3. One Hit Wonder?
Stevie says that he is
fortunate that God gave him the gift and made it possible for him to create. Most important, says
Stevie, is that I was able to live in a
family situation where I was loved and encouraged. If you lack any of those
things, it can throw you off balance as to what is to be or not.
Motown was a special place for
Little Stevie Wonder. It provided him with more than enough parents, Everyone over 11 was my parent, Clarence Paul loved me
like his own son, Esther Edwards, Berry Gordy's sister, Ardena Johnson, all the
musicians and artists watched over me. Wanda of the Marvelettes would always
tell me when she thought I was eating too much candy. I wish kids today could
have the same kind of caring expressed and shown to them. Today there is a lack
of concern for others and for ones' self.
Adults began to recognise Stevie
as an entertainer after Fingertips. They compared him with Ray Charles. Stevie
was labelled, The 12 Year Old Genius I'd say 'What is a genius?' I was not able
to compare anything to anything. I was having fun. I felt that I was only
having fun and that the Ray Charles was the professional.
Between his recordings of 1963
and 1965, several major events took place in Stevie's career. There were two
traumatic events. My voice changed. Clarence Paul was producing
With A Song In My Heart, Dream, Smile, Make Someone Happy, etc. All the keys had been done. In 1964, Stevie went
on tour with the Supremes and the Temptations. At the beginning of the tour
Clarence had all the keys, after the tour and back in the studio, all of the
keys were too high for Stevie. My second
tragedy was not having the opportunity to meet Dinah Washington. She had
expressed a desire to meet me but when I got off the tour in the South, she was
performing. She past away soon after that.
Little Stevie Wonder was
beginning to mature. He was taller, had a moustache and was talking to girls on
the phone. Instead of throwing his tie out to the audience he was hoping that
the girls would throw phone numbers on stage.
Not to overlook his studies,
Stevie was fortunate enough to acquire a private teacher to travel with him.
One who cared about him very much. Ted Hull
could see well enough to not be considered blind and was considered partially
sighted. By Ted having experience of travel around the world, he helped me a
great deal from the standpoint of understanding what blindness is about, how to
deal and communicate with people.
A person who had no experience
of travelling the world may not have been able to so readily understand the
things that should be checked out by a person with the opportunities. If Ted
had been a different person he might have felt that as long as we got the
studies done and toured a little that would be enough. But he explained the
foreign currencies to me, taught me about the electric currents and their
differences. He connected the blind world with the sighted world.
Stevie recalls a personal
experience shared by Ted and himself. I met
a person in a record shop while I was signing autographs. I thought this person
was so nice, had such a nice voice. I kept holding this person's hand. The
person's name was Bobbie. After we left the shop, I asked Ted about Bobbie.
Wasn't that girl nice? Ted said, 'What girl?' The girl in the record shop whose
hand I was holding. Ted fell out into hysterics. "That was a boy,
Stevie." Then I broke out into hysterics.
I was into voices at the time I
thought by the voice being high that Bobbie was a short girl. I don't know how
funny that would be today, but it was funny then.
The time period between
Fingertips and Uptight was crucial. One of Motown's producers suggested that
along with some of their other artists, that they drop Little Stevie Wonder. He
had gone 2 years without a hit record. The singles Workout Stevie Workout, Castles In The Sand, Hey
Harmonica Man, Kiss Me Baby and High Heal Sneakers did
not fare too well on the charts. None of them charted in the UK and only
Hey Harmonica Man entered
the US top 30 at 29.
It was evident that much of the
material selected for Stevie during that period was inappropriate for his age
and vocal styling. It was left to Stevie himself and a new team of songwriters
to see how best they could rescue his career.