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Rachel Ollestad

MUSE 353

Dr. Gerrity

12 October 2016

Isnt Who Lovely?: The significance of Stevie Wonders Isnt She Lovely?

Ask anyone you meet, especially those above the age of 20, to hum or sing the

chorus to the song Superstitious or Sir Duke and that person will most likely be able to

do it. Stevie Wonder is one of the most highly respected names in popular jazz and R&B

today. According to Steve Huey, Wonder got his musical start at a very young age, even

earning the title of prodigy from some for his ability to learn the piano, drums, and

harmonica by the time he reached the age of nine. He was signed by Motown Records while

performing for some of his friends in 1961 and immediately began releasing songs and

albums of his playing and singing. Wonder really blossomed after taking a break from his

music career while his voice was changing. During this time, he studied classical piano at

Michigan School for the Blind and reemerged in 1964 with a new sound and the ability to

take more of a role in composing his own music. In 1971 Wonder officially parted ways

with his first record company, and began writing and producing his own albums

completely (Huey).

Stevie Wonders accomplishments and sheer volume of music output are impressive

in their own right, but his success also serves as a wonderful argument for inclusivity. Not

only is Wonder an African-American artist who lived during the Civil Rights Era, but he is

also one of but a handful of blind artists to have such an active career in the popular music

industry. He lost his sight shortly after he was born, and some even credit his heightened
hearing for his ability to create such diverse and vibrant music. Stevie Wonder represents

the possibilities that are opened to both listener and performer when people of all different

backgrounds are given the opportunity to thrive, to flourish, and to succeed in their own

unique ways.

Stevie Wonder wrote Isnt She Lovely in 1976 to celebrate the birth of his

daughter, Aisha, and it has since become another one of his most popular songs with covers

being performed by David Parton, Freddy Cole, and many others. One of these covers

comes from jazz pianist Aaron Goldberg. Goldberg has studied and performed with some of

the most famous names in jazz: Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Redman, The Lincoln Jazz

Orchestra, and many others. He attended the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music

and tours both as a solo jazz pianist and as a part of the Aaron Goldberg trio with Reuben

Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums. It is this ensemble that took Stevie Wonders

original song and put a new, interesting spin on it.

The song itself is made of a few different sections. The verses feature an ostinato

pattern in the bass and an almost Latin-sounding groove in the drumset/auxiliary

percussion. Only at the chorus does the listener first get a clear reference to Isnt She

Lovely with the chorus of Stevie Wonders song becoming the main melody on the piano.

The piano changes the original melody by using dissonances to harmonize the melody.

After this section ends, the piece returns back to the improvisatory section with the piano

section leading and a rhythmic ostinato in the background. Towards the end of the piece,

after the chorus Isnt She Lovely repeats again, the ostinato comes back once more but

the drums receive the spotlight for much of the final section. The piece finally ends with an

iteration of the ostinato present throughout the majority of the piece only this time almost
every instrument has the ostinato pattern. Goldbergs website states that, the trio

embod[ies] the best of what jazz can be today: the ability to speak from deep within the

tradition while putting their own collaborative spin upon it. The Aaron Goldberg trio does

just this by taking such an iconic, melodious song and putting a funky jazz twist on it.

Bibliography

Aaron Goldberg Bio. Aaron Goldberg. McAdams Creative Management. n.d. Web. 28 Sept.

2016.

Huey, Steve. Stevie Wonder Biography & History AllMusic. All Music. n.d. Web. 28 Sept.

2016.