Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Creepin’” by Stevie Wonder

Stevie WonderToday’s Song Of The Day is from Stevie Wonder’s 1974 album Fulfillingness’ First Finale which was released shortly after a car accident that almost took his life, making the album an all-the-more-important part of his canon. While on tour in North Carolina in August of 1973, Wonder’s car smashed into the back of a logging truck, and the bed of the truck crashed into the windshield of his car. Wonder suffered head injuries that left him in a coma for four days. He also partially lost his sense of smell and temporarily lost his sense of taste.

The brush with death had a great impact on the tone of the album, bringing a renewed spirituality and an awareness of his mortality to the lyrics. During the first interview he gave at the hospital several days after the accident, Wonder had this to say: “I was unconscious, and that for a few days, I was definitely in a much better spiritual place that made me aware of a lot of things that concern my life and my future, and what I have to do to reach another higher ground.”

At the time of its release, Fulfillingness’ was seen as somewhat of a disappointment following nearly-perfect records like Innervisions and Talking Book. It also didn’t help that his next record was 1976’s Songs In The Key Of Life which was a critically acclaimed double album, leading most people to gloss over this record.

However, upon closer inspection, Fulfillingness’ is a first rate collection of songs that finds Stevie Wonder in transition, but still stands mighty tall amongst his other releases. And any album that can sport classics like “Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away,” “You Haven’t Done Nothin’,” “It Ain’t No Use,” “Boogie On Reggae Woman,” “They Won’t Go When I Go” and “Please Don’t Go” betters most of the records on the musical landscape circa 1974.

Like on his previous albums, Wonder played almost all of the instruments here, enlisting  first class help from Michael Sembello on guitar, Sneaky Pete Kleinow on pedal steel,  James Jamerson and Reggie McBride on bass, and on background vocals The Jackson 5, Minnie Riperton, Deniece Williams, Paul Anka, Syreeta Wright, The Persuasions, Shirley Brewer and Jim Gilstrap.

The album was his first to top the Billboard album charts and it spawned two big singles including the funky “Boogie on Reggae Woman” (#1 R&B/#3 Pop) and his indictment of the Nixon administration, “You Haven’t Done Nothin'” (#1 R&B/#1 Pop) featuring background vocals by the Jackson 5. It also won three Grammy Awards for Best Male Pop Vocal, Best Male Rhythm and Blues Vocal Performance (for “Boogie On Reggae Woman”), and Album of the Year.

When it comes to a vibe, today’s Song Of The Day has it all: dreamy atmosphere, lush melody and deeply romantic lyrics. The song features Wonder on lead and background vocals, Fender Rhodes, harmonica, drums, Moog bass and T.O.N.T.O. synthesizer. Crucially, the vibe comes down to the T.O.N.T.O. (The Original New Timbral Orchestra) synthesizer that was the first and largest multitimbral polyphonic analog synthesizer in the world. It was brought into the fray by Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff and used on Wonder’s three previous albums. The female background vocals on the track were supplied by Minnie Riperton, and the song was also covered by Luther Vandross and Kenny Rankin.

Bottom line: the run of records Stevie Wonder released from 1971’s Music Of My Mind through 1976’s Songs In The Key Of Life are an essential part to any comprehensive music collection!

Well, it seems that Stevie Wonder’s recording of “Creepin’” has been blockedon YouTube by thought police (or is that the thoughtless police) at the record companies. So if you have Spotify or this Stevie Wonder album, I recommend that you cue it up and enjoy it while reading this…and if you don’t have it, buy it immediately…and you can thank me later.

About Eric Berman