It is perfectly understandable if your perception of Stevie Wonder has been tainted by “I Just Called To Say I Love You.” Barry at Championship Vinyl eloquently posed the question:
“Top five musical crimes perpetuated by Stevie Wonder in the ’80s and ’90s. Go. Sub-question: is it in fact unfair to criticize a formerly great artist for his latter day sins, is it better to burn out than to fade away?”
To answer that question (and sub-question), though, you really need to be familiar with the artist in question’s “formerly great” period. Specifically, Stevie’s 1972-1976 albums “Music of My Mind,” “Talking Book,” “Innervisions,” “Fulfillingness’ First Finale,” and “Songs in the Key of Life.” If you grew up in the 80s like I did, chances are your first radio exposure to Stevie Wonder was something like “Part Time Lover.”
Obviously, Stevie has chosen to fade away.
But if you’ve somehow never gotten to know Stevie in the 70s, then you’re missing out on a spectacular and essential series of albums that have influenced every generation of musicians that has followed. This great article on Slate is a perfect introduction to the incredible musical tapestry Wonder created during that period.
Read. Listen. Then find it in your heart to forgive latter day sins.