Song Of The Day 6/27/2014: Stevie Wonder - "Hello Young Lovers"

Black Music Month/Motown Week: Believe it or not, there was a time when Motown just had no idea what to do with Stevie Wonder. Well, let me phrase that more carefully: They did something with him, they probably had an idea what they thought they should do with him, but they had no idea exactly what he was going to wind up doing once he stopped being a teenager.

For at least a couple of years after the 12-Year-Old Genius had a hit with "Fingertips (Pt. 2)" he was kind of treated as a novelty act. He almost got dropped from the label as an adolescent because 14-year-olds weren't selling, his voice was changing, and making him a soprano castrata was not an optimal solution. Not in Detroit anyway. They kept him on, and he began writing songs here and there, but he was treated as a dependable singles machine without an inkling of knowledge that he'd eventually record the greatest sequence of four consecutive albums ever released.*

So they gave him covers to do. Some of them made sense ("We Can Work It Out"), some of them, not so much ("Mr. Tambourine Man"), others work for some ungraspable reason that will never be clear ("Sixteen Tons"). One that shouldn't have made sense was his reading of "For Once In My Life," which had already bounced around to a couple of other artists (Tony Bennett, The Four Tops) in torch style. Wonder turned it around and made it an uptempo tune, and it was an unqualified hit in 1968. I think it's the biggest non-original hit he had. But that would take research to determine for sure. Feel free to do it and get back to me, 'cause I'm a little fried this week.

ANYWAY, a few months after "For Once In My Life," they decided to try a similar formula with "Hello Young Lovers," a Rodgers & Hammerstein joint from The King And I. It's not as aerial or empyrean as "For Once In My Life," but it ain't bad. And yes, I use "joint" in reference to Broadway showtunes for a laugh.
* Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness' First Finale, Songs In the Key of Life. And yes, I consider FFF a great album, if not quite on the level of the other three. It's like a solid, 4-2 baseball victory, whereas the other three are 16-0 blowouts.
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