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Thread started 03/29/19 10:09am

databank

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How come Stevie Wonder retired from recording music so early?

He basically retired from recording at age 45, with only 1 album released since 1995, and even by then his output had began to slow down drastically.

Given how prolific he was at first, and the commercial success he'd met, I find it odd. For all we know there may never be another SW album. I realize he doesn't need the income anymore, but you'd think he'd want to go on composing and recording. It must be so frustrating for hardcore SW fans!

Has he ever explained why he semi-retired so young?

[Edited 3/29/19 10:10am]

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Reply #1 posted 03/29/19 11:10am

Cinny

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I think it is different for recording artists that started as children: Technically, they gave us much as other acts in so many years.

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Reply #2 posted 03/29/19 11:39am

MickyDolenz

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Stevie never really stopped recording, unlike Billy Joel, who has said he's never going to release anything again. Stevie announced many albums over the years and they never came out, like a duets album with Tony Bennett, a country album, a gospel album for his mother, etc. Pretty much all of his modern releases have been on other people's songs, mostly playing harmonica, a recent one is on a song by rapper Travis Scott (Stop Trying To Be God). He's done vocals in recent years on stuff by Snoop Dogg, Gloria Estefan, Celine Dion, India.Arie, Andra Day, Herbie Hancock, Barbra Streisand, etc.

For 65 years straight, the #1 genre in music, selling wise, was rock n' roll worldwide. Last year (2017) in June, it got de-crowned by hip hop. Hip hop is the #1 genre. It's hip hop - rock - country - pop or pop - country. ~ Pras
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Reply #3 posted 03/29/19 12:25pm

purplethunder3
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MickyDolenz said:

Stevie never really stopped recording, unlike Billy Joel, who has said he's never going to release anything again. Stevie announced many albums over the years and they never came out, like a duets album with Tony Bennett, a country album, a gospel album for his mother, etc. Pretty much all of his modern releases have been on other people's songs, mostly playing harmonica, a recent one is on a song by rapper Travis Scott (Stop Trying To Be God). He's done vocals in recent years on stuff by Snoop Dogg, Gloria Estefan, Celine Dion, India.Arie, Andra Day, Herbie Hancock, Barbra Streisand, etc.

I was gonna say the same thing--Stevie never stopped recording--he just hasn't released anything in recent years.

"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything." --Plato
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Reply #4 posted 03/29/19 4:56pm

LittleBLUECorv
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eek

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Reply #5 posted 03/29/19 6:05pm

databank

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Thx for your insights. I hear the argument about child artists. As for Stevie recording (besides guest collabs) and shelving the material, I can't help but wonder (no pun) why not release the stuff then? Certainly SW has a faithful audience.
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Reply #6 posted 03/29/19 6:05pm

SoulAlive

Interestingly,The O’Jays have announced that their new album,’The Last Word’,will be their final album.I like when artists are upfront and honest about stuff like this,so the fans don’t have to keep waiting and waiting for new albums that will never arrive.

Stevie has never announced his retirement but let’s be real.I don’t think we’re gonna get too many more albums from him.It’s OK,though.He has given us so much for so many years music we got plenty of Stevie Wonder music to enjoy forever.
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Reply #7 posted 03/29/19 6:38pm

MickyDolenz

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databank said:

Certainly SW has a faithful audience.

Maybe for his old material, but Stevie hasn't had a big pop hit since 1985 or 1986. The albums after that had a few R&B hits. He's kind of an oldies act at this point, like a lot of veterans. I don't think a lot of people are buying the newer albums by the Rolling Stones or Paul McCartney, but they still draw big crowds to their concerts on their own rather than just at a festival with a bunch of other acts. Stevie is popular with touring too. Paul hasn't had a hit single (in the USA) since the 1980s either, unless you count the song with Rihanna & Kanye West. As far as releasing the stuff he's recorded over the years, some of it probably sounds like the time it was recorded in, so might not fit on the radio today, even on the adult R&B stations. Like the Jungle Fever & Conversation Peace albums are kind of New Jack Swing and In Square Circle has 1980s synth pop sounds. There's also that rumor that Stevie has it that his unreleased music is to be destroyed when he passes.

