Music Between The Lines (August 2014)

I’ve had a quiet suspicion about something over the last couple of years. A development of an idea, a belief that is so significant to my love of music that I’ve chosen to keep it to myself up until now.  Maybe this sounds a little dramatic, but I have come to the realisation that Stevie Wonder may just be the single greatest musical talent to have ever existed in popular music. As a singular entity, a masterful songwriter, a prodigious musician who often plays 90-100% of all the instruments on his songs and as the creative embodiment of the innervisions in one‘s mind, Stevie Wonder has it all.

For many years Stevie Wonder was a part of my life like some part time lover. I knew his greatest hits like most people did- Superstition, Signed Sealed Delivered, Isn’t She Lovely – but I never went digging further. I just didn’t think enough people spoke about him in revered enough terms for me to take a detour from my path of musical discovery … forgive me, I was young.

But bit-by-bit I discovered more and more of Wonder’s music and each discovery continued to stun me. But it was only when I recently learnt that the classic Ja Rule track Livin it Up – yes it’s a classic – was in fact a sampled re-imagining of a Stevie song Do I Do that I truly realised two things. One, Stevie Wonder is a genius and two, Ja Rule isn’t that good.

I had heard about a ‘classic period’ in Wonder’s career, where he was changing the landscape of rhythm and blues and enjoyed his greatest period of success. That’s the ultimate goal, can you be the best at what you do and be the most popular at the same time? For a period of time Stevie Wonder was.


Between 1972 and 1976 Wonder released Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, FulfillingnessFirst Finale and the magnum opus that is Songs in the Key of Life. During this era Wonder won some 13 Grammy awards and created a batch of work that forms the reference point to every artist he has ever influenced. You’ll hear Kanye West telling reporters he wants to make something as great as Innervisions, you’ll hear John Legend covering a different song from this group of albums every couple of months and Elton John claiming he never makes an overseas trip without packing a copy of Songs in the Key of Life.

During the course of this ‘classic period’ Wonder created a new sonic canvas to express the various styles of popular music he had fallen in love with. His refusal to recognise that the white population had taken ownership of rock n roll in the 70s or that gospel music was exclusive to black American churches means that in his music, you’ll find the most glorious amalgamation of all that is great in music. He also wrote freely about every idea he had. From criticising US President Richard Nixon (He’s Misstra Know it All, You Haven’t Done Nothin), to the enduring spirit of love (You and I), the pursuit of spiritual awakening (Higher Ground) and the preciousness of life itself (If It’s Magic).

He made phenomenal music both before and after this golden period, but once you’re done listening to his greatest hits and realising his music has always been a part of your life, turn your attention to this period of Wonder’s work – you won’t regret it.

Kog Ravindran is a writer, occasionally sings for Melbourne band, The Scarecrows and currently has his debut solo EP Barricades out in the world. Find out all about him at or check him out on Triple J Unearthed.