Stevie Wonder – Biography Channel
July 30, 2010
Starring: Stevie Wonder,
Stevie Wonder – or Steveland Hardaway Judkins to his mother – needs no introduction. Were he on a Top Trumps card, his stats would look something like this: Top ten US hits: 30 No.1 US Hits: 10, Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame: Inducted, Grammys: 22, Record Sales: 100 million. Wowsers.
Born premature and blind, Wonder had an abusive father. After his mother fled with her children to Detroit, Wonder was signed to Motown records as a child by the legendary Berry Gordy. He had his first hit at age 13 and went on to have an incredible career, including five years during the early seventies – a creative period arguably only matched by The Beatles – which saw the albums Music of my Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness’ First Finale and Songs in the Key of Life. He’s been married twice, had a passel o’ kids and narrowly survived a serious car crash in 1973. Before you ask, he wasn’t driving.
Rich pickings for a biographical documentary, no? As it turns out, this effort by the History Channel is a bit of a missed opportunity. Clocking in at barely 45 minutes long, it’s obvious that the producers have not had much of a budget to work with. For a start, none of Wonder’s music features; in a game effort to avoid paying royalties, we get bland elevator bobbins that vaguely sounds like his music but at the same time is a million miles away. There’s only a handful of footage and still pictures used, and it’s not too long before you’re tired of seeing the same photograph over and over, no matter how many times they zoom into and pan across it in a vain effort to liven things up.
On the positive side, the talking heads wheeled in to regale us with anecdotes about Stevie’s life are engaging and well informed, and there’s the odd famous face including Smokey Robinson and Rev Al Sharpton.
All in all, you feel that an artist of Wonder’s calibre deserves something with better production values – even if he did throw his cred away with I Just Called To Say I Love You and Ebony and Ivory – but this scores a few extra points for making you want to find out some more about the guy and listen to his music.