Another Stevie Wonder clip

After my buddies and I got back from seeing Shine A Light on an IMAX screen—with Keith Richards’ and Mick Jagger’s faces all gargantuan and craggy, like a classic rock Mount Rushmore—we watched a bootleg of Cocksucker Blues, the intermittently debauched and unsavory but generally dull Robert Frank documentary about the Stones’ 1972 American Tour in support of Exile on Main Street.

Stevie Wonder and his newly formed backup band, Wonderlove, supported the Stones on that ’72 tour, and by all accounts, Stevie didn’t really quite have it all together. Of course, when I say “by all accounts,” I’m talking mostly about what I read in Craig Werner’s book, Higher Ground: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and the Rise and Fall of American Soul, but also something I may have read in Q (or another gratingly hip Brit-music-mag) while loafing in Barnes & Noble a couple years ago. What went wrong? Well, Wonder had never led a band before and they were under-rehearsed, the Rolling Stones’ fans (who made it a habit of trying to storm the shows without tickets) weren’t particularly receptive, Stevie felt somewhat isolated because he wasn’t really interested in “hanging out” and “shooting heroin” with the headlining band and its entourage, Keith Richards talked shit about him to the press. You know, the regular culprits.

Which makes a performance on July 26, Mick Jagger’s birthday, all that more remarkable. For an encore, Wonderlove and the Stones performed a medley of “Uptight (Everything is Alright)” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Somebody brought cake on stage, and in the crucible of frantic, near desperate joviality, a food fight broke out. Even Stevie had no problems dealing confectionery doom using his Daredevil-like sense of hearing. The shenanigans were documented in the single enjoyable scene in Cocksucker Blues.

Anyway, I couldn’t find that performance on the YouTube, and I got tired of wading through copies of the clip where that groupie does junk, so here is an entirely different Stevie Wonder clip.

I think it’s from the same era though, because the band is not quite tight yet. In fact, it’s a little unnerving how the tempo of “For Once In My Life” just keeps getting faster and faster. But “If You Really Love Me”—with that exultant horn line—is one of my favorite songs, period. And pay attention for the 4:53 mark when Stevie starts rocking his head back and forth to tweak the sound of his voice. It epitomizes how utterly engrossed in sound the man really is. Also, I like the backup singers taking lines in the second verse. And you gotta love a performance where the interruption of an audience member only adds to the exuberance.

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