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Innervisions

Innervisions

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Innervisions is the sixteenth album by American musician Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
Stevland Hardaway Morris , better known by his stage name Stevie Wonder, is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and activist...

, released August 3, 1973 on Motown Records
Motown Records
Motown is a record label originally founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. and incorporated as Motown Record Corporation in Detroit, Michigan, United States, on April 14, 1960. The name, a portmanteau of motor and town, is also a nickname for Detroit...

; a landmark recording of his "classic period". The nine tracks of Innervisions encompass a wide range of themes and issues: from drug abuse in "Too High," through social anger in "Living for the City
Living for the City
"Living for the City" is a 1973 hit single by Stevie Wonder for the Tamla label, from his Innervisions album. Reaching #8 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart and #1 on the R&B chart, the record is driven by a slow bass synth groove that manages to exude a certain amount of tension, an appropriate...

," to love in the ballads "All in Love is Fair" and "Golden Lady."

As with many of Stevie Wonder's albums the lyrics, composition and production are almost entirely his own work, with the ARP synthesizer
Synthesizer
A synthesizer is an electronic instrument capable of producing sounds by generating electrical signals of different frequencies. These electrical signals are played through a loudspeaker or set of headphones...

 used prominently throughout the album. This instrument was a common motif among musicians of the time because of its ability to construct a complete sound environment. Wonder was the first black artist to experiment with this technology on a mass scale, and Innervisions was hugely influential on the subsequent future of commercial black music. He also played all or virtually all instruments on six of the album's nine tracks, making most of Innervisions a representative one-man band.

The August 6 car accident


Only three days after the commercial release of Innervisions, on August 6, Wonder played a concert in Greenville, South Carolina
Greenville, South Carolina
-Law and government:The city of Greenville adopted the Council-Manager form of municipal government in 1976.-History:The area was part of the Cherokee Nation's protected grounds after the Treaty of 1763, which ended the French and Indian War. No White man was allowed to enter, though some families...

. While on the way back just outside Durham, North Carolina
Durham, North Carolina
Durham is a city in the U.S. state of North Carolina. It is the county seat of Durham County and also extends into Wake County. It is the fifth-largest city in the state, and the 85th-largest in the United States by population, with 228,330 residents as of the 2010 United States census...

, Wonder was asleep in the front seat of a car being driven by his friend, John Harris, when they were snaking along the road, just behind a truck
Truck
A truck or lorry is a motor vehicle designed to transport cargo. Trucks vary greatly in size, power, and configuration, with the smallest being mechanically similar to an automobile...

 loaded high with logs. Suddenly the trucker jammed on his brakes, and the two vehicles collided. Logs went flying, and one smashed through the wind shield, sailing squarely into Stevie Wonder's forehead
Forehead
For the Arsenal striker see GervinhoIn human anatomy, the forehead is the fore part of the head. It is, formally, an area of the head bounded by three features, two of the skull and one of the scalp. The top of the forehead is marked by the hairline, the edge of the area where hair on the scalp...

. He was bloody and unconscious when he was pulled from the wrecked car. For four days he lay in a coma
Coma
In medicine, a coma is a state of unconsciousness, lasting more than 6 hours in which a person cannot be awakened, fails to respond normally to painful stimuli, light or sound, lacks a normal sleep-wake cycle and does not initiate voluntary actions. A person in a state of coma is described as...

 caused by severe brain contusion, causing media attention and the preoccupation of relatives, friends and fans.

It was his friend and tour director Ira Tucker who first elicited some response from him:
Wonder's climb back to health was still very long and slow. When he regained consciousness, he discovered that he had lost his sense of smell, which he never recovered. And he was deeply afraid that he might have lost his musical faculty too.
Still, Wonder had to take medication for a year, tired easily, and suffered severe headaches. The August 6 accident particularly changed his way of thinking. His deep faith and spiritual vision made him doubt that it was "an accident". He stated, "You can never change anything that has already happened. Everything is the way it's supposed to be... Everything that ever happened to me is the way it is supposed to have been." Wonder also commented when he was interviewed by The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

that "the accident opened my ears up to many things around me. Naturally, life is just more important to me now... and what I do with my life". Confirming Stevie's belief in destiny, Michael Sembello
Michael Sembello
Michael Sembello is an American musician and songwriter from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.-Career:Sembello was born and raised in Philadelphia. He studied with jazz great Pat Martino and began his career as a professional musician by becoming a session musician, working increasingly with...

