In pop music, it was the Year of the Comeback—and the “Cross-Over.” Dylan, Sinatra, Clapton plus Crosby, Stills et al and Alpert’s Tijuana Brass all reemerged from coy retirement or acute audience-phobia. But if not the prevailing media focus, certainly the predominant creative influence was the recovery from near death of Stevie Wonder. Just months after surviving an auto accident that left him in a coma for three days, Wonder made a 36-city royal return tour, received five Grammy awards and recorded a new LP, Fulfillingness’ First Finale, that went platinum upon release.
To be sure, Stevie, born (blind) 24 years ago, had already sold 40 million records, but his fulfillingness of 1974 perhaps symbolized that of all black artists. No longer mere inspiration to the Presleys and the Stones and the cashbox Caucasians, black stars “crossed over,” accounting for some 40 percent of all singles sold this year. Even the industry’s most traditionally redneck bag, country and western (which itself waxed increasingly strong in the cities last year) was beginning to get a little soul.
Stevie Wonder, himself, will be setting aside time in his six-month international itinerary in 1975 to play the Black Arts Festival in Nigeria. He lovingly coaches the career of his ex-wife Syreeta Wright while living with his presumed next wife, Yolanda Simmons, in L.A. and Manhattan. “I have to express the feelings of myself,” sums up Wonder, “and of many people into a microphone.”