Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What An Epiphany

e·piph·a·ny n. pl. e·piph·a·nies (Third Definition) A sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something.

Anyone who has a passing knowledge of me will have gathered that I have a great reverence and indeed fascination with the English language. It is my contention that whereas other less blessed folk were born with silver spoons in their mouth, I emerged from the sanctuary of mother’s womb finishing munching the contents of a dictionary.

As such I had to refer back to the contents of that meal to get clarification of that word ‘epiphany’. Now to allow you to gain insight into what event would have rushed me to get this particular word allow me the time to paint the scene.

My wife and I are enjoying the year end holidays. We’ve decided to have a good clean out of the entire house. Today among other things I was traipsing through an old box that I’ve not opened in quite a while. Inside this box were some videos of yesteryear and in the bunch of videos were two that a friend had sent to me back in the early days of my time on the Stevie Wonder list. I believe that friend may have been Thomas Winberg, God bless him. Now I haven’t watched these videos for at least 18 months, and indeed when I originally received them I was only able to watch one of them. There was something wrong with the first one, so from the time I received – which must be well over five years ago now – I’d never seen the contents. I thought I’d leave these two videos out just for the fun of it along with a number of other videos that I’d dug up. My wife asked if she could peruse some of them and I gave her permission as I went out to get some feed for the baby.

On my return I noticed that the room with the TV and video was dark except for the light from the TV. On further investigation I discovered that my wife had gone upstairs to bed – not because the video was boring, but because she was tired … well that’s her story anyway. As I paid more attention to what video she had left playing, I found out it was the one that I was unable to play for all those years. And … shock of all shocks … it was playing the much coveted movie of The Secret Life Of Plants. I nearly had a heart attack then and there. To top things off, my timing had coincided with the last moments of this documentary and so I got to see the video at the end for title track. Now that was amazing in itself, seeing Mr. Wonder walking through various natural environments and canoeing on a river with beautiful flowers. What was even more amazing was the fact that he was without his trademark sunglasses and it was almost the get-up he must have been wearing for the cover of Talking Book. The shot where we see him face to face and can actually see his eyes was powerful. Guess what though, that was not the moment of epiphany.

As the video continued and the movie finished, I then got to watch a live concert with Stevie performing in his home-city of Detroit back in 1984. That was cool in itself. By the by, it was incredible to hear that Stevie actually wrote Ribbon in the Sky in his mother’s basement in 1969. That’s kinda scary, to know that he had that in his locker to whip out roughly ten years later. That makes me want to find out what’s in his locker all the more! Then the video moved onto Stevie’s presentation of the Kennedy Center Honor, which took place in 1999. I was intrigued to see the many ‘celebrities’ paying tribute to Stevie. It was weird. It felt out of place. Anyhow, I watched on and internally chuckled at Smokey Robinson’s reminiscence of a Stevie greeting and accepted that because of the nature of the event I shouldn’t expect the quality of cover songs to be that great. It was marvellous seeing Take 6 and particularly Herbie Hancock, but their medley was just about average, nothing to phone home, but decent enough for the setting. But then it happened. Now I remember asking before about who the blind lady was who sang with Stevie at a Democratic Nomination Convention, and someone kindly informed me it was not Roseanne Barr, but Diane Schuur who like Stevie has eyesight challenges. Evidently some bright spark had the idea to bring her on to sing for the tribute as well. Whoever that person was, deserves a knighthood and if they’re not British they can become an honorary member of the Crown and get a knighthood anyway, for Ms Schurr was the source for the epiphany.

I can’t recall the last person who rendered a Stevie original better than Stevie, but Ms Schuur did it. And, with the assistance of Take 6 and Mr. Hancock, she did it with a song that I’d struggle to choose as a great Wonder song to cover. As I’ve grown older, I’ve kind of accepted I Just Called To Say I Love You as a fairly decent song. I once hated it, but now I just think it’s a fair attempt by Stevie at song writing, even if it is not in the same planet as some of his other love songs. Dude, was I ever wrong about that. Ms Schuur’s rendition of the song was mind-blowing. She enunciated the lyrics so clearly it was as though I’d never heard it before, and I’ve heard Stevie perform it live and he was better then than on the album/single. The arrangement and performance of the song had me mesmerised. I was stunned and floored. I do believe I actually saw Stevie cry because of the song – and if it makes that man cry I know say it must be good. Absolutely amazing. I give props and props and a half to Ms Schuur for communicating an average love song into a masterpiece of performance.

Sadly the quality of the video is not that great, but it more than did the job in conveying what it needed to convey. If I get an opportunity I’ll see if someone can do something about it and who knows? What it proves is the dexterity of the musical form and that even what may appear a substandard track in the right hands can be made into something … wonderful.

If you want to find out more about the genius of the man Stevie Wonder, I strongly advise you start by checking the following links - this is my recommended first port of call for anything in the remotest bit to do with Stevie Wonder. It is run by a Stevie Wonder living, walking, and talking encyclopaedia by the name of Vaid Bharath who is a top man! Did I say he’s a top man? I meant he’s higher than a top man! That’s just how top he is! - definitely worthwhile joining to get involved with a galaxy of superb wonderlovers. From here you can come across many great links to Wonder related stuff, it’s brilliant.

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