A Time To Love - Press Release
Stevie Wonder returns to the studio
Wednesday October 12
When Stevie Wonder returned to the studio after a 10-year hiatus to
record "A Time to Love," he was doing more than getting back to work. He
was getting back to the message that has formed the cornerstone of his
"Of all the needs that we have right now, more than anything we need
a time for love," Wonder said recently, sitting in front of a mixing
board in his Wonderland Studios, where his new album was recorded.
The 15 tracks touch on love in all its forms, from physical to
unrequited to family affection to the way people treat strangers on the
street. Sensing a lack of respect coming "from people in their
relationships as well as our leaders in government," Wonder hopes his
latest effort will give them all something to think about.
"We need to have more respect for each other," Wonder says, leaning
forward for emphasis. "Things have just gone really crazy, out of
control. ... We're on a very weird kind of cycle."
At the same time, he acknowledges he wouldn't mind seeing "A Time to
Love" revive his critical and commercial acclaim. "I would be VERY
happy!" he says, flashing that famous megawatt smile and cackling with
Wonder has recorded more than 30 Top 10 hits, won nearly two dozen
Grammys, including one for lifetime achievement, and been inducted into
both the Rock and Roll and Songwriters halls of fame. But at 55, he
hasn't had a hit record in more than a decade. He's gained plenty of
weight, and most of the hair on top of his head has receded.
Some critics have implied his creative powers also have receded
since the 1970s, when he recorded four legendary albums - "Talking
Book," "Innervisions," "Fulfillingness First Finale" and "Songs in the
Key of Life," the last of which included his classic single "Love in
Need of Love Today."
Not surprisingly, Wonder disagrees. "For however long it's been,
I've just been doing life," he says of his hiatus.
It's been a life filled with both joy and sorrow, which he also
captures on the album.
Self-taught on piano, harmonica and other instruments, Steveland
Morris was just 12 when he first wowed national television audiences on
shows like Dick Clark's "American Bandstand." He was "Little Stevie
Wonder" back then, a name he says someone at Motown Records, he can't
remember exactly who, came up with.
From his earliest days as a prodigy covering Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in
the Wind" through such songs of his own as "You Are the Sunshine of My
Life," "My Cherie Amour" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours," his
music has sought to uplift and inform as well as entertain.
With his latest album, he's contributing the royalties from one of
the songs, "Shelter In the Rain" to Hurricane Katrina relief. But Wonder
says he actually wrote it to help deal with the deaths of his brother
Larry Hardaway and his ex-wife, Syreeta Wright, with whom he had
remained close friends after their divorce.
"God gave me that song as a gift," he said, adding it seemed only
right to pass the gift on to those whose lives were devastated by the
storm. He had hoped to record it with his ex-wife before she died of
cancer last year.
Soon after her death, Wonder and his current wife, Kai, celebrated
the birth of their son, Mandla, a name the musician says was suggested
by a friend, former South African President Nelson Mandela.
Wonder, who is unfailingly gracious and friendly, can also be
guarded and vague when asked about his personal life. But he becomes
positively effusive about Mandla, who was born on Wonder's 55th
"Oh man, he was up at 5 a.m. today!" the musician, who looks
noticeably tired, says with an emphatic laugh. "I was like, 'I came home
late last night and I want to chill.' But he was like, 'WOO! WOO! WOO!'
And he wouldn't stop."
His son isn't the only relative Wonder keeps close. During the
interview, two of his brothers, Calvin and Milton Hardaway, wander the
halls of Wonderland, which is housed in an old art deco building in a
slightly seedy neighborhood on Hollywood's edge.
The building's exterior is nondescript but the interior is plush,
down to the lavishly tiled bathrooms. A table near his "Wonder Box"
sound studio features elaborate carvings, including some that have been
translated from Swahili into Braille.
"I don't know if they provide inspiration," says Wonder, who has
been blind since birth. "But it's nice to feel, isn't it?" he asks with
a laugh as he runs his hands over the carvings, explaining they
represent the names of different African tribes.
It was here that he put together the tracks featuring a wide array
of musicians, including Prince, Paul McCartney, India.Arie and Bonnie
Raitt, as well as two duets with his daughter Aisha Morris, one of his
Milton Hardaway marvels that in some ways his brother's performance
with his daughter on the tender ballad "How Will I Know" has brought him
"He wrote 'Isn't She Lovely,' for her," Hardaway says of the 1976
hit that included her cooing baby talk in the background. "And now
they're singing together."
The new album's sound, while unmistakably Stevie, ranges from pop to
R&B to occasional nods to the hip-hop that has influenced Wonder in
The overarching lyrical theme, though, is making time for love.
"It's really me saying, 'a time to love,' meaning a time to care in
the world," Wonder concludes, pausing to choose his words.
"Among all the wonderful things we have, we don't seem to have a
time to love. And to me that's the fuel, that's the fuel we need to make
the engine go."