Without Understanding

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Rediscovering Stevie Wonder

15 October 2022

(Citation needed but) almost everyone who operates in the field of popular music believes that Stevland Morris is one of the greats. People remember the classic tunes with love and reverence but he’s such a seminal figure that you perhaps begin to take him for granted. A return to a long remembered Stevie Wonder classic after time away has a visceral effect. “Too High” for example. Forget the fact that it’s got an outrageous groove, duelling harmonicas and synth bass which communicates with body and mind and just look at the structure and the harmony. The parallel chords which come in after three, not four, bars, descending over a dominant pedal. The repetitions of “too high” which come after three, not four, beats, the chorus built on 13th chords starting a semitone below the main key of the tune, the unexpected harmonic excursions in the verse. All of these point to a specialist or minority interest music but this is a well known pop song. From where is it coming?