The Dallas Morning News August 22, 1968

Flip Side

Soul Sounds Felt by Stevie

By marge Pettyjohn

Youthbeat Editor

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines wonder as "a cause for surprise or astonishment; a prodigy."

And Motown's 19-year-old soul enchanter, Stevie Wonder, is just that.

No, that's not my real last name," admitted Stevie when he arrived in Dallas Tuesday for a string of appearances at Soul City through Saturday.

But Berry Gordy Jr., president of one of the country's leading R&B record labels, couldn't have chosen a better one.

Stevie, blind from an early age, was living with his family in Detroit, Mich., when he became friends with the younger brother of Ronnie White (a member of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles).

ALTHOUGH ONLY 12, the lad had mastered the piano, organ, drums and harmonica in addition to singing. When White took Stevie to the Motown offices, Gordy was so startled to hear such rich expression in so young a boy that he immediately signed him for his first record, "I Call It Pretty Music."

That one was followed by two others, but it was "Fingertips," issued in May of 1963 that boosted Little Stevie Wonder into national prominence when he was still in his midteens.

Soul is more of a feeling than a down-pat rule or characteristic. If a singer can convey a good feeling and the audience can identify with the Iyrics and music and feel goot about the performance, then that's real soul. It's basically an expressive circumstance - a feeling, sincerely done and received.

AND STEVIE WONDER (the "Little" is gone from his stage name now - "I lost too many girls that way," he says) bubbles over with this feeling and can communicate with his audience excitedly, though with an ease and assurance that almost convinces you he can actually see his fans. A singer who is a marvel on records, Stevie is pure dynamite in person.

Wise beyond his young years, he's deeply concerned with the problems of his peers.

"The confusion existing among the younger generation today springs from a lack of encouragement," he says.

"Consider all the great men of our day who came from underprivileged homes and you'll find someone in their past who lent inspiration and encouragement at a time when they were needed most.

"IF A YOUNG PERSON has someone who really cares - a parent, a relative, a clergyman, a teacher - and has a decent place to go and meet others of his age, he's well on his way to growing up with confidence in himself and his society."

Society has apparently given Stevie all the confidence he needs. Combined with his remarkable talents, he already possesses the professional polish of a veteran entertainer.

And although he greatly admires the performer he's most closely associated with, he won't be another Ray Charles. He'll be the R&B world's only Stevie Wonder.

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