How Stevie Wonder Composed the Blueprints for EDM
Before Derrick May and other pioneers of Detroit techno came into play, there was Stevie Wonder. Writer Michaelangelo Matos makes an argument for Stevie Wonder's impact on the growth of electronic dance music.This article originally appeared on Slate Magazine
Photo illustration by Slate. Photographs by Thinkstock and Pierre Verdy/AFP/Getty Images.
Making the Dance Floor Hotter Than July
Stevie Wonder’s role in the growth of of EDM.
Detroit techno, as one of its first practitioners, Derrick May, famously told the Face in 1988, was “like George Clinton and Kraftwerk are stuck on an elevator with only a sequencer to keep them company.” But the DJ–oriented music that May and his Motor City cohort would take global in the late ’80s, helping spawn today’s club culture, was hardly the first time a Detroit musician would yoke deep soul and gleaming technology into something irresistibly danceable. That was Stevie Wonder in 1971, when he began using the polyphonic synthesizers that helped power his stunning four-album run from Music of My Mind to Fulfillingness’ First Finale. If Detroit techno lay the foundation for the electronic-dance future, Stevie drew its blueprints.
He didn’t do it alone. Though Wonder had hinted at it on 1971’s Where I’m Coming From, with his clavinet (an early electronic keyboard with a distinctive clacking sound) snaking through the funk of tracks like “Do Yourself a Favor,” his full dive into electronics came later that year. Wonder hooked up with the British synthesists Robert Margoulieff and Malcolm Cecil, who’d custom-built a synth bank that took up an entire room...