This marvellous book is written by Steve Lodder, who is a well established Jazz Pianist in the UK.
The book covers all aspects of Stevie Wonders career from child prodigy in the early 60's to the 21st century. However it primarily looks at the classic albums of the early to mid 70's.
Music of my Mind
Fulfillingness' First Finale
Songs in the Key of Life
These albums are analyized both musically and lyrically in great detail. In truth if you're not a musician some of this may be hard-going. Additionally separate tracks are given their place in various chapters such as Funk, Ballads etc.
Although Steve Lodder is a professional Jazz Pianist, its clear from the time and effort involved that this was a labour of love. His obvious enthusiasm for his subject, and his all round musical knowledge put this on a completely different level to the usual pop biography. So if thats what your after this is the wrong book.
If you've got the albums above already, you probably already know Stevie Wonder is much more talented than "I just called to say I love you" (for which Lodder has some harsh words). Get this book and you will understand why Lodder says at the end that "Stevie Wonder is just an extraordinary musician".
I can't recommend this book highly enough. There's enough biographical background information to satisfy but it's where the author gets down to a detailed musical analysis of the 4 classic Stevie albums that the book really excels. All musicians should buy this - even drummers.
This was a very informative and enjoyable read. Lodder gives a good outline of how Stevie developed as part of the Motown creative and production processs. As a keyboard player (and synthesiser programmer) he is well placed explain the musical stucture and arrangements of the songs. I am semi-articulate with music theory (chords etc) so some of this was over my head, but I now understand the bass lines, clavinet parts and drum rhythms much better. A strong feature of the account is a truly critical examination of the work. Stevie's career falls roughly into 3 sections with the focus here on the most innovative and challenging work of the mature middle phase (1972-1976). The vagaries of Wonder's later career were a talking point amongst my peers at the time, folks knew to give The Secret life of plants a miss. I had several LOL moments as Lodder proceeds with his autopsy on the bizarre failings of the project. He only goes up to track 5, I was left hoping for more... He also does a nice demolition job on I just called to say I love you, a piece of bland, syrupy confection that back in 1984 led me to write Wonder off such that I almost forgot how brilliant Innervisions had been until 1994. Lodder amusingly tries to restrain the sharpness of his critique while looking at Songs in the Key of Life (1979), but here too he identifies the intial signs of the path into bland and flabby recordings. His suggestion that TONTO (Cecil and Margouleff) were key to channelling and provoking Stevie's muse is very plausible. Just before they began their collabloration the 1971 LP Where I'm coming from reflected Stevie's intent to venture into more challenging material but floundered about and failed to realise this manifesto. Post TONTO he imediately fell off the cutting edge. Stevie Wonder's career highlights the fine line between inspiration and mediocrity. Lodder does well to show why some things worked and others did not. He also asks some important questions about how music technology can distract musicians from creative focus.