For 65 years straight, the #1 genre in music, selling wise, was rock n' roll worldwide. Last year (2017) in June, it got de-crowned by hip hop. Hip hop is the #1 genre. It's hip hop - rock - country - pop or pop - country. ~ Pras
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Reply #8 posted 03/29/19 9:06pm

databank

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MickyDolenz said:

databank said:

Certainly SW has a faithful audience.

Maybe for his old material, but Stevie hasn't had a big pop hit since 1985 or 1986. The albums after that had a few R&B hits. He's kind of an oldies act at this point, like a lot of veterans. I don't think a lot of people are buying the newer albums by the Rolling Stones or Paul McCartney, but they still draw big crowds to their concerts on their own rather than just at a festival with a bunch of other acts. Stevie is popular with touring too. Paul hasn't had a hit single (in the USA) since the 1980s either, unless you count the song with Rihanna & Kanye West. As far as releasing the stuff he's recorded over the years, some of it probably sounds like the time it was recorded in, so might not fit on the radio today, even on the adult R&B stations. Like the Jungle Fever & Conversation Peace albums are kind of New Jack Swing and In Square Circle has 1980s synth pop sounds. There's also that rumor that Stevie has it that his unreleased music is to be destroyed when he passes.

I didn't mean it in commercial terms. At all. This should not matter anymore for someone of his age, stature and wealth.

I meant there is an audience who cares, people that a new SW album would make happy, and many more people who would take notice even if they're not hardcore SW fans.

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Reply #9 posted 03/29/19 11:32pm

PeteSilas

i don't know, but the last albums didn't have anything i liked. maybe he hit "the wall" as susan rogers once said of him. His piano chops are still there, his singing hasn't been in top form the last i saw but that could just be a bad day. main reason? in my opinion, creative work is hard, draining, taxing, maybe he doesn't have it in him anymore. elton john said something like he couldn't do another goodbye yellow brick road and dylan has said he can't write the way he did when he was young. few artists have later renaissance's like cash did.

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Reply #10 posted 03/30/19 12:23am

NorthC

Dylan made some excellent albums between 1997 and 2012, so he round his Muse back. Same for Leonard Cohen. So maybe there's still hope for Stevie fans.
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Reply #11 posted 03/31/19 9:29am

peggyon

Just want to appreciate the wealth of musical knowledge on this thread by the recent posters.

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Reply #12 posted 03/31/19 11:21am

Superstition

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He's done a ton of features on other people's songs, co-written songs, has done a ton of shows, TV appearances. He just hasn't released a proper album.

It does stink. I quite liked Conversation Peace and A Time To Love, but then again I'm partial. I think Conversation Peace and A Time To Love will age better than Jungle Fever, Characters and In Square Circle. More organic sounding... he's had quite a few people on his records as well, Prince and En Vogue on So What The Fuss, Anita Baker on Sensuous Whisper, not to mention session musicians.

He's performed songs he hasn't released... Ten Billion Hearts, Keep Fooling Yourself Baby Girl... He's also mentioned no less than three album names; Through The Eyes Of Wonder, The Gospel Inspired By Lula and an album he said he was working on with David Foster called When The World Began, which would be orchestral versions of some of his hits mixed with new songs. He was supposedly producing some of Aretha Franklin's new stuff too, but who knows how far that came along, if at all.

I don't believe the rumors about him wanting his unreleased music destroyed upon his passing... that's bread and butter for his many kids and grandkids.

*Speaking of Stevie Wonder, after all those years of waiting for some decent footage of Stevie Wonder at the Bad Tour concert in Brisbane, it took Leaving Neverland to see some of that footage. What a bummer.

[Edited 3/31/19 11:24am]

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Reply #13 posted 03/31/19 11:37am

lastdecember

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MickyDolenz said:

Stevie never really stopped recording, unlike Billy Joel, who has said he's never going to release anything again. Stevie announced many albums over the years and they never came out, like a duets album with Tony Bennett, a country album, a gospel album for his mother, etc. Pretty much all of his modern releases have been on other people's songs, mostly playing harmonica, a recent one is on a song by rapper Travis Scott (Stop Trying To Be God). He's done vocals in recent years on stuff by Snoop Dogg, Gloria Estefan, Celine Dion, India.Arie, Andra Day, Herbie Hancock, Barbra Streisand, etc.