, Wonder's lead guitarist at the time, said

Before the accident, Wonder had been scheduled to do a five-week, twenty-city tour between March and April 1974. It was postponed, with the exception of one date in Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden, often abbreviated as MSG and known colloquially as The Garden, is a multi-purpose indoor arena in the New York City borough of Manhattan and located at 8th Avenue, between 31st and 33rd Streets, situated on top of Pennsylvania Station.Opened on February 11, 1968, it is the...

 in late March. That concert began with Stevie pointing to his scarred forehead, looking up, grinning, and giving "thanks to God that I'm alive." Twenty-one thousand people in the crowd roared with applause, and as a Post critic noted, "it was hard not to be thrilled."

Commercial performance


After Talking Book hit the Top 5 of the Billboard Albums Chart in early 1973 and achieved steady sales during the rest of the year, Motown Records
Motown Records
Motown is a record label originally founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. and incorporated as Motown Record Corporation in Detroit, Michigan, United States, on April 14, 1960. The name, a portmanteau of motor and town, is also a nickname for Detroit...

 managed to make Innervisions another considerable hit in the charts. The album debuted at the Billboard Album Charts on August 18, 1973 at number 85, then climbed up weekly to number 22, number 14, number 9, number 6 until reaching its peak position of number 4 on September 15. The album remained inside the Top 20 until the end of the year and remained inside the whole Top 200 during the whole calendar year of 1975. It was also Wonder's second consecutive soul album to top the Black Albums chart where it remained for two weeks. (In the Cashbox charts, Innervisions actually reached the #1 near the end of the year.) In the UK also achieved big success, and became Stevie Wonder's first album ever to reach the UK Top 10, peaking at #8.)

Three hit singles were issued from the album. "Higher Ground", released some weeks before Innervisions, reached #4 on the charts on late October 1973 (it was also a #1 on the Cashbox singles charts). "Living for the City" was released immediately and reached #8 in early January 1974. Both singles reached #1 on the R&B charts. Finally, "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" was released in March reaching #16 in early June, and also peaked at #2 on the R&B charts. In the UK, "Higher Ground" and "Living for the City" were released as singles but achieved modest success, reaching only #29 and #15 respectively. Only a third single issued there, "He's Misstra Know-It-All", managed to reach the Top 10, peaking at #8 on the UK Singles charts.

"All in Love is Fair" was a later hit for Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand
Barbra Joan Streisand is an American singer, actress, film producer and director. She has won two Academy Awards, eight Grammy Awards, four Emmy Awards, a Special Tony Award, an American Film Institute award, a Peabody Award, and is one of the few entertainers who have won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy,...

, who recorded it and released as a single in 1974.

Critical response


Although Innervisions was recorded and released before Wonder's accident, most people associated it with the musician's fast recovery. As with both Music of My Mind
Music of My Mind
- Side One :# "Love Having You Around" – 7:21#* Stevie Wonder – lead vocal, background vocal, Fender Rhodes, talk box, drums, Moog bass#* Art Baron – trombone#* Background Singers – uncredited...

and Talking Book
Talking Book
Talking Book is the fifteenth album by Stevie Wonder, released on October 28, 1972. A signal recording of his "classic period", in this one he "hit his stride"...

the previous year, Innervisions was received warmly by music critics. Wonder's versatile musical skills were praised by critics. Billboard
Billboard (magazine)
Billboard is a weekly American magazine devoted to the music industry, and is one of the oldest trade magazines in the world. It maintains several internationally recognized music charts that track the most popular songs and albums in various categories on a weekly basis...

published that "the liner credits Stevie with playing all the instruments on seven of the nine tunes. So in essence this is a one-man band
One-man band
A one-man band is a musician who plays a number of musical instruments simultaneously using their hands, feet, limbs, and various mechanical contraptions. The simplest type of "one-man band" — a singer accompanying themselves on acoustic guitar and harmonica mounted in a metal "harp rack" below the...

 situation and it works. His skill on drums, piano
Piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

, bass, and arp are outstanding, and all the tracks work within the thematic framework." The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

wrote, "Stevie identifies himself as a gang and a genius, producing, composing, arranging, singing, and, on several tracks, playing all the accompanying instruments. But Stevie Wonder, you see and want to know more. At the center of his music is the sound of what is real. Vocally, he remains inventive and unafraid, he sings all the things he hears: rock
Rock music
Rock music is a genre of popular music that developed during and after the 1960s, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, itself heavily influenced by rhythm and blues and country music...

, folk
Folk music
Folk music is an English term encompassing both traditional folk music and contemporary folk music. The term originated in the 19th century. Traditional folk music has been defined in several ways: as music transmitted by mouth, as music of the lower classes, and as music with unknown composers....

