‘Talking Book’: 22-Year-Old Genius Stevie Wonder Speaks Volumes

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1972 was the year in which the creative surge of Stevie Wonder became truly unstoppable. He had been raising the bar of his artistic imagination for some time, with the albums Where I’m Coming From and Music Of My Mind, before he unveiled what many consider to be his first masterpiece, Talking Book, on October 26. Stevie’s awareness of the power of communication even led him to have the LP title, and some of the liner notes, displayed in Braille.

The album, which like Music Of My Mind was co-produced by Stevie with his redoubtable team of Bob Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil, appeared at the same time as its stunning first single “Superstition.” Staggeringly accomplished for an artist who was still only 22, the track was also irresistibly funky, featuring brilliant horns and the innovative use of both a Hohner Clavinet and a Moog synthesiser, as well as an appearance by British guitar hero Jeff Beck.

The single soared to the top of the Billboard pop and R&B charts, his seventh soul bestseller but his first time at the pop summit since “Fingertips (Part 2)” way back in 1963. “Superstition” became a worthy entry in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998. Meanwhile, as it emerged, so did an album that contained plenty more where that came from.

The stellar contributors’ list for Talking Book included such future stars in their own right as Deniece Williams, David Sanborn, Ray Parker Jr., and Jim Gilstrap. The latter was the other voice on the album’s second single, “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life,” which soon became a timeless easy listening staple and won Stevie his first Grammy.

‘When he talks, people listen’

“Stevie’s brain is back at work creating sounds that go a lot deeper than a mere groove,” enthused Cash Box. “The single ‘Superstition’ for example combines Sly [and the Family Stone]-type rhythmics with a mid-Eastern/Baltic horn riff. There are a number of subtly tender ballads as well. When he talks, people listen. And are moved by what they hear.”

Listen to the best of Stevie Wonder on Apple Music or Spotify.

Other highlights of a truly memorable LP included the moving ballads “You And I,” “Blame It On The Sun,” and the uplifting closer, “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever).” None of those, nor “Tuesday Heartbreak,” “You’ve Got It Bad Girl,” or any of the album’s other gems, became singles for Wonder, but were covered by all and sundry as his modern-day reputation grew, and Talking Book climbed to No.3 on the US chart. The former 12-year-old genius was now an adult genius.

Buy or stream Talking Book.

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