Billy made an effort to stick to it, and he pretty much has, one classical album and a few cover songs. But we can argue Billy plays alot more than current artists though its more of like a residence gig for him he still does a good amount of shows, which is why I dont get the retiring thing from touring and I dont fall for it, I can guarantee that Elton John sets up a residence type thing even if he plays a show or two a year, Barry Manilow retired from touring and he seems to play more shows now, Cher retired fourteen times, KISS needs to retire and stick to it please.


"We went where our music was appreciated, and that was everywhere but the USA, we knew we had fans, but there is only so much of the world you can play at once" Magne F
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Reply #14 posted 03/31/19 1:22pm

MickyDolenz

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Superstition said:

I don't believe the rumors about him wanting his unreleased music destroyed upon his passing... that's bread and butter for his many kids and grandkids.

Couldn't they just make money from his popular hit records & songs? Like old hits are more likely to be used in commercials, TV, & movies than songs nobody knows. I don't think most people are interested in unreleased songs except maybe Beatles fans. Anyway, most new popular artists don't sell much, and little money goes to the artists from streaming. So how are they going to make money from putting out unreleased Stevie tracks? The baby boomers who are more likely to be interested in buying such releases are getting old and dying off. Also, what if Stevie is like one of those celebs who say they're not leaving their children anything, so they can make their own money. Or they might fight over the money like James Brown's family.

For 65 years straight, the #1 genre in music, selling wise, was rock n' roll worldwide. Last year (2017) in June, it got de-crowned by hip hop. Hip hop is the #1 genre. It's hip hop - rock - country - pop or pop - country. ~ Pras
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Reply #15 posted 03/31/19 1:52pm

NorthC

MickyDolenz said:



Superstition said:


I don't believe the rumors about him wanting his unreleased music destroyed upon his passing... that's bread and butter for his many kids and grandkids.



Couldn't they just make money from his popular hit records & songs? Like old hits are more likely to be used in commercials, TV, & movies than songs nobody knows. I don't think most people are interested in unreleased songs except maybe Beatles fans. Anyway, most new popular artists don't sell much, and little money goes to the artists from streaming. So how are they going to make money from putting out unreleased Stevie tracks? The baby boomers who are more likely to be interested in buying such releases are getting old and dying off. Also, what if Stevie is like one of those celebs who say they're not leaving their children anything, so they can make their own money. Or they might fight over the money like James Brown's family.


If you look around on this forum, you'll see that Marvin Gaye's unreleased You're the Man album is getting ready for release. Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series has been going for years and there's still unreleased Zappa and Hendrix stuff coming out. And if you look around on the Prince forum, you will see that fans are just dying for the estate to release outtakes, so there's certainly a market for those releases. I don't see why it should be any different for Stevie.
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Reply #16 posted 03/31/19 2:18pm

lastdecember

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NorthC said:

MickyDolenz said:

Couldn't they just make money from his popular hit records & songs? Like old hits are more likely to be used in commercials, TV, & movies than songs nobody knows. I don't think most people are interested in unreleased songs except maybe Beatles fans. Anyway, most new popular artists don't sell much, and little money goes to the artists from streaming. So how are they going to make money from putting out unreleased Stevie tracks? The baby boomers who are more likely to be interested in buying such releases are getting old and dying off. Also, what if Stevie is like one of those celebs who say they're not leaving their children anything, so they can make their own money. Or they might fight over the money like James Brown's family.

If you look around on this forum, you'll see that Marvin Gaye's unreleased You're the Man album is getting ready for release. Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series has been going for years and there's still unreleased Zappa and Hendrix stuff coming out. And if you look around on the Prince forum, you will see that fans are just dying for the estate to release outtakes, so there's certainly a market for those releases. I don't see why it should be any different for Stevie.

