We are truly lucky to live in the time of Stevie Wonder and those who follow us will be richer because he was here. I was moved to play this cut this morning as a part of my devotion and the timeliness of the message hit home yet again.
Richard Pryor had a routine where he played the role of an old style Black preacher. In it he instructed his congregation to open their texts to the book of Wonder!
I can remember the first time I opened the book it made me cry. My Pop’s had just bought a Chevy van and that was back in the day when people like to take their vans and customize them. Ours was bright red and had a sunroof, a super scoop on the top and huge custom windows on the sides, mag rims and side tail tailpipes. I’ll always remember the pipes especially well I have a brand on my leg from getting hopping out the sliding door wrong as a keepsake. What it really had though was a nice sound system, and one of our first trips in our new van was to the Salton Sea.
We had a tape deck and of course some nice sounds in the thing, and Moms got a cassette from her best friend Blanche. It was Innervisions. Everything was fine until this song came on.
I suppose I had to be around 12 years old, and I had had the talk about the way things are but dang this song hurt. I would think Stevie was a sadist if he hadn’t put Golden Lady next.
It was that Christmas I had one of my best examples of a long and unbroken haul of spoilage (THANKS MOM AND DAD!) and I got my first real stereo and a television too. Moms got me a stack of albums, that’s right kiddies albums to go along so I’d have something to listen to. She got me probably 10 albums only one of which I remember, and have bought in every format imaginable lives and is a favored touchstone I can fall into anytime I want The Journey Through The Secret Life of Plants.
It begins with our Mother Earths very birth.
Stevie continues with the creation of the Earth’s first Garden. In this song God allowed Stevie to borrow a few of his breaths to blow his harmonica. It made me run out and get one, but God’s lending library of harmonica breath required more study to get in than I was willing to put forward. I understood that this was Stevie’s first album where he was blessed with his Synclavier synthesizer, and he used it to make Mozart blush in this composition.
The Voyage to India is next on the line up and I always imagined it as a reflection of enlightened India. Om Namah Shivaya is a very famous meditation chant. The syllable Om represents past present and future, casual, gross, and abstract reality, the first 3 dimensions the silence just after the 4th. Namah is appreciation in that none of those things belong to us and that they all belong to God the life force that blows through us like the cosmic wind. Shivaya the realization of that force with the added insight that the spark of creativity and divinity discussed in the previous two syllables are actually one and the same with us. Om Namah Shivaya.
I used to wonder if Stevie had a beautiful voice. Well in this cut he can certainly sing his songs beautifully. This is a tale of faith science and industry all in The Same Old Story Again.
I would think of Venus Flytrap and the Bug when I was hunting for sweeties. Poor little flies didn’t have a chance.
Shiawase ni michi te
Ai no rakuen
Subete no kokoro ga
Ai o wakachiau
Shizuka ni mimi katamuke yo
Ai no komori uta
Kimi sasoi yobikakenu
Ai no sono
There is a garden
Where every heart can
Share in the joy of giving
It like no other
Has love to cover
Bearing no price on living
Quietty listen and you
might hear them
singing their lullaby
Calling for you to
join in their love
Seasons/Power Flower of Love is the incantation Stevie uses as a lullaby with a melody that could span worlds in happiness. He starts this piece out with a recording of a mother putting baby to sleep and breaks into a fairy tale. Sweet dreams dear ones.
Stevie has provided many of the slow songs of my life they are the ones I hum in my head when I’m dancing with the sweetie I caught with no music. The instrumental of Send One Your Love is my favorite. In my fantasy of this song sweetie and I are dressed to impressed and so are all of our friends. We’ve rented out the finest hotel in Los Angeles and handed out invitations to everyone we’ve seen. Sweetie looks radiant as I lead her to the floor.
If ascendant masters only had carrots and sticks, all encouragement with no warning what kind of an ascendant master would he be. He wrote this entire piece in the late 70’s and yet with Race Babbling he’s telling us something we need to hear again today. This is one of those songs that you don’t want your spin teacher to get a hold of. Ours was a fantastic lady who could punish you and make you like it. She would have crushed us with this song.
Every album needs a hit. Stevie wrote the Secret Life of Plants as the sound track to a documentary no one has seen. In the YouTube era I did finally have the opportunity to see the work, and although I guess it is ok I can’t help but think I would have done a much better job. Help me with humility.
Outside My Window is a prayer to the greenery that is Gaia. To sing this song is to commune and I bet if you learned it and sang it there would be no way you could come out the other end unhappy.
He continues the prayer with Black Orchid, this song isn’t happy to me for some reason. Its lyrics are beautiful and true, but I guess it’s one of the conditions of all fundamental things like a truth. It isn’t always happy.
Ecclesiastes is a book of the bible. It was purportedly written by Solomon and it reflects upon the vanities of the human condition. I had always heard this song and thought it a funeral dirge, but as it is a reflection of vanity perhaps the time for it to die isn’t too soon. I would always feel the urge to skip this song. After Black Orchid it almost seemed too much.
Kesse Ye Lolo De Ye it means a seeds a star and a star is a seed, and is the introduction to the Science Fiction portion of our program. At least I thought it was Science Fiction when I first delved into, although now I’m happy to say I’m not so sure. I used to go out on my roof, heck anywhere and scream to the heavens similar syllables. I don’t remember if I was influenced by this song or not, but I do know that was among the first times I heard and appreciated the rhythms of my ancestors, and they feel good.
In the daydream Stevie shares next he apologizes for the bummer of Black Orchid and Ecclesiastes with Come Back As A Flower. Like a daydream one wants to savor it, but unlike a daydream you can. I don’t have the most lovely of singing voices, well people who don’t know me may not think so, but I sure like to sing a with this one along. Why? It’s in order to spread the sweetness of love.
We’re a people Black as is your night. I didn’t know any African cosmology. They most certainly didn’t teach us any in school, and as I understand it our fathers in Africa would as soon sing and dance the truth as write it down. I never took the time to check the accuracy of the story Stevie is telling regarding the star he calls Pro Tolo infinitely small and still the heaviest of them all, but it occurred to me that African people contemplated the stars very deeply. We can as well.
The Secret Life of Plants in case you didn’t get the message figuratively outlines the message most literally, but who am I to doubt or question the inevitable being for these are but a few discoveries we find inside the Secret Life of Plants.
Stevie says “Tree you are the longest living plant we know the largest of all plants and still you grow, pushing down into the ground the root of you is homeward bound. A trunk a leaf and there I am a miracle at least by far” In the next song he puts that emotion to music.
Finale brings to a close Stevie’s Journey and invites you to remember where you have been. He weaves the themes and ideas of this piece in a summary you would have to be careful in listening to in the abstract. You would be left with the feeling that there was so much more to say, and that you were missing the most important part, but as a conclusion to the rest of the work it is a reminder to keep to heart what you may have learned.
Stevie Wonder you see better than the very vast majority of us and I thank you for sharing your vision. Thanks to all who decided to take this trip too.