, and all forms of Black music. The sum total of these varying components is an awesome knowledge, consumed and then shared by an artist who is free enough to do both."

Many others also praised the variety of musical styles and themes present in the album. One reviewer from Playboy
Playboy
Playboy is an American men's magazine that features photographs of nude women as well as journalism and fiction. It was founded in Chicago in 1953 by Hugh Hefner and his associates, and funded in part by a $1,000 loan from Hefner's mother. The magazine has grown into Playboy Enterprises, Inc., with...

wrote, "Stevie Wonder's Innervisions is a beautiful fusion of the lyric and the didactic, telling us about the blind world that Stevie inhabits with a depth of musical insight that is awesome. It's a view that's basically optimistic, a constant search for the 'Higher Ground', but the path is full of snares: dope ('Too High'), lies ('Jesus Children of America') and the starkly rendered poison of the city ('Living for the City'). Wonder seems to say that all people delude themselves but have to be well to pay their dues and existentially accept the present. 'Today's not yesterday,/And all things have an ending' is the way he puts it in 'Visions,' the key tune of the album—pretty yet serious, harmonically vivid. There's a lot of varied music here—Latin, reggae, even a nod to Johnny Mathis
Johnny Mathis
John Royce "Johnny" Mathis is an American singer of popular music. Starting his career with singles of standards, he became highly popular as an album artist, with several dozen of his albums achieving gold or platinum status, and 73 making the Billboard charts...

 ('All in Love is Fair')—but it's all Stevie, unmistakably."

Some reviewers were less enthusiastic. Jon Tiven from Circus argued that there was a lack of memorable material: "Just when Stevie had some momentum going, he went and put together a concept album of homogeneous music and rather typical lyrics. Unlike his last two albums, there are no real low spots on this album, which I suppose is an improvement, but there are no songs on Innervisions which are truly outstanding either. There's no 'Superstition
Superstition (song)
"Superstition" is a popular song written, produced, arranged, and performed by Stevie Wonder for Motown Records in 1972, when Wonder was 22 years old. It was the lead single for Wonder's Talking Book album, and released in many countries. It reached number one in the USA, and number one on the soul...

,' no 'I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever).' By constructing a solid ground from which to work, Stevie has lowered the ceiling, and put a damper on his talents."

Musicians also showed consummate respect for the achievements of the album, with Roberta Flack
Roberta Flack
Roberta Flack is an American singer, songwriter, and musician who is notable for jazz, soul, R&B, and folk music...

 saying to Newsweek
Newsweek
Newsweek is an American weekly news magazine published in New York City. It is distributed throughout the United States and internationally. It is the second-largest news weekly magazine in the U.S., having trailed Time in circulation and advertising revenue for most of its existence...

that "It's the most sensitive of our decade... it has tapped the pulse of the people."

Innervisions won Grammy Awards for Album of the Year
Grammy Award for Album of the Year
The Grammy Award for Album of the Year is the most prestigious award category at the Grammys. It has been awarded since 1959 and though it was originally presented to the artist alone, the award is now presented to the artist, the producer, the engineer and/or mixer and the mastering engineer...

 and Best Engineered Non-Classical Recording
Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical
The Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical has been awarded since 1959. The award had several minor name changes:*In 1959 the award was known as Best Engineered Record - Non-Classical...

 in 1974, while "Living for the City" won the Grammy for Best R&B Song.

Legacy


Innervisions has been considered by many fans, critics, and colleagues to be among Stevie Wonder's finest work and one of the great albums in popular music history. The album was revisited countless times in different lists of the greatest albums of all time. In his Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock (1991), Bill Shapiro wrote "This recording represents the pinnacle of a very important artist's career, and of his physically blind, but nonetheless extraordinary humane vision. For all intents and purposes, and for all of its richness and variety of texture, it is essentially all Stevie Wonder. He personally created and arranged every sound heard. His canvas stretches from the tough realities of ghetto streets to the transcendent joy of spiritual acceptance, each rendered with an original, unique musical palette. The feel is a little more jazz than funk, the result is simply glorious pop music– uplifting sound and message."

In 2001, VH1
VH1
VH1 or Vh1 is an American cable television network based in New York City. Launched on January 1, 1985 in the old space of Turner Broadcasting's short-lived Cable Music Channel, the original purpose of the channel was to build on the success of MTV by playing music videos, but targeting a slightly...

 named it the 31st greatest album of all time with the following statement: "The whole message of this album seems to be caution – Wonder seems to be warning the black community to be aware of their own plight, strive for improvement, and take matters into their own hands. But this is all against the backdrop of the harsh social realities of America circa 1973, and nowhere does this conflict hit home more than in Wonder's magnum opus, "Living for the City," a raw piece of modern blues on which Wonder played every instrument. The message of urban struggle resonates even more strongly now than it did thirty years ago, proving that the "inner-visions" of this LP were visionary as well."

