Tag: Macy Gray

GBN’s MERRY MONTH OF STEVIE: Stevie Wonder’s “Talking Book” Speaks Again Through Its Covers (LISTEN)

by Jeff Meier (FB: Jeff.Meier.90)

On a previous post, GBN presented a playlist featuring all cover versions (remakes) from Stevie Wonder‘s legendary album “Songs in the Key of Life.”

With today’s playlist, from our month of playlists devoted to Stevie Wonder in honor of his 70th birthday, we take the same approach to Stevie’s 1972 watershed album, “Talking Book.” “Talking Book” is at the front end of Stevie’s period of immense creativity in the 1970s.

Still in his early 20s, and having won creative freedom over his work in his newest Motown contract, he created a multi-textured album filled with funk rhythms, smooth soul, and swinging pop – all merged together into one genius record that still sounds great today. (To hear NPR’s “Story of Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book” segment, click here.)

The album kicks off with the elegant “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” – which has become Stevie’s most-covered song, with over 250 versions recorded by other artists through the years according to SecondHandSongs.com (a website devoted to cover songs).

Many of those versions are similar. As evidence of Stevie’s complete crossover popularity by that point in his career, ‘Sunshine’ actually became an easy listening staple, performed by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Johnny Mathis to Liza Minnelli – and also by Jim Nabors, Vicki Lawrence, Brigitte Bardot and Englebert Humperdinck.

Opening with alternative rocker Jack White‘s version of that standard, our goal is to give you a playlist that feels both familiar to your memories of the original album, but also stretches musically to a few new places.

We’ve mixed in rock, easy listening, funk, dance, a cappella, jazz, Brazilian by artists as diverse as Macy Gray, Rufus, Michael Bublé and Sergio Mendes. We’ve placed the songs in their original album order, and have limited each song to one version – and each covering artist to only one track.

The list concludes with one of the newest Stevie Wonder covers – actress Da’Vine Joy Randolph beautifully covers “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)” for the soundtrack to “High Fidelity,” the new Hulu series in which she co-stars. Set around the vinyl-obsessed employees of a small independent record store, the choice to cover Stevie circa 2020 demonstrates that the music faithful still remain true believers in the sounds of Mr. Wonder.


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NYC’s Motown to Def Jam Art Exhibit Celebrates the Legacy of Black Music

Souleo, Aanisah Hinds, Macy Gray. From Motown to Def Jam.
Souleo, Aanisah Hinds, Macy Gray. From Motown to Def Jam. (Photo: John Brathwaite)

Curator and art afficiando Souleo has put together a multi-destination art exhibition called “Motown to Def Jam” in collaboration with ArtCrawl Harlem in New York City.

The meticulously planned, four-gallery, 49-artist exhibition takes visitors from the early days of Chess Records in the mid 20th century, all the way through to the contemporary offerings of rap and R&B label Def Jam in a series of visionary visual works.  Also referenced in the show are the legendary Stax and Philadelphia International labels that helped pave the way in bringing new African-American sounds to the mainstream.

For pieces in the show, participating artists created or contributed works that described their interpretations of specific songs from singers and rappers at these record labels. Each piece, inspired by a beloved song, or songwriter, from black and American pop music history, brings black music history to life in a new way.

“A lot of people don’t know that June is African-American Music Appreciation Month,” said Souleo. “I wanted to share our struggles and triumphs and the unique ways that we express ourselves. For example, instead of the usual pop hits from Motown, I wanted to use more of the later socio-political music that came out of Motown.”

A lively Black Music Month kickoff

Souleo kicked off the five-weeks exhibit with gallery tours and a series of parties. An exhibition this grand required not one, but four different galleries, and these ancillary events connected them all.

The guides for a special preview tour were celebrity columnist and author Flo Anthony, pop culture critic Patrick Riley, historian John T. Reddick and renaissance media man Walter Rutledge. “I chose these people as the tour guides because they are the experts and they have been in the same room with some of these musical artists. They can give those extra tidbits that you would not get anywhere else,” said Souleo.

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