I think that is always there, there is always going to be that base for a Bowie reissue or unheard material or whomever it may be, Stevie or Marvin or Rick James or whoever. BUT we also have to realize that these things most of the time, cost more to gather and print, especially VINYL now, then will actually sell. THey garner some money but very little


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Reply #17 posted 03/31/19 3:14pm

MickyDolenz

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NorthC said:

If you look around on this forum, you'll see that Marvin Gaye's unreleased You're the Man album is getting ready for release. Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series has been going for years and there's still unreleased Zappa and Hendrix stuff coming out. And if you look around on the Prince forum, you will see that fans are just dying for the estate to release outtakes, so there's certainly a market for those releases. I don't see why it should be any different for Stevie.

There's a market for people paying hundreds of dollars and even thousands for records, cassettes, videotapes, CDs on ebay or buy concert tickets from scalpers too. There's a guy who paid $24,000 for Paul McCartney's birth cirtificate. That does not mean that there's enough of an audience to buy deluxe albums with unreleased songs to make a big profit. I don't think those albums of unreleased tracks that were released after Michael Jackson passed sold that much, especially the one that is said to have 3 songs with vocals by Jason Malachi instead of Mike. Those songs were designed to get a lot of sales by being remixed into today's popular sounds and getting Justin Timberlake to sing on one of the tracks. There's a bigger audience for streaming today, than for records. The average person doesn't even own a record player. Other than maybe a few of Stevie's 1970s albums, it's doubtful that most of the others are that much in demand. I've seen lots of used copies of The Woman In Red soundtrack & The Secret Life Of Plants all the time in record stores. Stevie's 1960s albums are mostly out of print, except maybe in Japan.

For 65 years straight, the #1 genre in music, selling wise, was rock n' roll worldwide. Last year (2017) in June, it got de-crowned by hip hop. Hip hop is the #1 genre. It's hip hop - rock - country - pop or pop - country. ~ Pras
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Reply #18 posted 03/31/19 3:44pm

NorthC

MickyDolenz said:



NorthC said:


If you look around on this forum, you'll see that Marvin Gaye's unreleased You're the Man album is getting ready for release. Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series has been going for years and there's still unreleased Zappa and Hendrix stuff coming out. And if you look around on the Prince forum, you will see that fans are just dying for the estate to release outtakes, so there's certainly a market for those releases. I don't see why it should be any different for Stevie.

There's a market for people paying hundreds of dollars and even thousands for records, cassettes, videotapes, CDs on ebay or buy concert tickets from scalpers too. There's a guy who paid $24,000 for Paul McCartney's birth cirtificate. That does not mean that there's enough of an audience to buy deluxe albums with unreleased songs to make a big profit. I don't think those albums of unreleased tracks that were released after Michael Jackson passed sold that much, especially the one that is said to have 3 songs with vocals by Jason Malachi instead of Mike. Those songs were designed to get a lot of sales by being remixed into today's popular sounds and getting Justin Timberlake to sing on one of the tracks. There's a bigger audience for streaming today, than for records. The average person doesn't even own a record player. Other than maybe a few of Stevie's 1970s albums, it's doubtful that most of the others are that much in demand. I've seen lots of used copies of The Woman In Red soundtrack & The Secret Life Of Plants all the time in record stores. Stevie's 1960s albums are mostly out of print, except maybe in Japan.


Yeah, but artists don't earn shit from streaming either! And you're right of course that using music in movies and commercials is more lucrative than box sets of archive releases, but they still keep coming and no record company would release something they don't think they can make a profit on, even if it's for a niche audience. And these archive releases also serve another purpose: they give fans an insight on how the music was created and build on the artist's legacy. Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series has done a lot to recreate interest for some of his less popular albums: when the box sets came out, there was so much stuff that was unheard of before that people began to appreciate his music even more.
I'm sure the same could happen with Prince or Stevie: releasing stuff from the vaults will create new interest for the music. Sure, it won't sell millions, but there's enough people who want to hear it to make a release worthwile. And as you said before, the babyboomers aren't getting any younger. But they do have money and are the kinds of folks who like to buy records. All the more reason for the record labels to not wait any longer...
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Reply #19 posted 03/31/19 4:55pm

