Oliver Jones and Chuck Arnold
November 07, 2005 12:00 PM

STEVIE WONDER IS TIRED. HE’S BEEN SPENDING his days putting the finishing touches on his long-delayed new album, and his nights listening to his other great production this year, 5-month-old Mandla, Wonder’s seventh child. “A son and an album in the same year—amazing stuff,” says Wonder, who is known around the house as Pop-Pop. “Mandla kept me up all night yesterday. I got home last night and he was still up. It was loud!”

But Pop-Pop knows a little something about making noise himself. He’s released more than 30 albums, and his latest, A Time to Love, hit stores Oct.18. The CD is a bit of vindication for Wonder, who hadn’t released an album of new material in 10 years. “I don’t think that I have been [procrastinating],” explains Wonder. “But someone on the outside who doesn’t know what is going on in my mind might think so. I don’t care. I knew what I wanted to do, and at the end of the day, if the bacon is shaking, then that is all that matters, right?”

Wonder has been an expert in bacon shaking since roughly 1963, when Motown released The 12 Year Old Genius, the prodigy’s first record, and launched one of the most legendary careers in R&B music history. Now with 19 Grammys under his belt, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Wonder, 55, has come to view his music not just as entertainment but as a force for change. “I want my music to encourage people to understand that what the world needs is positivity, and that isn’t something that happens by happenstance,” says Wonder. “It is something that you have to commit yourself to every day by the way that you treat your fellow man.”

He finds his own optimism in family life with his wife, fashion designer Kai Milla, 41, with whom he has two children, Mandla and Kailand, 4. (Wonder remains close to his five other children as well; daughter Aisha Morris, 30, the baby heard on 1976’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” duets on the new CD.) “There’s a lot of things happening that show us that this, right now, is a time to love,” he says. “Terrorism, Iraq. Even the weather is crazy now. I just think that we have to hold straight to our commitment to love through all the storms.”

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