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Music Review: Stevie Wonder – I Was Made To Love Her

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I Was Made To Love Her was released during the developmental part of Stevie Wonder’s career, as he progressed from a Motown label-controlled teenager to one of the superstars of American music. It was similar to his other albums at the time (1967) as he continued to hone his writing skills by composing four of the tracks and then filling the rest of the album with cover songs.

His albums would increasingly become more polished and his own compositions would quickly develop a sophistication that would eventually make the cover songs unnecessary. More amazing was the fact he was still a teenager.

The best track is the title song, which also became a hit single, reaching number two on the Billboard Magazine Pop Singles Chart and number one on their Rhythm & Blues Chart. It was a joyful and up-tempo blast of Motown soul, and while the album contained a number of strong performances, this was head and shoulders above everything else. If I had to pick the best songs from his teen years, “I Was Made To Love Her” would make the top five.

The three other original compositions are the most complex and sophisticated material on the album. “Everybody Needs Somebody (I Need You)” is both smooth and melodic. “I Cry” and “Every Time I See You, I Go Wild” show the beginnings of his experimentation with chord changes and odd melodic structures. These songs may now be afterthoughts in his his vast catalogue of superior work, but for a budding teenage prodigy they were brilliant.

Some of the covers work better than others. “I Pity The Fool” is an old Bobby Bland blues hit. Wonder’s vocal stays within that framework but he adds a blues guitar as the songs foundation. It proved to be a musical direction that he did not visit often enough as his career progressed. The best cover was the Otis Redding classic “Respect.” He takes the song in a rock direction and adds one of the better harmonica performances of his career.

One the other hand James Brown’s “Please Please Please” and the Temptations big hit, “My Girl,” are average at best and will always be associated with their originators. He also gave a bland performance on yet another Ray Charles song, “A Fool For You,”

I Was Made To Love Her” was a well-produced and for the most part, well-performed album from his formative years that is now often overlooked.  If you are in the mood for some good music from the pre-superstar Stevie Wonder, this is a good album to explore.

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