Bob Mould’s ‘Sunshine Rock’ Is a Winner

1.29 bob mould - sunshine rock

Yesterday was a brutal day. My stepfather has been having some issues with confusion lately, so I took it upon myself to take him to his doctor in order to get to the bottom of this. And, I just got the call back from his physician saying that his non-fasting blood glucose level was high. So, I now know why he was struggling. Hopefully, the doctor will prescribe something once they get his Hemoglobin A:1C results. I’m not sure that basing his treatment upon non-fasting blood samples is a great course of action, but I understand not wanting to stick the patient more than one time for some blood work. Now, I will simply wait for the medical directions.

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Hüsker Dü

In the meantime, I am awaiting the release of a handful of albums here within the next five or six weeks. First, the Prince Estate is finally releasing three excellent albums from his mid-2000s phase on purple vinyl for the first time ever: Musicology (2004), 3121 (2006) and Planet Earth (2007). Planet Earth was released the year my Indianapolis Colts won their Super Bowl while Prince performed arguably the greatest halftime performance of all-time. On the very same day (February 8), Bob Mould, formerly of Hüsker Dü and Sugar fame will release his long-awaited album, Sunshine Rock. Then, on March 1, Weezer will finally bestow upon us with their latest self-titled album that will commonly be known as The Black Album, due to its cover color. So, for this old rock music fan, the next few weeks will be exciting times.

Rock Band Sugar

In the meantime, I did come across an advanced electronic copy of that Bob Mould album, Sunshine Rock, of which I am patiently awaiting the arrival of a special red and yellow splattered vinyl version due to arrive here at my Central Indiana homestead. Normally, the new Prince vinyl releases would have me excited, but after listening to this advanced copy of Bob Mould’s upcoming album has gotten me very excited about this one.

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Hüsker Dü live

First off, this is not your normal gloomy Bob Mould album. Since the man is around my age, I sense that Mould has reached that point in his life in which he is finally comfortable in his own skin. Since we have entered the second decade of the twenty-first century, Bob has been on a highly creative path. First, Mould released his excellent autobiography titled See a Little Light. Next, he was the subject of a terrific documentary See a Little Light: A Celebration of the Music and Legacy of Bob Mould. The film did an excellent job of placing his musical work into historical context. His solo work, along with his music from his days with Hüsker Dü and Sugar, are cited by artists such as the Pixies and Nirvana as huge musical influences. Hüsker Dü was known throughout the alternative music world as being one of the fastest playing bands ever, literally having recorded songs that lasted UNDER two minutes. And, not only were they fast, their sound was an abrasive form of the hardcore sound of Los Angeles, though the trio was formed in Prince’s hometown of Minneapolis.

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After Dü’s demise, Mould released two great solo albums, his now-classic 1989 LP Workbook, which was a 180-degree turn toward a neo-folkie sound and his 1990 return to his punk roots Black Sheets of Rain. Then, for some reason, he started his short-lived heavy power pop band Sugar, who released two-and-a-half albums’ worth of excellent music, before returning to his outstanding solo career. Once again, it was during the twenty-teens, in which his solo career really began to spark, as he released three outstanding albums: Silver Age (2012), Beauty & Ruin (2014) and Patch the Sky (2016).

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Which all leads us to this new album of his, Sunshine Rock. Generally speaking, this album seems to be something of a well-deserved victory lap for Mould. During this album, you hear songs which touch upon the music of all phases of Mould’s career. To this aging Power Popper, I am taken to Heaven immediately with the first song, “Sunshine Rock,” a three-minute throwback to his Sugar days. The second song, “What Do You Want Me to Do,” a perfect summation of life in a relationship, takes the listener back to his previous three albums which have cleaner punk songs that hearken back to his Land Speed Record days in the Eighties. I say this because the song is over in two minutes and 31 seconds.

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The third song, “Sunny Love Song,” takes me back to 1987, because this song could be an outtake from Hüsker Dü’s studio swansong, Warehouse: Songs and Stories. Underneath all the feedback is a Beatlesque pop song that would have been found on that album. That song is followed by a trip to 1985 and a dose of Dü’s Flip Your Wig/New Day Rising days of the speed-punk thing slowly making commercial inroads. The song’s title is “Thirty Dozen Roses” and clocks in just under three minutes.

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By the album’s fifth song, we now get to hear what Bob Mould had sounded like if he had recorded a New Wave song during the early Eighties. The song, “The Final Years,” even with its bleak lyrics, musically sounds as if our hero had recently discovered the Psychedelic Furs, Talk Talk or even The Church. Which only proves how great a songwriter Bob Mould is.

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As we reach the half-way mark of this album, I noticed this pattern of Mould looking back at his musical career for inspiration, as the album’s sixth cut, “Irrational Poison” could lyrically and musically fit on his classic debut solo album Workbook. The use of the cello is the dead giveaway.

1.29 bob mould - silver age

As we move onto what I assume will be the second side of the vinyl album version, we travel back to the Zen Arcade days of abrasive music covering up a terrific melody in order to immerse the listener into Mould’s anger. The song, “I Fought,” is what I would call a classic Mould song, since it has 1984 written all over it. “I Fought” is followed by a trip to Mould’s latest trio of albums’ sound, that of a pissed off elder statesman of rock music as he sings over an increasingly dense mix he calls “Sin King.” Not only is “Sin King” the album’s most intense song, it is also it’s longest song, clocking in just a couple of clicks under four minutes.

1.29 bob mould - beauty & ruin

As we continue this musical trip through his career, Mould takes us to the later days of Sugar. On the song “Lost Faith” we hear the power pop of his Copper Blue Sugar days being married to Hüsker’s intensity, just as he did with Sugar on their last album, File Under: Easy Listening. As we move closer to the end of this terrific album, Mould goes back to his Workbook days for an acoustic look back upon his life which he calls “Camp Sunshine.” Mould actually wistfully looks back to see that the old days may not have been as bad as they seemed at the time. Plus, he still seems to be working out his reaction to his former Hüsker Dü partner, co-writer and drummer/singer Grant Hart’s recent death.