In 2003, the album was ranked number 23 on Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone is a US-based magazine devoted to music, liberal politics, and popular culture that is published every two weeks. Rolling Stone was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner and music critic Ralph J...

magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time
The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time
"The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" is the title of a 2003 special issue of American magazine Rolling Stone, and a related book published in 2005.Related news articles:...

. The magazine wrote in that occasion:
As further evidence of the album's timeless classic status, 'Innervisions' was re-released in the UK on September 15, 2008 to coincide with Wonder's critically acclaimed autumn 2008 European tour.

Track listing


All songs written, produced, and arranged by Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
Stevland Hardaway Morris , better known by his stage name Stevie Wonder, is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and activist...

.

Side one
  1. "Too High" – 4:37
    • Stevie Wonder – lead vocal, Fender Rhodes, harmonica, drums, Moog bass
    • Lani Groves – background vocal
    • Tasha Thomas – background vocal
    • Jim Gilstrap – background vocal
  2. "Visions" – 5:17
    • Stevie Wonder – lead vocal, Fender Rhodes
    • Malcolm Cecil – upright bass
    • Dean Parks – acoustic guitar
    • David "T" Walker – electric guitar
  3. "Living for the City
    Living for the City
    "Living for the City" is a 1973 hit single by Stevie Wonder for the Tamla label, from his Innervisions album. Reaching #8 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart and #1 on the R&B chart, the record is driven by a slow bass synth groove that manages to exude a certain amount of tension, an appropriate...

    " – 7:26
    • Stevie Wonder – lead vocal, background vocals, Fender Rhodes, drums, Moog bass, T.O.N.T.O. synthesizer, handclaps
  4. "Golden Lady" – 5:00
    • Stevie Wonder – lead vocal, piano, drums, Moog bass, T.O.N.T.O. synthesizer
    • Clarence Bell – Hammond organ
    • Ralph Hammer – acoustic guitar
    • Larry "Nastyee" Latimer – congas


Side two
  1. "Higher Ground" – 3:54
    • Stevie Wonder – lead vocal, Hohner clavinet, drums, Moog bass
  2. "Jesus Children of America" – 4:04
    • Stevie Wonder – lead vocal, background vocal, Fender rhodes, Hohner clavinet, handclaps, drums, Moog bass
  3. "All in Love Is Fair" – 3:45
    • Stevie Wonder – lead vocal, piano, Fender Rhodes, drums
    • Scott Edwards – electric bass
  4. "Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing
    Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing
    "Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing" was a hit single from Stevie Wonder's 1973 album Innervisions, which reached #16 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart and #2 on the R&B chart...

    " – 4:55
    • Stevie Wonder – lead vocal, background vocal, piano, drums, Moog bass
    • Yusuf Roahman – shaker
    • Sheila Wilkerson – bongos, Latin gourd
  5. "He's Misstra Know-It-All" – 6:06
    • Stevie Wonder – lead vocal, background vocal, piano, drums, handclaps, T.O.N.T.O. synthesizer, congas
    • Willie Weeks – electric bass

Personnel

  • Recordist – Dan Barbiero, Austin Godsey
  • Tape operator – Gary Olazabal
  • Mastering – George Marino
  • Recording coordinators – John Harris, Ira Tucker Jr.
  • Synthesizer programming – Robert Margouleff, Malcolm Cecil
  • Album art – Efram Wolff

Charts

Album – Cashbox
Year Chart Position
1973 Pop Albums 1

Album – Billboard
Year Chart Position
1973 Black Albums 1
1973 Pop Albums 4

Singles – Billboard
Year Single Chart Position
1973 "Higher Ground" Adult Contemporary 41
1973 "Higher Ground" Black Singles 1
1973 "Higher Ground" Pop Singles 4
1973 "Living for the City" Black Singles 1
1974 "Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing" Adult Contemporary 9
1974 "Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing" Black Singles 2
1974 "Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing" Pop Singles 16
1974 "Living for the City" Pop Singles 8

External links

  • Innervisions at Discogs
    Discogs
    Discogs, short for discographies, is a website and database of information about audio recordings, including commercial releases, promotional releases, and bootleg or off-label releases. The Discogs servers, currently hosted under the domain name discogs.com, are owned by Zink Media, Inc., and are...

  • Album Accolades at acclaimedmusic.net
  • Track listing, Musicians, Artwork and Lyrics at steviewonder.org.uk