Saturday, December 13, 2014

My Musical Advent Calendar

"Someday at Christmas" /
Stevie Wonder

Instead of a glitter-spangled scene with doors for every day of December, how about a daily treat from my iTunes holiday playlist?

Yesterday, we had Kevin Morris -- today, Stevland Morris.

Promoting peace and love for the Christmas season?  Keb' Mo' (see yesterday's post) didn't invent the idea -- in fact, I'm pretty sure he grew up, as I did, with this Stevie Wonder classic in his head.

Written by Motown stalwart Ron Miller, who'd penned many of Stevie's earlier Motown hits, this gem appears on Stevie's 1967 album of the same name.  Let's get some context here: Stevie was 17 years old at the time -- seventeen! -- and despite the political ferment of the times, he was still pretty much a Motown property who did and said what Berry Gordy told him to.  It would be a couple more years before Stevie had enough hits under his belt to push Gordy for the right to write and perform more socially relevant material. But the Stevie who was soon to give us Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life was already starting to feel his wings, and you can feel his social conscience thrumming through this song.

Idealistic? You bet. "Someday at Christmas men won't be boys / Playing with bombs like kids play with toys" -- we're still waiting for that, Stevie. And we're still waiting for the day when "there'll be no wars," when "all men are free," and where there "no hungry children." I'm tempted to say that this song foretold the future, but no, those same problems were there in 1967 too. The thing is, we haven't solved them yet, not by a long shot.  Which is why we still need this song today.

And there he is, with that glorious young voice, melismatic and earnest and trustingly na├»ve.  It's a near perfect production, building at just the right pace, layering on more with every verse -- strings, a choir, the whole shebang -- but never tipping over into cheesiness. And what's even more important: This song never gets preachy or hectoring.  He's just dreaming, and hoping that the Christmas magic will help his dream along.

Well, it's 47 Christmases later, and we're still a mess of a world.  But every year, hearing Stevie sing this gives me new hope.  And if that isn't the Christmas spirit, I don't know what is.

1 comment:

Karen Romano Young said...

Really made me smile with this one. Thanks, Holly!