Album: Songs in the Key of Life
. . .
One of the things I never fully thought about until I started writing these posts is that there is an absolute mountain of material that Stevie Wonder recorded in the first half of the 1970s that has never been released.
Think about that for a second.
For example, the original idea was to follow Fulfillingness’ First Finale with Fulfillingness’ Second Finale,, but that was apparently scrapped for being too dark, and oh my gods I want to hear this right now. Stevie Wonder Bootleg Series Now!!
Anyways, the album that was originally called Let’s See Life the Way It Is — which would have been his worst album title since Where I’m Coming From — was originally scheduled for release in October 1975, but Stevie decided it needed more work. So much more work that it didn’t actually come out until September 1976, making 1975 the first year since 1960 without any new Stevie Wonder studio album.
Which was actually kind of a huge deal. Such a huge deal that when Paul Simon won the Album of the Year Grammy for Still Crazy After All These Years, he actually thanked Stevie Wonder for not releasing new material in 1975. Because Paul Simon definitely knew who the king was at the time. All of this meant that there was a lot of pressure on Wonder to top himself, especially after two full years — a lifetime in the mid-1970s — since Fulfillingness’ First Finale.
SPOILER ALERT: He did. Songs in the Key of Life was everything people could have wanted, and more, two sprawling discs of everything under the sun, and more. One of my favorites is straightforward funk spiritual called “Have a Talk With God,” which juxtaposes a rhythm track that could have come from There’s A Riot Goin’ On, accompanied by synth squiggles, percussion, and a weird-ass harmonica riff over which Stevie sings some incredibly unambiguous words.
There are people who have let the problems of today
Lead them to conclude that for them, life is not the way
But every problem has an answer and if yours, you cannot find
You should talk it over to Him, He’ll give you peace of mind
When you feel your life’s too hard
Just go have a talk with God
I mean, if I could have a talk with God or whatever, I would totally ask Them to convince Stevie Wonder to release some of the recordings he’s been sitting on for nearly a half-century. But then again, my priorities are probably screwy.
Anyways, “Have a Talk With God” is so calm and otherworldly, and its chorus so catchy that even unbelievers will be singing along with it by the time its over. For me, it’s one of those songs that kind of get lost in all of the more flashy tunes, until you realize that it’s low-key one of the more flashy tunes.
In fact, despite not even being a single, “Have a Talk With God” garnered one of the seven Grammy nominations from Songs in the Key Of Life: Best Inspirational Performance. It lost, but by that time, Songs in the Key of Life was a full-blown phenomenon: not only did it debut at #1 on the Billboard Album Charts, it also topped the 1976 Village Voice Pazz and Jop charts, once again showing Wonder as a complete fulcrum of both popularity and critical acclaim.
“Have a Talk With God”
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