Stevie Wonder Logo


19. Things Are Getting Real Funky

Stevie WonderTo coincide with the 1987 release of Stevie's new album, Characters, he toured the UK and released the single Skeletons.

Stevie was now more involved in worldly affairs like injustices and the like rather than recording. By using his fame and fortune to make people aware of the many wrongs taking place in this world, many say distracted from the quality and frequency of the work at hand. With Characters Stevie wanted to explore the nature of life and the various characters that go to make up people and their relationships. The album kicks off with You Will Know a nice song sprinkled with a beautiful melody, a nice starlight synthesizer sound effect and a great message of knowing God and your place in this great world of his. Overall a pretty good album opener.

Dark And Lovely
packs a solid groove. It's another anti-apartheid song featuring some good keyboard work. In Your Corner is probably not the best song Stevie's ever done. A far cry from the classics of previous year, but would probably have some tapping their feet. With Each Beat OF My Heart is an overlooked gem. Stevie mixes a beautiful melody, great background vocal arrangements, a great harmonica solo and a sample of his heartbeat all together to create this beautiful piece of music. A very creative track. One Of A Kind an up-tempo love song in the mould of tracks like I Ain't Gonna Stand For It however not in its class.

Skeletons is a very good political song about the skeletons that can sometimes fall out of a politicians closet. The song was written and released around the time of the Contra-Gate scandal with Oliver North and Reagan. And it worked perfectly in that atmosphere. A funky beat matched with a scratchy keyboard line, Skeletons is very danceable and yet thinkable at the same time:

Oh things are gettin' real funky
Down at the old corral
And it's not the skunks that are stinkin'
It's the stinkin' lies you tell

Stevie Wonder
Get It featuring Michael Jackson is another average dance tune that really failed to pack the punch. Galaxy Paradise is a very different song for Stevie. Something completely out of his style. It makes for interesting listening, using a lot of synthesizer sounds and the starlight. Cryin' Through The Night is another up-tempo song ala One Of A Kind from earlier. Free is certainly an overlooked classic from Stevie. On the original vinyl album, this was the last song and it is one of the best album finales he's ever had. However on the CD it is followed by two rather mediocre tracks which tend to hide its greatness. Come Let Me Make Your Love Come Down features Stevie, Stevie Ray Vaughn and B.B. King doing a song together. Yet it somehow does not live up to the potential you would expect from such a trio. The CD album closes with My Eyes Don't Cry with Stevie doing it all on the synthesizer. Drums, horns, bass, everything.

After his UK gigs, Stevie's tour party rolled into Europe and Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland making him the first Motown artist to perform in Eastern Bloc countries and the first to release an album, Characters, there.

After a relatively quiet three years, with the usual guest appearances on fellow artists' records, Stevie released the single Keep Our Love Alive in 1990. A song mainly in condemnation of apartheid, but generally describing the evils manifest in man, but in usual Stevie style pointing to the solution through love. It fuelled speculation about the release of a new album. However the single did not fare too well in the charts, managing a best position of 24 on the R&B charts. Maybe this resulted in the holding back of the planned album Conversation Piece.

He however found time to write and produce a song for Whitney Houston, We Didn't Know on her album I'm Your Baby Tonight. He also attended the funeral of Stevie Ray Vaughn who died in a helicopter crash, where he, Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne sang an emotional rendition of Amazing Grace at the graveside.