1.29 bob mould - patch the sky

Finally, on the next-to-last song, Mould turns back to the future, as he does a grownup’s version of punk that he has been perfecting on his previous three LPs, called “Send Me a Postcard.” But, Mould wraps up this brilliant new album with another grownup song, this time bringing Sugar into the twenty-first century with “Western Sunset.”

1.29 bob mould - see a little light

Actually, I loved this Wayback Machine trip through Bob Mould’s rich and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame-worthy career, without this album being a compilation. I love how I could pick out every phase of his outstanding and influential career. If you did not know this, Hüsker Dü were musical peers of R.E.M., Minutemen, Black Flag, The Replacements, Camper Van Beethoven, Meat Puppets and the Dead Kennedys; yet, more importantly, they have been cited by members of Nirvana, Pixies, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Jane’s Addiction, among many others, as huge influences upon each artist’s sound.

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Actually, I don’t care where Bob Mould searches for his inspiration. I am just glad he gives us new music every couple to enrich our lives. Let’s just say that Mould released this album at the right time in my life for me to relate to it. Thanks Bob!


Did You Hear? Weezer Dropped ‘The Teal Album’

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Weezer’s ‘The Teal Album’

In this day and age, it can be difficult for a rock artist to get any type of hype going. A few years ago, Beyoncé actually lit up the internet when she dropped her self-titled album on an unsuspecting public. Couple that stealth-like release with the lyrical content describing marital discord between she and husband and hip hop icon Jay-Z, and we had a media blitz unlike nearly any album had caused since the salad days of a TRL-driven landscape when Eminem and N’SYNC were setting single-day sales records. Now, in the post-Napster, near post-apocalyptic days for the music industry, it is difficult to cause a media ripple as an artist attempts to make the pop cultural impact that was once so common that nearly every artist could own a major media blitz behind an album.

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But, last week, the internet blew up once again with the news of a quiet release of a non-existent album. The artist who caused this stir was of all bands but Weezer. Since going on tour this past summer with a reconstituted alt-gods Pixies, Weezer has been a something of a social media blitz when they silently released a cover of Toto’s enduring hit song “Africa.” The band covered the song per social media pressure after a young fan suggested that the band cover this song. In the past, Weezer has been known to record some cover songs and release them on alternate versions of their albums in other countries or as a second song on a single release. In the past, Weezer has recorded cover versions of such songs as The Band’s “The Weight,” Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” and “Rosanna,” yet another hit song by Toto. All of these cover songs were performed in a loving manner without a sense of irony, which only seemed to add to Weezer’s latter-day reputation with the millennials.

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The SNL “Weezer” sketch

Next in the apparent build up for Weezer, was the notorious Saturday Night Live sketch performed on the last episode before the show’s winter break. In this sketch, host Matt Damon and cast members Cecily Strong, Beck Bennett, Heidi Gardner, Leslie Jones and Keenan Thompson are sitting in the dining room apparently having a nice meal when Heidi’s music mix begins to play Weezer’s version of “Africa.” This starts Matt Damon to declare his love of all things Weezer. Of course, this causes an argument between Jones, who believes, as most people, that Weezer was done after the release of their second album Pinkerton. As the argument gets more heated by each statement, Damon ends the sketch by opening the front door of the home, saying, “If you go looking for me, you can find me in (cue singing voice)…’Beverly Hills!'” This, of course, was song as Weezer sang it in their “Beverly Hills” hit song.

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So, now, Weezer was gaining some traction on social media during the month of January, after performing on Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve with Ryan Seacrest as 2018 turned into 2019. The band had also set a date for the release of their upcoming album to be titled Weezer but will be commonly known as The Black Album since the cover will be black. And that date is Friday, March 1, 2019. Additionally, the band had released two singles on streaming formats from the Black Album: “Can’t Knock the Hustle” and “Zombie Bastards,” so the hype machine has been gaining momentum.

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All of which leads us to this past Thursday, January 24, 2019, when I, like the rest of the world, discovered on social media that Weezer had just released an album of cover songs that, as stated in the press release, would give fans some music to help us get through the days leading up to The Black Album’s release date of March 1. This album, also entitled Weezer, would be called The Teal Album because of the color of the cover’s background was teal. Now, the public would be able to stream, download or purchase (in CD-form from the band’s website only) this new album with songs being mainly staples of the Eighties, with a couple of songs from the Sixties, Seventies and Nineties as well, none of which take away from the “kitschy” Eighties-feel of the music on this album.

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Basically, I can sum up this album review with a single word: fun. From the first song, the aforementioned “Africa” through the songs in the middle, which include versions of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” a-ha’s “Take on Me,” ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky,” and Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.” There are even covers of “No Scrubs,” that staple of the Nineties by TLC, as well as a loving cover of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” Every song on the album should be familiar to most music fans, as Weezer puts their own power poppish spin on each song, which is what makes this album so endearing.

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Now, is this album the band’s answer to their classic Pinkerton? Heavens no! But, it is better than the combined highlights of Raditude, Hurley and Death to False Metal. You see, Weezer is this generation’s Cheap Trick. Yes, the band’s best, most culturally relevant music was all recorded in the band’s first seven years of existence. However, the band continues to create excellent music beyond their expiration date. Weezer is now a band for the ages, with an eventual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction in their future. They chose this path, the path of less is more. So, it is obvious that Weezer will be rocking well into their Sixties.

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Now, Weezer has raised the hype bar higher on their upcoming major league album. “The Black Album” is coming March 1! But, at least we can have just a little fun with this album, “The Teal Album.” Then, the band will be touring with the Pixies once again. Last summer, that was my second favorite concert.

George Michael Is Talent for the Ages

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Honestly, I meant to write this entry on Friday, but circumstances of life just got in the way. Then, instead of writing, I got the privilege of attempting to “help” my stepfather to find some important documents in Mom’s house. Well, that turned into a, uh, pardon my French, cluster f*#k, as a total disregard to organization and the deterioration of his mental capacities led to missing/misplacement documents of major importance. However, I did come to the realization that I need to begin the “cleaning” of this budding hoarder’s paradise. God bless my Mom and Stepfather because they have been the greatest people with how helpful they have been to my family and me. I just feel so very bad that Mom needed more help than we as a family could provide for her.

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Anyway, one artist has been on my mind recently, mainly because we lost him back around Christmas 2016. In the US, this talented singer/songwriter had become something of a punchline as he struggled with his own identity privately, let alone within plain sight of his fans. Yet, over in his homeland of the UK, the general public went into a period of mourning that just might be more than they may give some members of the royal family. Anyway, musically, I miss George Michael.

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At his height, during the years of 1984, while he was still a member of Wham!, through 1992, George Michael was creating some of the finest danceable pop music that was on equal footing with Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna. In the US, we tend to downplay most pop artists in favor of rock royalty or, in the case of today, hip hop artists, like Kanye West, Jay-Z, Drake, Eminem, Kid Cudi or even the late Mac Miller. Hip Hop is the dominant musical form today, but much of Michael’s funkier work from the Nineties and Aughts has become the basis of many of a hit song by a rap artist lately.

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I believe the true artistry of George Michael hit most of us as he, first, performed onstage at Wembley during the Concert Celebrating the Life of Freddie Mercury. When it was his turn to perform with Queen, Michael came out, and nearly repeated the gifted performance of his hero Mercury gave during Live Aid just a short seven years later. Remember, Michael tackled one of Mercury’s most iconic songs, “Somebody to Love,” only to prove that Michael deserved that his name could be said in the same breath as Mercury when it came to taming an audience. This should have been George’s crowning moment, but instead it was the beginning of the fall of Michael from grace as he battled his inner demons while seeming to deny his true sexuality. Much as Mercury did about a decade earlier, Michael struggled to be a homosexual in the heterosexual world of rock music back during a less tolerant era. I honestly feel as though this may have removed years from Michael’s  life. I am glad we are beginning to move past that intolerance.

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So, it is with a heavy heart, in which I would love to pay homage to the late, great George Michael by listing my 35 favorite songs that George Michael recorded over the years either as a member of Wham! or on his own. Hopefully, this will help Michael’s reputation here in the States, while only bringing a small amount of American respect for this man’s musical genius. So, let the countdown begin!

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  1. “Freedom! ‘90” – George Michael (1990)
  2. “Father Figure” – George Michael (1987)
  3. “Somebody to Love” – Queen with George Michael (1993)
  4. “Faith” – George Michael (1987)
  5. “I Want Your Sex, Pt. 1-2” – George Michael (1987)
  6. “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” – George Michael with Elton John (1991)
  7. “Praying for Time” – George Michael (1990)
  8. “Careless Whisper” – Wham! featuring George Michael (1984)
  9. “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” – Wham! (1984)
  10. “A Different Corner” – Wham! featuring George Michael (1986)
  11. “Fastlove” – George Michael (1996)
  12. “Killer/Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” – George Michael (1993)
  13. “Freedom” – Wham! (1984)
  14. “Too Funky” – George Michael (1992)
  15. “Everything She Wants” – Wham! (1984)
  16. “One More Try” – George Michael (1987)
  17. “Last Christmas” – Wham! (1984)
  18. “As” – George Michael and Mary J. Blige (2007)
  19. “Freeek!” – George Michael (2002)
  20. “Shoot the Dog” – George Michael (2002)
  21. “I’m Your Man” – Wham! (1986)
  22. “Heal the Pain” – George Michael with Paul McCartney (2006)
  23. “The Edge of Heaven” – Wham! (1986)
  24. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” – George Michael (1997)
  25. “This is Not Real Love” – George Michael with Mutya Buena (2006)
  26. “Monkey” – George Michael (1987)
  27. “Kissing a Fool” – George Michael (1987)
  28. “Jesus to a Child” – George Michael (1996)
  29. “Spinning the Wheel” – George Michael (1996)
  30. “Move On” – George Michael (1996)
  31. “Older” – George Michael (1997)
  32. “December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas)” (2007)
  33. “True Faith” (2011)
  34. “Fantasy” – George Michael feat. Nile Rodgers (2017)
  35. “Amazing” – George Michael (2004)

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In an act of playing one Mr. Obvious, I want to first declare that George Michael is a definite member of the unofficial Rock & Roll Songwriting Mensa organization. Yet, I do not want to simply reflect upon his impeccable solo career, but I would prefer to honor the brilliance of his early songwriting samples while he was a member of Wham!, where George Michael cut his songwriting teeth. R.I.P. George Michael, since this American misses the wonder of your musical gift.

Put Paul Weller in the Rock Hall! Here’s 25 of His Best Songs

1.24 paul weller 2018

Here we go again. Another Thursday, formerly known during my college days as “Thirsty Thursday,” a day that, for some reason, signaled the end of the week, regardless of your course-load on Friday. During my first three years of college, I unfortunately partook just one or two too many of the festivities.

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You see, I quickly learned the art of concocting a schedule that would leave me light on Fridays, in addition to getting my classes completed by 2 PM each day. Originally, as an incoming freshman, my intention was to have those afternoons clear for Cross Country practice. Many of the finest runners from my age group and section of the state of Indiana all decided we would be “preferred” walk-ons at Ball State University. The problem was that I was ready to “retire” from running, mainly because I was experiencing some strange leg/bilateral hip flexor pains after, first, crashing back-first into the bleachers during an away basketball game during my junior year in high school, and, second, slamming back-first into a tree while playing baseball with some neighborhood kids who loved attention from high school kids. Little did I realize at the time that all of those early alarms from my body that were ignored led to my present status as a retired/disabled teacher/coach due to several chronic back pain and constant back spasms.

1.24 paul weller & 1st marriage kids & wife hannah
Weller & part of his Family: from left to right, his oldest kids from his first marriage, Nate, Leah, the man himself and his wife Hannah.

So, anyway, I sit here, ready to finish this little trilogy about the career of perhaps Great Britain’s finest musical icon from the late-Seventies to this very day, Paul Weller. A couple of days ago, I wrote about my late discovery of the true calling of Mr. Weller’s first band, The Jam. Although, I was very familiar with The Jam’s debut, it was not until MTV arrived in Central Indiana that I truly fell in love with the band, only to hear on the channel as “Breaking News,” that The Jam were dissolving, while Weller was free to follow his love for R&B/Soul as he attempted to combine that with Rock and Pop, finally settling upon a sound known throughout Europe at Sophisti-Pop with his new band The Style Council.

1.24 paul weller - sonik kicks

When The Style Council ran out of gas in 1989, Weller once again pulled the plug on a hugely successful band throughout the world, except, of course, the United States of America. In other words, The Style Council had followed a similar career trajectory as The Jam. In 1991, Weller felt the time was get back into the game, this time as a solo artist.

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Paul & Hannah taking their twins for a stroll back when the youngsters were toddlers.

As a solo artist, Weller entered into a rarefied status in the UK’s musical hierarchy as an elder statesman. Sure, as a solo artist, his music seemed to take on a more traditional version of rock music, as opposed to the cutting edge magic in the bottle sounds from The Jam and The Style Council. And, even though those new sounds appeared to be seasoned in the past, Weller still sounded vital as ever. And, once again, America chose to ignore his brilliant music. And, it was, once again, our loss.

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In 1992, Weller released his highly anticipated debut solo album, eponymously titled. Finally, we could hear ALL of Weller’s musical influences on this album, along with his sophomore record that released the following year. Honestly, it was slightly jarring to hear Weller wearing his love of English bands such as Small Faces and Traffic, two distinctly British in their sound and lyrical content, a lesson learnt by Paul Weller. Of all his musical influences, that also includes The Kinks and The Who as well as the Northern Soul records of his Mod Mach II allegiance. Finally, Weller was free to chase whichever muse he preferred at the moment. And, all of this has given Weller a more diversified and satisfying career.

1.22 the jam - going underground

Let’s take a quick tour of the lyrical maturation of Paul Weller. Let’s begin with the song that signaled The Jam’s ascent to the throne as the Kings of British Rock, “Going Underground.” Throughout the song, Weller expresses a disgust and concern as to why his mates, peers, friends and his country in general would actually elect people whose enacted policies would be to the detriment of those vary people. Even though the were voting for “freedom and prosperity,” they were actually electing insidious crooks who were actually stealing those very ideals from the working class folks who had put those politicians in power. Weller’s initial response, according to the song, was simply to go underground to get away from the unwilling-to-see-the-truth public in order to begin his own society. These are the typical ideas of a very precocious young man, yet not unexpected. We all just wanted to bury our heads as we were overwhelmed by society’s collective ignorance.

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However, in four short years, Weller matured, as did his lyrical observations. So, instead of just running underground to get away from the ramifications of the general public’s political ignorance, now he was on the verge of trying to do something about it. In “My Ever Changing Moods,” a song buoyed by a strong Motown dance feel, Weller’s lyrics screamed about his disgust of the whims of his society and generation and their collective allegiance to consumerism. Now, Weller begins his phase as something of a prophet attempting to clear the eyes of the general population of his fans so they can see the truth. His disgust and troubled visions were known being articulated clearly, with Weller attempting to change minds from the upcoming consumerist orgy that was on the horizon was going to require some sort of payment down the road, and the very politicians the public was electing would never care what happened to the little man when it was time to pay the piper. Little did any of us know that the economic collapse people such as Weller were trying to warn the public about did not happen for another 23 years later. But, Weller was without solutions. At least, as a young man in his mid- to late-Twenties.

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In the aftermath of the 2008 financial collapse, politicians were enacting policies that would continue to line the pockets of the wealthy, of which Weller was now a member, to the chagrin of the general population of Western society. So, in 2010, Weller released a song, “Wake Up the Nation,” which also was his latest album at the time. And, Weller’s timing was impeccable. This song, which was written during those financially scary times, attempts to be a literal wake-up call to the world about those pesky financial gurus who were constantly singing the praises of Big Business, as if this sector would be the cure for everything that ails the world. But, Weller could see through the rose-tinted glasses our governments were handing out, and he was warning the world of another impending collapse if we did not to wake up to this insanity. And, all of this wealth disparity did nothing but make working-class values he grew up absorbing seethe until it was finally time to act. Now, the man was becoming an agent of change, aligning his life more with action that simply talk.

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And, to me, that’s what makes Paul Weller such a compelling figure in rock music. Unfortunately, the majority of the United States rock-loving never really got an opportunity hear the music from the whole career of this man. Still, it’s not too late to begin dipping your toes in the Paul Weller musical pool. Don’t be afraid! The water’s at the perfect temperature for all Americans, even though that temperature may initially be read using the Celsius scale, it’s okay. It converts easily to Fahrenheit.

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So, if you need some Paul Weller solo music to which to listen, here’s my Top 25 Paul Weller Songs. Enjoy!

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  1. “Wake Up the Nation” (2010)
  2. “You Do Something to Me” (1995)
  3. “Sweet Pea, My Sweet Pea” (2000)
  4. “Come On/Let’s Go” (2005)
  5. “Out of the Sinking” (1995)
  6. “All I Wanna Do (Is Be with You)” (2008)
  7. “The Attic” (2011)
  8. “Uh-Huh, Oh-Yeh” (1992)
  9. “The Changingman” (1995)
  10. “Brand New Start” (1998)
  11. “When Your Garden’s Overgrown” (2011)
  12. “Peacock Suit” (1997)
  13. “Have You Made Up Your Mind” (2008)
  14. “Brand New Toy” (2014)
  15. “7 & 3 Is the Strikers Name” (2010)
  16. “It’s Written in the Stars” (2002)
  17. “Above the Clouds” (1992)
  18. “Starlite” (2011)
  19. “Has My Fire Really Gone Out?” (1993)
  20. “Saturns Pattern” (2015)
  21. “I Should Have Been There to Inspire You” (1997)
  22. “Wishing on a Star” (2004)
  23. “The Soul Searchers” (2018)
  24. “Fast Car/Slow Traffic” (2010)
  25. “I’m Where I Should Be” (2015)

1.24 25.paul weller - i'm where i should be

If you need a jumping off point for Weller’s career, including The Jam and The Style Council, may I suggest his fantastic 2007 four-disc box set, Hit Parade. For The Jam, my pick would be their 1983 compilation Snap! When it comes to The Style Council, turn to either of these compilations: The Singular Adventures of The Style Council (1989) or Greatest Hits (2000). The former is the better record. Finally, when it comes to Weller’s solo career, pick up his two greatest hits packages entitled Modern Classics: The Greatest Hits (1998) and the ironically redundantly titled More Modern Classics, Vol. 2 (2014).

1.24 paul weller - hit parade

However, if those collections are not enough for you, please go back in my archive to read the post where I rank Paul Weller’s 35 albums for all phases of his illustrious career. Then, come back to tell me why this man, as well as both of his previous bands, are not ALL in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. To paraphrase Lindsey Graham, for a rough attempt at some humor, “Put this man [in the Hall] and let him do whatever the hell he wants!” I sure hope to live to see Paul Weller finally get the call that he is being inducted! Cheers!

Never Dismiss The Style Council!

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I am just going to say it: The Style Council is rock’s most underrated band of all-time. Many of you will be scratching your heads at that statement. How in the heck can a man who grew up in Central Indiana, spent four short years in Southwestern Ohio, then moved back to his hometown, the one in which our said hero claimed to which he would never return, to raise his family, ever hear of the UK-centric and generally altogether European artist The Style Council?

1.23 the style council at live aid

Well, remember, I was a fan of The Jam and specifically their lead singer and creative visionary Paul Weller. One day, during the summer of 1983 while working and living in Southern Wisconsin at a resort, I bought a music magazine in nearby Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, in which was an article about a new mod scene that was popping up as a second generation took to the music and clothing style beloved by the original mods in the Sixties. The only difference was their were new bands whose music was being played at these dances, including the later music of The Jam and the new Paul Weller group The Style Council. Since the article mentioned that the mods loved old soul and R&B hits from the US, including my beloved Motown music, I knew that I had to check out The Style Council.

So, after the summer in Wisconsin ended, I headed back to Ball State University for my junior year. Just the prior year, the nearby shopping area called The Village had a new general store move in called Discount Den. Honestly, the only things I ever really purchased at the Den were albums, since they sold them for $3 to $5 off the list price of $10, which is quite a savings for a college student. And, since I worked during college, I was able to live comfortably while getting a couple albums a week from either the Den or the Used Record Shop. Boy, those were the days!

1.23 the style council - introducing the style council1.23 the style council - my ever changing moods lp

Anyway, one day during the winter of that junior year, I saw two albums by The Style Council on display at the Den. Since my mind has near-eidetic capabilities, I remembered that article from the previous summer and bought the first two stateside releases by Paul Weller’s new band, the debut EP Introducing The Style Council and the band’s first US long player entitled My Ever Changing Moods. The EP was a short collection of the band’s initial cache of brilliant UK singles, including one of my all-time favorites, “Long Hot Summer.” The other album apparently was a re-working, much like was the American record companies used to do to Sixties English bands like the Beatles and Stones, of The Style Council’s UK album Bleu Cafe along with a sprinkling of singles from the homeland and repackaged here as My Ever Changing Moods.

1.23 the style council live in concert

Regardless of my initial exposure to the band, I immediately fell in love with The Style Council. I loved their integration of American soul with the slickness of European sophisticated pop. Oh, sure, I missed the days of Weller’s pure aggression and adrenaline with The Jam, but this stuff reminded me of the great pop music of the day coming from Culture Club and Wham!, only with a heart and a keen scene of observation of what was happening in these dawning days of conservative principles of Reaganism in the States, and it’s equally evil twin from the UK Thatcherism.

1.23 the style council tour

But, in my mind, it wasn’t just Weller’s social eye that separated The Council from the other pop artists of the day. It was the way Weller dealt with the politics of love that put me over the top. The man had a keen sense of what made a relationship successful and what made one a disaster, all the while living with mistakes he was making in his own life. And, these most punk of lyrics were dressed up in Motown-influenced music that made you want to dance. And, even more importantly than simply dance, but also slow dance! Some of The Style Council’s best songs were perfect for my “Make Out Music” mixtapes. And I would load them up with some of The Style Council’s most enduring songs, such as the aforementioned “Long Hot Summer,” “My Ever Changing Moods,” and the slow that continues to be my wife’s and my song, “You Are the Best Thing.” They mixed perfectly with songs by Al Green, The Temptations, The Chi-Lites, Lionel Richie, Tina Turner and the like. These first two albums, as well as the US-only 1985 release, Internationalists, were full of these types of songs that my wife and I spent listening to during the years after our marriage.

1.23 the style council

Basically, Paul Weller has had three brilliantly creative careers. First, he burst on the scene with the underrated punkish band The Jam. Then, he broke that band up to follow his muse and new found love of soul music in order to form The Style Council. Unfortunately, The Style Council began to run out of gas by the end of the Eighties. Their brand of sophisti-pop was being replaced by newer sounds from the UK underground, like acid house and a little band that did the incorporation of new sounds with rock, much as The Jam and The Style Council had done a decade or so ago, called the Stone Roses. This band signaled the beginning of what would be the largest measure of Weller’s enduring influence Britpop. These bands grew up idolizing all things Weller, and one could hear it in their music. In addition to the Stone Roses, I am talking about great British bands like Oasis and Blur, arguably the biggest of these bands, but I am also talking about Pulp, Manic Street Preachers, The La’s, to list but a few names. This change would cause Weller to break up The Style Council, go into a self-imposed seclusion for a year to evaluate just exactly what his next move would be.

1.23 the style council - internationalists lp

Eventually, Weller did re-emerge as a solo artist, comfortable with his newfound elder statesman role he was given as The Modfather, the man responsible for this new Britpop thing that overtook the UK by the mid-Nineties. The irony is that a solo Weller outlasted the Britpop movement as well and, today, he is creating some of the most vital music of his career. Fortunately for me, my older son and I got to see Paul Weller make a very rare stop in Indianapolis for a concert a few years ago. I never got to see The Jam when they made their only US tour, which initially caused Weller to write off the States completely. I remember being just blown away by the musicianship of Weller’s band, and, perhaps most importantly, Weller’s conviction behind every song he played that night. But, most of all, I felt so very lucky to hear him and his band dust off “My Ever Changing Moods” and just knock it out of the park. It was performed with the youthful stance that made the song so vital to me back in my very early twenties. I understand Weller’s need to play his brilliant solo stuff, but, c’mon Paul! You have written so many great songs during your days in The Jam and The Style Council that they deserve to be heard again.

1.23 the style council group

I know that I am probably wasting my time trying to get the Rock Hall of Fame to take The Style Council seriously, when they haven’t given The Smiths, Depeche Mode or The Jam their due respect yet. But, I will continue to sing their praises as long as I have this blog. So, instead, I give to you my Top 25 songs by The Style Council. The Jam, The Style Council and Paul Weller will always remain near and dear to my musical heart!

1.23 1.my_ever_changing_moods

  1. “My Ever Changing Moods” (1984)
  2. “You’re the Best Thing” (1984)
  3. “Long Hot Summer Night” (1983)
  4. “Shout to the Top” (1985)
  5. “How She Threw It All Away” (1988)
  6. “Walls Came Tumbling Down!” (1985)
  7. “The Lodgers” (1985)
  8. “Come to Milton Keynes” (1985)
  9. “A Solid Bond in Your Heart” (1984)
  10. “Down in the Seine” (1985)
  11. “The Big Boss Groove” (1986)
  12. “Wanted” (1987)
  13. “Headstart for Happiness” (1983)
  14. “The Paris Match” (1983)
  15. “The Money-Go-Round, Pt. 1 & 2” (1983)
  16. “Speak like a Child” (1983)
  17. “The Whole Point of No Return” (1984)
  18. “Dropping Bombs on the White House” (1984)
  19. “Here’s the One That Got Away” (1984)
  20. “It Didn’t Matter” (1987)
  21. “Life at a Top People’s Health Farm” (1988)
  22. “Have You Ever Had It Blue?” (1986)
  23. “All Gone Away” (1985)
  24. “Boy Who Cried Wolf” (1985)
  25. “Internationalists” (1985)

1.23 25.internationalists

No other artist has ever been able to fully articulate what has always been locked in my heart as Paul Weller, especially when he was leading The Style Council through the Eighties. Weller, the late-Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen are the three artists whose lyrics have meant the most to me throughout my life. Therefore, I feel like I must use this platform to either get The Jam or solo Paul Weller into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Until that moment, my musical heart would always be incomplete when visiting the shrine. Let’s raise a glass of your favorite drink in honor of Paul Weller’s Eighties incarnation, The Style Council! Viva la The Style Council!

Ten Songs and a Bunch of Words in Praise of The Jam

1.22 the jam live

The past two weekends have been ruined here in Central Indiana by snow and ice storms, especially last weekend. You see, my boys and their wives were supposed to head to Chicago for a weekend of fun, while my wife and I got to have our six-month-old granddaughter for the that time period. But, while the local meteorologists were all screaming some sort of “Snowmageddon,” we were thinking that we got screwed of this special time by the weather gods. Then, as what seems to be the usual in the whole of predicting weather, we got some ice, which is bad, but we missed the grand total of predicted snowfall of 5 to 8 inches by 4 to 7 inches! And, no amount of blowing will cause dangerous drifting of snow, just some pesky black ice, which can be a pain but is manageable. Needless to say, we were happy that the adult kids stayed home, but we so wanted to spend the weekend spoiling…er…taking care of our beautiful granddaughter that we were at a loss as to what to do with our selves. When you become part of a couple who is quickly approaching our 34th wedding anniversary, we always think back to that Bruce Springsteen concert in the Fall of 1985 when The Boss, while introducing “No Surrender,” spun a tale about a long-married couple looking at each other and saying, “Do I have to sit around here and look at your face again?” While we have used that line over the years of our marriage, it looks ring a little too close to home these days.

1.22 the_jam_-_all_mod_cons

So, while we attempted to take refuge in a couple of college basketball games on TV Saturday, it did not help, especially when I would periodically revert back to Coach Keller and yell at the player with the ball to pass it to the open man or watch in disgust as another defensive assignment was blown. To calm down, I went over to help my wife work on our annual winter puzzle. But, that did not help for very long as my back began to scream in pain. So, it was off to the Music Room. While rooting around, looking for something I had not listened to in a while, I dug out my albums by The Jam. Which, got me reminiscing about my discovery of punk rock.

