Listening to Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life” is such a rich aural experience. Not only does the celebrated album feature hits like “Isn’t She Lovely, “Sir Duke,” and “Pastime Paradise.” It’s also been sampled so many times that listening to the original reminds the ear of all the songs and artists that this album has influenced. If you’ve heard A Tribe Called Quest’s “Footprints,” Mary J. Bilge’s “Time,” Will Smith’s “Wild, Wild West,” or George Michael’s “Love’s in Need of Love Today,” then you’ve gotten a taste of Stevie Wonder’s sound print.
Not only do I love many of the songs on Wonder’s album, but I also love the title of the album. In it, he announces music as a metaphor for life, a mode of examining, reflecting on, experiencing, living life. And it’s about the soundtracks that, as listeners, we often associate with various moments of our lives.
Here is what is in my ear tonight: this beautiful performance by Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt of Etta James’ “A Sunday Kind of Love,” a song they sang in memory of Etta James (the news of her death brought back memories of my father introducing me to jazz and blues music) and Whitney Houston (the news of her death this weekend reminded me of the soundtrack from my middle and high school years). Please listen:
What musicians, what songs, resonate on your Soundtrack?