Stevie Wonder was at his artistic peak during the 1970s, which resulted in a series of albums that has rarely been equaled in the history of American music.
He released Fulfillingness’ First Finale, July 22, 1974, and it quickly became his second number one album and first to receive a platinum award for sales. While it may not have been as consistently strong as its predecessor, Innervisions, that may be splitting hairs as songs such as “Boogie On Reggae Woman” and “You Haven’t Done Nothin’” are among the strongest of his songs.
He was now in full control of his career. He continued his recent tradition of writing all the tracks, except for one with co-writer Yvonne Wright, and playing most of the instruments. The biggest change was using backing vocalists more than in the past.
It was another group of eclectic songs that had no real unifying theme. There were gentle love songs, funky classics, and lyrics with biting political commentary. Still, it was another album of songs that stood on their own and ultimately formed a release united by their quality.
“You Haven’t Done Nothin’” occupies a place near the top of the Stevie Wonder pantheon of songs. The explosive and funky keyboards, one of the first uses of a drum machine, the Jackson 5 providing background vocals, and the biting anti-Nixon lyrics, added up to one of the most creative political statements of the early 1970s.
I have always been amused that “Boogie On Reggae Woman” was really a funk song and had little to do with reggae music. What it did have was a synthesizer bass line that combined with his harmonica playing to create a unique sound.
There are a number of other tracks that have withstood the test of time well. “They Won’t Go When I Go” was one of those spiritual songs that he was producing at the time. It was a stark tune about belief vs. non-belief. It was also one of the songs he performed at Michael Jackson’s memorial service. “Bird Of Beauty” contained anti-drug lyrics with some of the quirkiest music of his career. “Too Shy To Say” was a haunting ballad. “Creepin’” was another stark song with Minnie Ripperton’s wonderful backing vocal.
Fulfillingness’ First Finale was another stunning release from the fertile mind of Stevie Wonder. It remains one of his career defining albums.
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