1.22 the jam - town called malice

You see, growing up in the Midwest USA the radio stations tends to be conservative here, as I have bitched about before. So, while I was reading about some “cool” new artists in Creem magazine back in 1976 and 1977, I decided that I would make some purchases based on those old album reviews. Because of that magazine, I entered the punk rock world as a bright-eyed, acne-face, ultra-skinny, somewhat athletic teen. During that time, I purchased albums by the Sex Pistols, Blondie, Talking Heads, The Clash, Cheap Trick, Ramones, Elvis Costello, The Runaways and The Jam. It’s always an exciting time as a young person begins to develop their morals, ideals and musical tastes. That’s why those musical tastes stick with us, because we associate that time with excitement and naiveté. Little did I know at the time that Cheap Trick, Costello and Paul Weller of The Jam would be some of the more important artists in my life as they continue their artistic journeys to this very day.

1.22 the jam publicity pic

Initially, I thought the Sex Pistols, Blondie and Talking Heads were going to have the longest careers. Boy, was I ever out of touch? The Sex Pistols imploded within a year of my purchase of their debut album. I should have guessed they were not in it for the long haul, but I was stupid at the time. Slowly, Blondie and Talking Heads did become main stream successes, but the weight of that success caused ego issues, which lead to their respective demises, though Blondie has since resumed their career, albeit in a much smaller capacity than before.

1.22 the_ jam - sound effects

Still, the punk artist who has blown me away ever so consistently over the years has been The Jam’s mastermind Paul Weller. Now, The Jam never caught on in the States. It probably has to due with Weller’s lyrics being much like The Kinks’ Ray Davies’ lyrics, as they both spent much time commenting on and depicting lower and middle class English society. While many Americans were probably confused by the lyrics and the Anglo sayings, The Jam was becoming the biggest band in the UK during the late-Seventies and early-Eighties. So, while radio in the States was giving us a daily helping of the California sound, by the likes of the Doobie Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles and Steely Dan, all terrific bands when played in moderation, but makes for the most boring radio sound when crammed back-to-back-to-back. I knew from my record collection that America was missing out on some very compelling music.

1.22 the jam - beat surrender

Still, what I most loved about The Jam was their R&B/Soul influence, that was missing in early cuts by the Pistols and The Clash (though they would eventually catch up to The Jam in that regard and eventually did surpass them, at least until they imploded as well). I loved the fact that The Jam spent their last album attempting to breakdown the wall between Motown and punk. And, they damn near succeeded in my mind. Sure, their last album, The Gift, released to much success in the UK, almost pulled off that feat, yet, they ultimately fell short. Thus, at that point, although Weller had one of the most underrated bassists of all-time in Bruce Foxton, he could not pull off the music he heard in his head. Thus, at the end of 1982, he announced that he was pulling the plug on The Jam.

1.22 the jam live 1979

Quickly, Weller formed another band, The Style Council, a very underrated band themselves for a variety of different reasons, with former Dexys Midnight Runner keyboardist Mick Talbot, as well as a young drumming prodigy, a then-eighteen-year-old Steve White and Weller’s future ex-wife and back-up singer Dee C. Lee and bassist Camille Hinds, who came on later. The Style Council was able to go places where The Jam could not. The new band was able to break free of the punk/power pop sound of the original band and go into a more sophisticated pop sound which was beginning to take over Europe in the early-Eighties. But, once again, The Style Council was too early for the States’ tastes and got very little airplay on Top 40 radio, while finding a home on the alternative rock and college rock radio stations dotting the country.

1.22 the jam - the bitterest pill

Today, The Jam’s influence can be heard. Just twenty years ago, bands such as Oasis and Blur were creating the Britpop sound which was definitely standing on the shoulders of The Jam’s work. Likewise, in the States, The Jam finally found their American counterparts in future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Green Day. I love Green Day, but I have also been telling every student I ever had that the band just is an Americanized version of The Jam. So, what I am telling you, my friends that I am throwing all of my RRHOF efforts into two artists: Todd Rundgren and The Jam.

1.22 the jam at cbgbs

So, today, I would love to present to you My Ten Favorite Songs by The Jam. Then, go listen to them on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, or whatever your streaming service of choice is, then tell me The Jam does not belong in the Hall of Fame. Go ahead, knock my copy of their Snap! CD compilation off my shoulder! I dare you!

1.22 the jam - going underground

  1. “Going Underground” (1980)
  2. “Town Called Malice” (1982)
  3. “Down in the Tube Station at Midnight” (1978)
  4. “Beat Surrender” (1982)
  5. “That’s Entertainment” (1980)
  6. “The Bitterest Pill (I’ve Ever Had to Swallow)” (1982)
  7. “The Modern World” (1977)
  8. “In the City” (1977)
  9. “‘A’ Bomb in Wardour Street” (1978)
  10. “The Eton Rifles” (1979)

1.22 the jam - a bomb in wardour street

So, Jann Wenner! Make the Walls of the Hall come tumbling down to let in The Jam in 2020! Enough is enough, and it’s time for a change! Put The Jam in the Hall!

In Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Here’s 25 Songs by Stevie Wonder

1.21 stevie wonder 1972

Hi everybody! I’m finally back after a month-long hiatus. Honestly, I never expected to be gone this long, as I intended only to take off the two-weeks surrounding the holidays, but I will leave that to good intentions.

In all honesty, I had my seventeenth surgery right after the new year. Although in the scheme of my treatment for Failed Back Syndrome which has yielded to chronic spinal pain and back spasms, this surgery was relatively minor. It seems that my six-year-old pain pump, which delivers a constant amount of pain medication directly to my spinal column, runs on a non-rechargeable battery that was quickly running out of “juice.” So, it was time for a new one to be placed under the skin above the right side of my abdomen. Relatively speaking, this is a minor outpatient surgery. But, no!!!! I had all kinds of complications afterwards, all of which can most likely be attributed to the use of Exparel, a non-opioid painkiller. Bottom line, I think I was given too much Exparel, as I experience nausea, a headache and, most troubling, both of my legs were kicking (as if I were kicking a soccer ball) for 36 straight hours. My pain doctor was so concerned that he wanted me to go the the emergency room to rule out any neurological issues.