MickyDolenz

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NorthC said:

Yeah, but artists don't earn shit from streaming either! And you're right of course that using music in movies and commercials is more lucrative than box sets of archive releases, but they still keep coming and no record company would release something they don't think they can make a profit on, even if it's for a niche audience. And these archive releases also serve another purpose: they give fans an insight on how the music was created and build on the artist's legacy. Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series has done a lot to recreate interest for some of his less popular albums: when the box sets came out, there was so much stuff that was unheard of before that people began to appreciate his music even more. I'm sure the same could happen with Prince or Stevie: releasing stuff from the vaults will create new interest for the music. Sure, it won't sell millions, but there's enough people who want to hear it to make a release worthwile. And as you said before, the babyboomers aren't getting any younger. But they do have money and are the kinds of folks who like to buy records. All the more reason for the record labels to not wait any longer...

Most artists did not earn anything from record sales or very little before the internet was invented. Even Madonna or Beatles made a small percentage compared to what the record labels made from their music. Label contracts were always written in favor of the label, not the act. That's how The Beatles and other acts lost their song publishing in that Michael Jackson could later buy. Paul McCartney bought Buddy Holly's publishing. When people started getting free music online, major labels started 360 deals where they get some of the artists touring & merchandising income, which wasn't usually the case before. But it costs little or nothing for a label to upload songs online, than to press albums and CDs.

My comment was about Stevie's family releasing his unreleased stuff after he dies. Is the average millennial going to be interested in buying unreleased music of an artist of their parents or even great-grandparents generation, when many of them don't buy CDs of the current popular artists they do like such as Drake, Post Malone, or Cardi B. Many don't even have anything to play a physical item on, except maybe a niche audience of hipsters who buy cassettes & records. They don't put CD players in new cars as a default now. Maybe they can play a CD on a Playstation. razz Also Stevie is on Motown, and their focus is releasing endless hit compilations of the same songs. I think he is the only big Motown act who never left the label. Even Smokey Robinson left and he was the vice-president at one time, but he came back later. Some Motown acts probably have more compilation albums than regular albums. lol I wonder what the labels are going to do 30 years from now, when the legacy artists are streaming era like Justin Beiber, Drake, Cardi B, & Maroon 5. I don't think a CD box set will work when they were way more popular on Youtube than for physical sales.

For 65 years straight, the #1 genre in music, selling wise, was rock n' roll worldwide. Last year (2017) in June, it got de-crowned by hip hop. Hip hop is the #1 genre. It's hip hop - rock - country - pop or pop - country. ~ Pras
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Reply #20 posted 03/31/19 6:17pm

LittleBLUECorv
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How many people who releases their first album in 1962 are still active?
PRINCE: Always and Forever
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Reply #21 posted 03/31/19 6:52pm

MickyDolenz

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LittleBLUECorvette said:

How many people who releases their first album in 1962 are still active?

Yeah, not counting reissues, the Rolling Stones haven't released many new albums past the 1980s, and that's including side projects/solo albums. Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr still release new albums every few years though. The Temptations released an album a year or 2 ago, but that might as well be a different group, since the only original is Otis Williams and there's Ron Tyson who has been with the group since the 1980s. Otis was never really the voice of the group anyway. There's a few pre-1960s singers still releasing music like Johnny Mathis & Tony Bennett. A newly recorded Chuck Berry album was released not long after he died around a year or 2 ago. Before that, his last album came out in 1979. Some of the older acts still tour or do concerts including Stevie. Stevie Nicks declined to do a new album with Fleetwood Mac because she said that's a waste of time and money since albums don't sell anymore. Isn't there that joke which the audience gets up to buy snacks or go to the restroom if a new song is performed.

For 65 years straight, the #1 genre in music, selling wise, was rock n' roll worldwide. Last year (2017) in June, it got de-crowned by hip hop. Hip hop is the #1 genre. It's hip hop - rock - country - pop or pop - country. ~ Pras
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Reply #22 posted 03/31/19 6:56pm

RobotFix

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Stevie must have hundreds and hundreds of unreleased studio recordings

and other archival treasures that would astonish us mere mortals.

