What is the point of this piece?

RaR32 – Living for the City


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Living for the City by Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder—born Steveland Judkins—exhibited musical talent at an extremely young age; he was already singing in the church choir when his family moved to Detroit in his fourth year and had mastered percussion, piano, and harmonica by the time he turned nine. In 1961 he was performing for some friends and was overheard by Ronnie White, a member of the Miracles, who arranged an audition for the boy at Motown records. Berry Gordy signed the young prodigy, and the following year twelve-year-old “Little Stevie Wonder” released his first two albums. Neither sold very well, but the following year he had a hit with “Fingertips, Part 2,” a charismatic harmonica solo from his live album, The 12-Year-Old Genius. He was kept in hiatus for two years while his voice changed but returned with the Top Ten hit “Uptight (Everything’s All Right)” in 1965, a song he co-wrote. After this, Wonder became a reliable hit-maker for Motown, putting ten songs in the Top Ten before the end of the decade.

His contract with Motown expired on his twenty-first birthday in 1971. Instead of automatically renewing under the same terms, as Berry Gordy wished, Wonder enrolled in music theory courses at the University of Southern California and built a lavish home recording studio, in part to prove to Gordy that he didn’t need Motown to make music. When he renegotiated his contract Wonder made only a few demands. He wanted a higher royalty rate, uncompromised ownership of his songs through his own publishing company, and total artistic control over his music. Only Marvin Gaye had been allowed such freedom at Motown—and he didn’t own his own songs! Wonder, however, got everything he asked for.

For his first few autonomous albums, Wonder was unwilling to surrender any of his newly won artistic control; he performed all of the instrumental parts himself, then assembled the tracks and added vocals. He also began to think of albums in the same way the Beatles did, as larger vehicles for artistic expression that couldn’t be contained in a single. The results were dazzling. Music in My Mind, his first entirely solo effort, was followed by Talking Book and finally Innervisions, often cited as his masterpiece and unquestionably a seminal album of the 1970s. Innervisions is the nearest thing to a concept album Wonder has produced. All the songs deal with the idea that life is tough but beautiful, a hopeful vision for those in seemingly hopeless situations, a philosophy summed up in the track “Higher Ground.” Its other top ten singles, “Living in the City,” is a morality tale about the lengths to which some have to go to survive, but it ends with a suggestion that change is still possible.


A fantastic example of the modified compound AABA form. Make sure you read the paragraph on the form on page 352.
Use of synthesizer, and how the synthesizer and vocals are doubled at times creating an interesting sound
Background vocals
Amazing singing – There is only one Stevie!
Heavy emphasis on the bass drum/beat.
“Central Drama” section – incidental sounds and effects – telling a story!
No guitar sounds at all. No bass guitar. Totally changes the “flavor” of the music.
Interesting use of the bridge over and over at the end.


What is the point of this piece? How does the “Central Drama” section contribute to telling the story?
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