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.
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!
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
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
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
6. “Boogie on Reggae Woman” (1975) #3
5. “That Girl” (1982) #4
4. “Higher Ground” (1973) #4
3. “Superstition” (1973) #1
2. “Sir Duke” (1977) #1
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!