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Stevie Wonder: 'I Love Getting Into as Much Weird Shit as Possible'

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My lady friend, one thing we have that's good is she can feel people like I do, when you meet all the phony bullshit people, she's able to sense that, so I feel there is someone that is there with me.

I've never dealt with a woman on the "Stevie Wonder" level. When you meet someone and begin to like them, then you do let them know you even more personally than the public knows. There's not really a difference between me and "Stevie Wonder" – only thing is I'm not singing "Fingertips" or "Big Brother" or "Superstition" all the time. There's other things, listening to other people, and going to the park or seeing a movie or going bowling.

But the public Stevie Wonder is a lot of ideas and images that people have of you, regardless of what you actually are.
I know there are thousands of images of me. There was a guy one time, I heard: "Hey, uh, Stevie Wonder told me to come and get this grass from you, so where is it?" He said, "Stevie Wonder told you? He didn't, man, 'cause I'm his guitar player, and he doesn't even smoke grass. He doesn't even get high." I guess people expect or figure me to be a lot of different things.

You never got into drugs?
No.

Never?
I smoked grass one time and it scared me to death.

Put images into your head?
Well, things just got larger. It was something new and different, but I found I'm so busy checking things out all the time anyway that I don't really need it.

Are there times when you wish you could see?
No. Sometimes I wish I could drive a car, but I'm gonna drive a car one day, so I don't worry about that.

And fly, too?
I've flown a plane before. A Cessna or something, from Chicago to New York. Scared the hell out of everybody.

Who was your copilot – God?
No [laughs], this pilot was there, and he just let me handle this one thing, and I say "What's this?" and we went whish, whoop . . .

You've actually said that you considered your blindness to be a gift from God.
Being blind, you don't judge books by their covers; you go through things that are relatively insignificant, and you pick out things that are more important.

When did you discover that there was something missing, at least according to other people's standards?
I never really knew it. The only thing that was said in school, and this was my early part of school, was something that made me feel like because I was black I could never be or would never be.

So being black was considered to be more a weight . . .
I guess so. [laughs] This cat said in an article one time, it was funny: "Damn! He's black! He's blind! What else?!" I said, "Bull shit, I don't wanna hear that shit, you know."

So you wouldn't even bother having people describe things to you. Colors and . . .
Well, I have an idea of what colors are. I associate them with the ideas that've been told to me about those certain colors. I get a certain feeling in my head when a person says "red" or "blue," "green," "black," "white," "yellow," "orange," "purple" – purple is a crazy color to me. . . .

Probably the sound of the word . . .
Yeah, yeah. To me, brown is a little duller than green, isn't it?

Yes, you got it. . . . What about sex?
What about it? [laughs] It's the same thing, Jack! As a matter of fact it's probably even more exciting to the dude. Ask my woman what it's like. . . . No, no! [laughs]. I mean you just have to get in there and do that shit, you know. That shit is just fantasticness!

I used to live on a street called Breckinridge. They just tore my house down. I wish I could've gotten a few pictures of it, too . . . but . . .

So you didn't miss a thing.
We listened to Redd Foxx and did all that stuff! We tried to sneak and do it to little girls. I used to get into a lot of shit, Jack! I got caught trying to mess with this girl. I was about eight years old. It was the play house trip. And I really was like taking the girl's clothes off and everything, I don't understand how I did that stuff, you know. I mean, I was in it! I had her in my room with my clothes off. And she gave it away 'cause she started laughin' and giggling 'cause I was touching her.

I used to hop barns with all the other dudes. You know those small sheds they used to have in back of houses; in the ghetto where I lived, we'd hop atop them from one to the other. I remember one time my aunt came and said, "OK, Steve, Mama said don't be doin' that," and I said, "Aw, fuck you," and there're some neighbors out and they said, "Aw, child, you oughta be ashamed of yourself, I thought you was a child of the Lawd, you out there cussin' 'n' everything." That was like back of our house in the alley, you know, so I just kept on, just hopping the barns, jumping around and everything, till all at once I jumped and fell right into my mother's arms. The ironing cord, the whipping. The Magic Ironing Cord Whipping.

* * *

You've mentioned in various interviews that you feel like you haven't paid a lot of dues. You were talking about Ray Charles, about how you can sense the pathos in that man's voice.
I heard a lot of things, you know, the way people really did him in, but I think he's doing a lot better now.

People did him in?
Well, they knew like when he was on drugs. A lot of people would like bust him, just to get money, or they would put him in jail in some of the Southern places just to get some bread.

In school, what subjects did you like best?
History, world history, but it got kind of boring. And science. The history of this country was relatively boring – I guess because of the way it was put to us in books. The most interesting to me was about civilizations before ours, how advanced people really were, how high they had brought themselves only to bring themselves down because of the missing links, the weak foundations. So the whole thing crumbled. And that's kind of sad. And it relates to today and what could possibly happen here, very soon. That's basically what "Big Brother" is all about.

I speak of the history, the heritage of the violence, or the negativeness of being able to see what's going on with minority people. Seemingly it's going to continue to be this way. Sometimes unfortunately violence is a way things get accomplished. "Big Brother" was something to make people aware of the fact that after all is said and done, that I don't have to do nothing to you, meaning the people are not power players. We don't have to do anything to them 'cause they're gonna cause their own country to fall.

"My name is Secluded; we live in a house the size of a matchbox." A person who lives there, really, his name is Secluded, and you never even know the person, and they can have so many things to say to help make it better, but it's like the voice that speaks is forever silenced.

I understand that when you don't hear anything and you hear this very high frequency, that's the sound of the universe.

Or a burglar alarm, which takes some of the mystery out of it . . . Tell me about your experiments with electronic effects and music. First, have you listened to Beaver and Krause, or Pink Floyd, Emerson Lake and Palmer, or Walter Carlos?
Walter Carlos, yes, but for the most part I've listened to just what's in my head, plus Bob Margoloff and Malcolm Cecil – they just built a new synthesizer you should see – they have their own company, Centaur, and they did an album, Tonto's Expanding Headband. They are responsible for programming and I just tell them the kind of sound I want.

I hadn't got tired of strings or horns or anything, it's just another dimension. I'd like to get into doing just acoustic things, drums, bass, no electronic things at all except for recording them.

How about the Bag [a throat-sound amplifier made by Kustom]? What does that do for communication?
It creates an emotion in that the voice is low. And it frightens you a little. We used it on Syreeta's album, "She's Leaving Home," I was just playing the ARP, not really singing, but playing the note and moving my mouth.

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