Thursday, 25 November 2010

First in a series of musical prints: Stevie Wonder

I don't think I'd have bothered to produce one of Stevie if I hadn't been commissioned. But immediately the songs all come flooding back; more than you can count, almost.
His career has been so long and probably more consistent than anybody's, including Bing Crosby. There was a time in the early 70s when his true creative colours started to unfurl. Not only could he sing, but his voice became a unique and fantastic instrument that added colour and confidence to the array of instruments, notably synths that he could commandeer with aplomb. His powers started to magnify the more they came into focus. I remember reading a Jeff Beck interview in the Summer of '72 after the sleeveless axeman returned from a stint of playing sessions with Stevie in America for Talking Book, his fifteenth (!) album. "Unbelievable, music just pours out of his arse..." Apparently Jeff got Superstition given to him by a grateful Stevie, a song hewn from such a thunderous and compelling riff that he used it to get an instant contract renewal at Tamla, his label since the middle ages.

He still sings as though his life depends on it. Whatever instruments he may master, however many musicians will litter the stage or contribute to his output, there is still the undeniable, lucid perfection of the master's voice.

So why not, and why not try and give it some fun, some impact; try and create an equivalent, joyful overlaying of colours as though they were clavinets, synths, percussion and voice? I couldn't wait to start and loved doing it like it was a silkscreen. I'm just starting to look at Billie Holiday in a new light; I want to put words in as well as images and symbols. But I won't make it tragic and pitiful. She wasn't like that.

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