Stevie Wonder: A Motown Legacy

Stevie Wonder: A Motown Legacy (1980)
Duration: 00:29:26

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Themes: Musical Roots and Branches | Sports and Entertainment |

Guests: Ted Hull, Ester Gordy Edwards, Stevie Wonder
Host : Gene Elzy
Producer : Deborah Ray

Summary: This program, from very early in 1980, is an exploration of the career and music of Stevie Wonder, who joined Motown Records at age 12 and soon became one of the record label's most popular and successful recording stars.

The program, hosted by Gene Elzy, features interviews with Wonder, Ester Gordy Edwards (a Motown executive and sister of the company's founder Berry Gordy), and Ted Hull, who was Wonder's tutor and road manager during his early years as a performer.

It also includes numerous clips of Wonder in performance. Some date back to his early career with Motown, while others are taken from a November 1979 concert at Ford Auditorium in Detroit. Other major Motown acts, such as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Temptations and the Supremes also are featured in the clips.

Among the most intriguing clips are excerpts from a documentary, "Journey to the Secret Life of Plants," for which Wonder wrote the musical score. The score illustrates was what, at the time, a new and innovative direction in Wonder's music the incorporated increasing use of keyboard synthesizers, which were just coming of age in the late 1970s.

In an interview, Wonder describes how the synthesizer enabled him to record the sounds of birds and incorporated the sounds and rhythms of their voices into his music. Some, he acknowledged, were concerned that synthesizers might take over the music, but he considered the fear unfounded.

Synthesizers would "do nothing but enhance a musician's way of being expressive," he said. "You must remember that even the instruments, acoustic instruments, were taken from the sounds that man heard before there were instruments. So that is, in essence, synthetic to the actual sound of life."

Although the interview segments with Wonder are not extensive, the program is valuable as an overview of the career - up to the age of 30 - of an enormously popular and influential songwriter and composer who was a key part of the Motown music phenomenon.

Related Production Materials held at MSU Libraries, Special Collections:
Box 1, File 18, Music – Detroit Style – February 19, 1980
Box 1, File 21, Stevie Wonder – May 1, 1980
Box 1, File 43, Masters of Music – 1982
Box 15, File 11, Black Music Shows
Box 19, File 16, Musician Bios.