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14. Sharing The Knowledge, Fewer Cared

Stevie Wonder Secret Life of PlantsAs far back as 1974, Michael Braun approached Stevie to write a theme song for a movie he was making called the Secret Life of Plants. The movie was to be based on a best selling book of the same name authored by Christopher Tompkins and Peter Bird. However after Stevie presented the song, the film producers requested that Stevie do the entire soundtrack to the movie. Having never attempted such a task, Stevie felt it would be a challenge for a blind person to not just score a movie but one with a very unusual subject matter.

With three years in the making, Stevie Wonders Journey Through The Secret Life of Plants was finally released in October of 1979. It did not help that the movie was not generally released, hence the public never had a chance to see the movie and appreciate and understand the soundtrack as intended by Stevie.

As expected the music was a complete evolution in style, surpassing in scale anything he had since produced. He incorporated much symphonic musical styles, blending African, Indian and Japanese music also in the fray, showing the diverse life and understandings of plants from various cultures worldwide.

However being released in an era where disco was the fad, it was not surprising that Secret Life of Plants failed to garner the public acceptance afforded Stevie's albums since Music Of My Mind. As the lyrics to a song, Same Old Story, on the album declares:

And those who knew that shared
Their knowledge fewer cared
About what plants could do

Stevie Wonder
Stevie WonderNevertheless, it was an album of which Stevie could be proud. It has to be his most underrated and misunderstood albums in his repertoire. The stylistic range of the album was impressive, starting with Earth's Creation and The First Garden to the melodic sitar based Voyage to India, to the jazzy Venus Flytrap right through to the two spectacular closing tracks, Tree and Finale, an astoundingly beautiful climax to the record. In between Stevie finds space for some standard ballads that would supposedly avail it to radio station play lists. These were Send One Your Love, Black Orchid and Outside My Window. Syreeta performs lead vocals on Come Back As A Flower, a song on which she wrote the lyrics.

Stevie felt he was growing and being innovative. He could have followed the music scene at the time and brought out a disco album, which I am sure would have been better accepted, but as he says, If you don't take a chance in life, then you really cannot move forward.

A tour to promote the album did not fare too well. Concerts featuring an orchestra and Wonderlove with a large screen portraying clips from the movie in synch with the live music were quite a spectacular affair. However they were received with a lukewarm reception with many venues failing to sell-out. A disappointed Stevie reflected, I have to think why it was not (successful) - were people unable to get into the Secret Life Of Plants? The true meaning of an artist is to be expressive and innovative. A lot of things have been afforded me by the people, so I have to share with them the experiences I have had and am having.