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Reply #23 posted 04/01/19 9:25am

Cinny

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LittleBLUECorvette said:

How many people who releases their first album in 1962 are still active?

That was kinda what I meant (first reply)

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Reply #24 posted 04/02/19 5:54pm

LittleBLUECorv
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Cinny said:

LittleBLUECorvette said:

How many people who releases their first album in 1962 are still active?

That was kinda what I meant (first reply)

I'm not sure if OP realizes that was 57 years ago, lol.

PRINCE: Always and Forever
MICHAEL JACKSON: Always and Forever
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Reply #25 posted 04/02/19 10:39pm

databank

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LittleBLUECorvette said:

Cinny said:

That was kinda what I meant (first reply)

I'm not sure if OP realizes that was 57 years ago, lol.

I do, but SW was 12 back then.

I'm not blaming SW or anything, just wondering why, particularly if he kept recording albums as some have said above.

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Reply #26 posted 04/03/19 8:48am

NorthC

LittleBLUECorvette said:

How many people who releases their first album in 1962 are still active?

Bob Dylan is one that comes to mind.
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Reply #27 posted 04/04/19 1:13am

RODSERLING

Do you remember late 2004, when some songs of the future A time to love leaked ?
It was more organic, but the major told him it was not as commercial as they wanted it to be.
So Stevie had to do overdubs and overproducing on his album to satisfy the record house.
.
And in spite of all this, it was a flop in the charts.
.Even Prince sold more.

So I think SW had been stopped by the fact the overproducing was not his choice and he doesn't want to do that anymore. And his record house has other things to do than putting money on a ghospel record, that even when it was announced more than 10 years ago, wouldn't have sold 100.000 copies worldwide.
.
Moreover, and this is sad, but Stevie Wonder is a really bad catalogue seller nowadays, and his streaming catalogue is barely ignored.
.
Truth is in numbers, charts and sales, never forget that.
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Reply #28 posted 04/04/19 1:14am

RODSERLING

NorthC said:

LittleBLUECorvette said:

How many people who releases their first album in 1962 are still active?

Bob Dylan is one that comes to mind.


Paul McCartney
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Reply #29 posted 04/04/19 5:28am

databank

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RODSERLING said:

Do you remember late 2004, when some songs of the future A time to love leaked ? It was more organic, but the major told him it was not as commercial as they wanted it to be. So Stevie had to do overdubs and overproducing on his album to satisfy the record house. . And in spite of all this, it was a flop in the charts. .Even Prince sold more. So I think SW had been stopped by the fact the overproducing was not his choice and he doesn't want to do that anymore. And his record house has other things to do than putting money on a ghospel record, that even when it was announced more than 10 years ago, wouldn't have sold 100.000 copies worldwide. . Moreover, and this is sad, but Stevie Wonder is a really bad catalogue seller nowadays, and his streaming catalogue is barely ignored. . Truth is in numbers, charts and sales, never forget that.

Yeah, except if he really wanted to, Stevie Wonder could release whatever the fuck he'd want, for the sake of releasing it. I wasn't aware of the situation you describe and I'm actually totally shocked to learn that Motown was in a capacity to give him shit at this stage of his career, and even more surprised that he'd tield and let them dictate his choices. It's not a first, I know, it's pretty much equally incredible that in 2001 David Bowie would see his label refuse to release Toy. But then again either you play by the majors' rules or you go indie. When you're Bowie or Wonder, it's a choice you have the luxury of making.

Truth is in numbers, charts and sales in a certain field of popular music, but most independant artists and labels go on doing whatever they want as long as there's just enough profit in it to allow them keeping doing it. Stevie Wonder is a millionaire, he doesn't need the income and can afford studio costs or his own home studio.

So maybe he thinks it's not worth the effort of recording and releasing music if he's not going to substantially increase his wealth by doing it, and it certainly is his prerogative, but if he really wanted to record and release music and do it without a label giving him shit, he would be in a position to do so.

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