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6. Mind Full Of Music

Robert Margouleff & Malcolm CecilNow that Stevie had the ability to create without the limitations of Motown, and backed up by financial security, he soared. This period in his life was one of extreme activity, enormous creativity, new directions and seemingly limitless change and growth. Remarking about that time in his life, he says I then asked the question again of where am I going, what am I going to do. I had to see and feel what I wanted to do . . . feel where my destiny was, or the direction of my destiny anyway. I think that when you gradually change you still have a certain thing that you left behind. When you take a very abrupt change, you say, 'Okay, boom, this is what this is going to be about--click, and you do it. It was time for a change musically. Spiritually I had gone as far as I could have gone. To explore the music swirling in his mind he ventured to New York City, a place now buzzing with state-of-the-art recording studios, and the latest technological innovations. He lived in a hotel, but spent most of the time in the studio. It was at this time that he met Robert Margoulef and Malcolm Cecil, both engineers and composers. They had recently released and album called Tonto's Expanding Headband, which used the Arp and Moog synthesizers to create a cacophony of sounds. Stevie says, The synthesizer allowed me to do a lot of things I wanted to do for a long time, but which were just not possible until it came along. It adds a whole new dimension to music.

With this new dimension of sound his new compositions now took on both a more mental flavour and a rock sound,Stevie Wonder & Berry the direct result of the synthesizers. This in no way sacrificed the emotional content of his music, but the ARP and Moog did offer him the dimension he wanted. They express what's inside my mind.

Hence the name of the next album he did, the ground-breaking Music Of My Mind. Working with him Co-writing some of the songs was Syreeta Wright. Stevie sank some quarter of a million dollars of his own money into time at three non-Motown studios in New York and Los Angeles (Electric Lady and Media Sound in New York, and Crystal Industries in Los Angeles). There, playing most of the instruments himself and heavily emphasizing the synthesizers, he independently recorded and produced Music Of My Mind. The instruments he played included piano, drums, organ, harmonica, clavichord, clavinet and of course the Synthesizers.

Stevie says about the project, When you get music and you get creativity and you get love together, it's pretty heavy. The album was a truly remarkable departure from anything else Stevie had done. Yet, more than any of his other records, Music Of My Mind emanates the real personality of Stevie Wonder, the raw energy and emotion he was brimming with. The album really was before its time, and did not get the recognition that it deserved.

Without exception, all the tracks on Music Of My Mind give that feeling of Stevie's wings spreading and his mind venturing in many directions.

Also of note, Music Of My Mind looked as different outside as it sounded inside, and this, too, was due to Stevie's new artistic say-so and sense of freedom. There was this sophisticated look about, very differnt from the tacky cover designs of the Motown controlled albums of the 60's. It was also his first album to include printed lyrics.

Stevie WonderThe album marked a milestone in the development of a great talent. A man who keeps his promise, Stevie in maturity shines with that same loving and brilliant light that had drawn people to him for a decade. Born a star, he never lets his technical and artistic proficiency overshadow his deep humility. This album is a gift to the spirit from one who really cares.

With this remarkable new material, Stevie went back to talk business with Motown. His second contract with Motown had lapsed some time now. He and his lawyer, Johannan Vigoda, went back to negotiate with Motown, spending six full weeks working out a new contract. The final result was 120 pages long and absolutely unprecedented in what it made possible for Stevie, and, ultimately, for Motown too. Stevie achieved the right to produce and record his music virtually any place, any time, and any way--he had complete artistic control. He also owned his own publishing rights, something no other Motown artist had ever done, and increased royalty rates.

Vigoda, who had previously worked out contracts for such rock luminaries as Richie Havens and Jimi Hendrix, told Rolling Stone, "It was a very important contract for Motown, and a very important contract for Stevie, representing the artists of Motown. He broke tradition with the deal, legally, professionally--in terms of how he could cut his records and where he could cut--and in breaking tradition he opened up the future for Motown. That's what they understood. They had never had an artist in thirteen years, they had singles records, they managed to create a name in certain areas, but they never came through with a major, major artist.

Despite the chagrin and the bad feelings that must have existed for a time on the part of Motown management, the decision was clearly the right one for the company to make.

"I'm unashamed to say Stevie and Marvin [Gaye] changed our approach," Ewart Abner, Motown Records president, told Newsweek. "They loosened us up. We made a lot of money and we didn't have to change. They taught us how to have a little fun." With this "loosening up," Marvin Gaye and Stevie made millions and millions for Motown, indirectly causing the company to change its promotion and distribution system. And most significantly, Motown was at last opened up to the mass white rock audience.