Friday, July 11, 2014

Music According to Benedict N° 7: "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder

"For all those whose weddings I have danced at and have yet to dance at! What a great groove from a master at the height of his powers. Thanks to Martin Freeman for properly introducing me to the full brilliance of [Stevie Wonder]. - Benedict Cumberbatch

Thanks to Martin Freeman, indeed - for this and many other things he's properly introduced to Benedict (adding a bit of polish to his red carpet style, perhaps?)

As gossip sites again circulate whispers of a girlfriend for our favorite actor (because what publication doesn't use his name to generate web hits?) and we enter wedding season, this song's lyrics seem possibly more suited for Halloween than a wedding reception, BUT who are we to argue? I've not attended a wedding with Mr. Cumberbatch, although I've a feeling fans think about him in formal wear  now and again. . .

. . .are you picturing Sherlock at John & Mary's wedding reception? Oh, alright then. Here you go:

There now. Feel better?

When I look over the Top 10 list submitted by Benedict to Two Paddocks in March 2012, I'm struck by the diversity in his choices. Although he's most recently sung the praises of Elbow (which was discussed here), he continues to celebrate both classical music - and classics from the rock and pop era of the early 1970s, which is where we found today's time machine treasure.

"Superstition" was Stevie Wonder's baby from start to finish, as he wrote, produced, arranged, and recorded the song in 1973 for the Tamla label (part of Berry Gordy's Motown Records). Wonder signed with Motown when he was just 11 years old - performing and recording as  "Little Stevie Wonder" - and would eventually win 22 Grammy Awards (the most ever awarded to a male solo artist) - and sell 100+ albums and singles. "Superstition" was on Wonder's 15th album, Talking Book, released after Wonder (at the ripe old age of 22) toured with the Rolling Stones in 1972 (the year before another of Benedict's choices, "You Can't Always Get What You Want" hit the Billboard Top 100).

Keep an eye on the Hohner clavinet (that cool electronic  keyboard responsible for the funky sound  showcased in this song, which earned Wonder a Grammy in 1974 for Best R&B Single.)

If you want to hear the entire album, you can listen to it via the YouTube link below. There is definite variety and undeniable musical talent, as it showcases Wonder's development as an artist from his early days in Motown - and an awareness of changes in the sounds, scenes and sensibilities of the early 1970s. You'll find sentiment, soul and spirit in these tracks. (I highly recommend headphones - and a glass of Shiraz.) A 2008 BBC review of the album highlights what you'll hear if you set aside 45 minutes to enjoy:

Oh, and in case you're wondering if the wonder of Wonder has been silenced in semi-retirement, the answer is, "No." Stevie Wonder is still making news, headlining this year's Montreux Jazz Festival and performing on July 16. Other scheduled performers at Montreux? Pharrell, Robin Thicke - and Van Morrison (yet another artist Cumberbatch favors.) Perhaps Ben should just book a fortnight so he can see all his favorites in one place - and go skydiving - again.)

To me, it seems his English teacher's observation that Benedict is an "old soul" - comparing him to English poet and engraver William Blake -  is quite plausible, with roots in his beloved England, and a search for something greater in the books, music, performances - and opportunities -  that cross his path today.  "Superstition" may be a song he loves, but the word - and all it conjures - seems unlikely to be a part of his life.

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