Today I was able to deploy my extremely limited musical knowledge and consult with my much more well-trained son on a discussion surrounding “Music of My Mind”, by Stevie Wonder. The album is rated #350 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and is an unusual, but very well produced listen to my minimally trained ears.
It was Stevie Wonder’s 14th studio album, but the first true “adult” record where he fully transitioned from being child Motown prodigy hit machine “Little Stevie” Wonder to fully empowered songwriter and performer. He performed almost every instrument on this song, an impressive feat most certainly. The songs on this album are very well produced, and a noticeable step above the simple production approach of 60s Motown, but I noticed as I listened to it I realized that most of them had a bit of an odd, non-commercial feel to the melody that was not a simple or quick hook. I remember in times past, when I have made this observation about a song, my son has informed me that the song is record in a minor key, a less frequently used musical scale. I asked him if this was frequently applied on this album. He listened, and shared with me that A), much of the album had a jazz-based arrangement as part of the mix, and that yes, at least three songs, “Love Having You Around”, “Girl Blue”, and “Keep On Running” were in fact minor key compositions.
Like the rest of the album, the songs are interesting, a bit unique, but not super-catchy. This probably explains the moderate commercial success this album realized in relation to subsequent recordings. “Keep On Running” was probably my favorite of the tracks on the album, it is also the last. Even more so, I enjoyed the real-time music theory tutorial from one much smarter than myself, and I hope I will continue to learn and understand more as this music journey continues. By the way, for the record, the more well-trained ear in this conversation ended up listening to the entire album again and loving it, reinforcing the appreciation for the advanced musical talents and gifts of Stevie Wonder.