @GD You know you’re my dude! I greatly appreciate all you do brother!! Coming across people like yourself is our greatest reward and inspires us to continue.

    @Rae You know we build about this on a regular -that is partially what inspired this blog. Oh and about the Grammy’s…. they actually dropped many categories going into 2012 and the category that was pretty much an Indie Artist’s only way in -Best Urban/Alternative Performance (Eric Roberson has been nominated 2x)- has been done away with. « The award will be discontinued from 2012 in a major overhaul of the Grammys where the category will be shifted to the Best R&B Performance category. » I am sure I don’t have to explain what that means.

    @Altern Egro While I respect your opinion, I think you have greatly oversimplified things. It’s easy, in retrospect, to look at Stevie’s amazing talent and catalog and assume nothing could be an obstacle to his success, but in our current reality I am not so sure. The same technology that you rave about in which one can record a song and release a video in a day, has inundated the public with a sea of options to wade through, and little time to do so. Not to mention the fact that music now plays second fiddle to the Internet, facebook, twitter, video games etc…. Today, even Stevie would be a grain of sand fighting for attention on a beachfront of artists.

    As for the « Soul Clones » you speak of, while it is true that many artists have tried to emulate the characteristics of their favorite soul legends, this is not exclusive to soul or music. Every great piece of art and science is built on the backs of those who preceded it. The Internet was not invented from scratch by a rogue thinker, but rather someone who looked at what was available and built on it… computers, infrastructure. Painters/sculpters study Michelangelo…. you get my drift. Also, being unique does not ensure your success. I know for a fact you like J Davey. I certainly wouldn’t call them Stevie Clones and according to your criteria they should have no problem blowing up, yet they have seen little success outside of the underground scene.

    Stevie Wonder and Artists like him are a product of an age when GOOD MUSIC WAS THE MARKETING PLAN. In an age of video, abs and youth have become more popular than lyrics, substance and talent. There are exceptions, and when a brave or visionary individual takes a chance on investing in talent it generally pays off see Adele etc… but it is far too rare and that is the point of this post. The world is not as unconscious as popular music would have you believe.

    BTW: If you want dead heroes TURN ON YOUR RADIO. 😛

    Phewww!!!! That was longer than the blog!!!

  7. WOW Darien, this was an awesome article! And the responses were great, too! There’s definitely so much talent out there that needs to be played on the radio… I don’t listen to the radio as much as I used to and I only like a handful of songs that I DO hear on the radio these days! We need more music like YOURS D! 🙂

  8. What do you view as ‘success’? Selling millions of records? Fame and fortune? The fact is that most ‘artists’ (and i use the term loosely) topping charts today sell their souls to be where they are. The evil that permeates the industry today is palpable from the lyrics, videos and imagery. It is clear that if you want ‘success’ today, you need to play the game. Had he had his time again in todays age, I would like to think that Stevie would not have sold out.

    It is so refreshing to see true artists like yourself Darien making real music with positivity. We need a music revolution as much as a love revolution. But as long as those in control stay in control, i am doubtful we will ever see it.

    I want to encourage you and your crew. Keep doing what you do. You will continue to reach people and touch them through your gift. That is the true measure of success. And whether you get airplay on radio or not, you will reach them. Hey, im in Australia, and i found you. God bless independent media and the net!

    Peace.

    1. Hey Eman,

      Thanks for reaching out and the encouraging words. It’s easy to lose sight of all the positive things the internet has brought musicians at times. Great to know we could make a connection from NY to Australia!

      Be blessed

      Darien

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