Wednesday, July 06, 2016

"Master Blaster (Jammin')" /

Stevie Wonder

Man, is it steamin' hot out there. And when the temperature goes up the charts, here's my go-to track. A little funk, a little reggae, and you've got this jubilant #1 reggae/soul hit, from Stevie's Hotter Than July LP from 1980. First track, side two, of Stevie's best-selling LP in the UK.

"Everyone's feeling pretty / It's hotter than July / Though the world's full of problems / They couldn't touch us even if they tried." This is what I need to take the stink off of this sweltering heat.

Stevie wrote this ecstatic anthem to celebrate the peace agreement signed in April 1980 to end 15 years of civil war in Zimbabwe. True, this pact put the controversial Robert Mugabe into office, where he's still entrenched, despite economic failures and a shaky human rights record. But the effervescent mood of this song endures.

And what's wrong with believing the best of people? In this rancorous election season, it wouldn't hurt any of us to operate with a spirit of forgiveness and some faith in human nature. "When you're moving toward the positive / Your destination is the brightest star."

No, it's not an escape. The production goes full-on into the heat of the summer -- that languid bass line, the fly-swatting drums, the exhaling background singers. Let a little sweat roll down your brow; don't stay indoors and shiver in refrigerated air. Embrace existence.

Jammin' until the break of dawn. Of course, we have to pick up the reference to Bob Marley's masterful "Jamming," from his 1977 LP Exodus. ("Marley's hot on the box"...Joined as children in Jah.") Stevie's generosity toward other artists has always been a model for the rest of us.

And yes, this was released over a quarter of a century ago. But you tell me: Does it sound dated? Does it not lift your spirits? IS IT NOT A SONG FOR THE AGES?

Bless you, Stevie.

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