Needless to say, the ER trip was a waste, so I was left to simply ride out the kicking, which around the 24-hour mark became tremors, then 12 hours later, they stopped. All of which caused me to sleep for the next two days straight. My appetite, however, did not return until nearly two weeks AFTER the surgery. Needless to say, I was a mess and was in no condition to write. Yet, I would periodically check my blog stats to see if my readership had fallen, and much to my surprise, the opposite was happening. For some reason, more and more people continue to stop by this spartan attempt at remaining sane as my world continues to crash until the law of entropy.

Well, here in the USA, we are supposed to be celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in honor of the great civil rights leader who was assassinated way back in 1968. A holiday to celebrate this man’s life and work was a hard-fought battle, which had reopened unhealed wounds in the late-Seventies and early-Eighties, until, in 1986, when most the the States in the USA all celebrated the first MLK Jr. Day. Initially, Arizona held out from observing the holiday, until the NFL and other businesses threatened to pull out of the state because of this. Finally, in 1990, Arizona joined the rest of the states by observing this holiday, which was originally called “Human Rights Day.” Slowly, the individual states began to switch the name of the holiday to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, with Utah becoming the last state to make the change in 2000. During the Obama presidency, the day became known for a sense of volunteerism, as the former President led his family and the country into a sense of service for others. Unfortunately, that sense of service as an Executive Branch sense of leadership has been stopped by the current President and the people surrounding him.

Now, why did I bring this holiday up, other than it is being observed here in the States today, the third Monday of the month of January. Well, the passage of the laws that led to the establishment of this newest federal government-observed holiday was spearheaded by one of rock music’s biggest stars of that time period, as well as ANY time period. And I am referring to none other than the great Stevie Wonder.

1.21 stevie wonder today

That’s right! Once again, we have another example in which a rocker changed people’s minds through sheer tenacity. We saw this same spirit happen when Elvis Presley was first seen on television in the Fifties or when millions of Americans tuned in to the Ed Sullivan Show to see The Beatles perform or when an estimated 300- to 500-thousand teens and twenty-somethings descended upon a sleepy upstate New York village to hold a peaceful three rock festival called “Woodstock” or in 1985 when kids from the UK filled Wembley Stadium and from the US filled JFK Stadium in Philadelphia to watch performers in both venues perform in order to raise money for the starving people in Africa with “Live Aid.” These philanthropic events are scattered throughout the history of rock music, but Martin Luther King Jr. Day had one rocker pushing the agenda, the great Stevie Wonder. This holiday was so important to Mr. Wonder that, in 1980, he recorded a song that he dedicated to Dr. King Jr. called “Happy Birthday,” which closes out arguably Wonder’s last great album, Hotter Than July.

So, in honor of both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. AND Stevie Wonder, for his work to use his celebrity AND talents to make this honorable idea morph into reality, as Stevie Wonder did. Oh, sure, I always loved his music, even as a toddler, who has been told by his mother, before her memories were ravaged by her disease, that this writer was quite the playpen dancer when Stevie Wonder and other Motown artists would “perform” on the afternoon American Bandstand or one of the other dance shows.

During the years from when Motown President Berry Gordon finally took the creative shackles off Stevie Wonder, allowing Wonder to write, create, play and produce all of his own albums beginning in 1972, through 1982, Stevie Wonder experienced one of the legendary bursts of creativity that few artists have achieved. Only Prince came close during the Eighties and early-Nineties. Throughout his career, Wonder has released 27 albums which have charted on the Billboard “Top 200 Albums Chart (with three reaching the top spot),” while also notching ten number-one hit songs. It’s been quite the life for this musical genius, but I am certain that all the chart success of his music, as well as the recognition it has brought Wonder (like 22 Grammy Awards) pales in comparison to him and the success he experienced when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was finally celebrated on the third Monday in January 1986.

Today, let’s look at My 25 Favorite Songs by Stevie Wonder. Let’s get this party going!

1.21 50.happy birthday

25. “Happy Birthday” (1981) Did not chart

24. “Part Time Lover” (1985) #1

23. “I Just Called to Say I Love You” (1984) #1

22. “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday” (1969) #7

1.21 what christmas means to me

21. “Someday at Christmas” (1967) Did not chart

20. “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” (1966) #3

19. “Blowin’ in the Wind” (1966) #9

18. “Send One Your Love” (1979) #1

1.21 skeletons

17. “Skeletons” (1987) #19

16. “For Once in My Life” (1968) #2

15. “Do I Do” (1982) #13

14. “As” (1978) #19

13. “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” (1973) #1

12. “I Wish” (1977) #1

11. “You Haven’t Done Nothin'” (1974) #1

10. “I Was Made to Love Her” (1967) #2

9. “Living for the City” (1974) #8

8. “I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It” (1981) #11

7. “My Cherie Amour” (1969) #4

1.21 boogie on reggae woman

6. “Boogie on Reggae Woman” (1975) #3

1.21 that_girl_(stevie_wonder_song)

5. “That Girl” (1982) #4

1.21 higher_ground

4. “Higher Ground” (1973) #4

1.21 superstition

3. “Superstition” (1973) #1

1.21 sir duke

2. “Sir Duke” (1977) #1

1.21 master blaster

1. “Master Blaster” (1980) #5

What do you think of that list? What would you have at number one? And, I am certain that we all could find another 25 songs in Stevie Wonder’s fantastic music collection. The man has not only been prolific, but he has also had a larger cache of hit songs, such as “Fingertips – Pt. II” and “Overjoyed,” as well as duets and group songs, such as “Ebony and Ivory” (with Paul McCartney), “That’s What Friends Are For” (with Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight and Elton John) and, the granddaddy of all charity songs, “We Are the World” as a member of USA for Africa. Stevie Wonder has left an indelible mark on popular music, in addition to being one of the more important artists of the latter-half of the twentieth century. Thank you Stevie Wonder!