Friday, May 29, 2009

Rock of Ages: Stevie Wonder - "Living For the City" (1973)

Stevie Wonder is a man of many sounds. From his early, more cookie cutter Motown sound as a child genius, to his late 60's early 70's funk high period to his more mellow adult contemporary sounds that he would alter morph into, Stevie has kept us guessing. The man is nothing short of a genius and on his crowning achievement, 1973's Innervisions, we get his best collection of tracks. "Higher Ground" or "He's Misstra Know It All" are standards as is this selection for the Rock of Ages mission. "Living for the City" is Stevie Wonder's finest musical acheivment filled with anger, frustration and desperation. With great help from Stevie's best instrument of the time, the synthesizer, we get a pulsating and scathing social commentary about the harsh realities of a still brewing Civil Rights conflict. The story shows a boy raised in the hateful South saving his dues and moving to the city only to find the same hatred and injustice. The music mirrors this perfectly with a brooding synth line that is accentuated by Stevie's voice.

Stevie Wonder is one of the best artists to come out of the Motown factory and it was in Innervisions that he really stretched his writing chops. "Living For the City" is still a pertinent social commentary. Wonder's gruff growl at the end shows desperation and fatigue for a struggle that has gone on too long and even today still goes on. Beyond that, the song is a powerful anthem with an intense musical structure that just plain rocks. This is Stevie's most powerful song by far.

Up Next: Lou Reed sums up a "Perfect Day"

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