AUGUST 3, 1973, 40 years ago this weekend. Stevie Wonder’s landmark album Innervisions is released. August 6, he almost dies of injuries received when the car he’s travelling in collides with a lorry in North Carolina. Remarkably, by the end of the year he’s fully recovered and on the road again. This writer saw him at the Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park in early 1974 and the glorious set, even more joyous and celebratory than this excellent studio-bound set from German TV’s Beat Club, had the same band and much the same set. Longer, obviously. Here, it‘s 30 minutes but if you’re pushed for time go to 23.50 for the classic ending of Living For The City segueing into Superstition.
But you’ll miss Wonder feeling his way into the set – “I’m so glad to be alive… danke schön, darling danke schön,” he sings early as the group settle into a gentle groove – until backing singer Deniece Williams (roll-neck jumper, nearest to the band) cuts it short with a “Come on play it, Little Stevie,” and he shuffles, Sly-like, into a lazy, Family Stoned Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.
Then: “Contusion, right now!” calls Wonder and the band, Wonderlove, smash into the thus-named jazz-funk improvisation. Guitarists Mike Sembello (white cat, plays the solo) and Marlo Henderson, bassist Reggie McBride and drummer Ollie E. Brown lock into the piece – inspired by Stevie’s crash injuries – that wouldn’t appear on record until 1976’s Songs In The Key Of Life.
Higher Ground, He’s Misstra Know-It-All, Don’t You Worry Bout A Thing, there’s no better way to celebrate 40 years of Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions revolution.