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The 1980s

American Musical Tastes

America's music recording industry had Stevie Wonder to thank for a lot of its advancement. In the 1970s, Stevie had introduced many sound change innovations. Synthesizers could speed up beats, stretch chords and notes, and make sounds that no other instruments could ever make. His work with synthesizers paved the way for the disco era and today's hip-hop sound.

Stevie had also helped to break down the color barrier in the radio business. Before his superstar status, African American recording artists were rarely heard on mainstream radio. Stevie's popularity with white America changed all of that. The 1970s burst with African American artists. Stevie's popularity helped such groups as the Jackson Five and Sly and the Family Stone.

By 1983, however, the rhythm and beat of both R & B and pop music had changed. Michael Jackson's Thriller exploded onto the charts. Thriller Set a new record for album sales. It beat the record set by Stevie in the 1970s. Music videos were all the rage, too. The new medium for music was becoming television. Now fans could watch their favorite artists perform their favorite songs every day! Stevie's talents didn't seem suited to video, though. His blindness hindered him from performing for the camera. Michael Jackson had dancers around him. Stevie sat at a piano. He could not get up and move around freely like other artists making videos. Stevie had always thrived on performing for live audiences. Performing in front of a camera without an audience did not work well for his musical talent.

None of this stopped Stevie from recording. He continued to write and record songs. In fact, he has built a huge collection of unreleased music. This library is greater than even Jimi Hendrix's (the king of unreleased recordings). Stevie's image also underwent a transformation with all the change in the early '80s music world. At thirty-three years old, Stevie was now an elder of the recording industry. He became a teacher and guru. He began to produce records for other artists under his own label, Wondirection. The first record produced was for rapper Gary Byrd, whom Stevie saw as a new voice in the African American music scene. Byrd's song “The Crown” included Stevie's music. Stevie began to wonder if his role in music had changed forever.

Additional topics

Musician BiographiesStevie WonderThe 1980s - American Musical Tastes, Motown Reunion And Saturday Night Live, Jesse Jackson And The Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday