Stevie Wonder ¦ Hotter Than July
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|Hotter than July|
|Studio album by|
|Released||September 29, 1980|
|Studio||Wonderland Studios (Los Angeles, California)|
|Stevie Wonder chronology|
|Singles from Hotter than July|
Hotter than July is the nineteenth studio album by American singer, songwriter and musician Stevie Wonder, originally released on Motown's Tamla label on September 29, 1980. The recording sessions were primarily done at Wonderland Studios, which Wonder had recently acquired, in Los Angeles where he became responsible for writing, producing and arranging his own material for the new album.
Following the commercial and critical disappointment of Wonder's Journey through the Secret Life of Plants, Wonder felt struggle at the turn of the new decade. He insisted to the media that Journey through the Secret Life of Plants was not as critically acclaimed as his albums during his "classic period" because of Motown's weak promotion for the album.
Hotter than July peaked at number three on the Billboard Top LPs & Tapes and was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on February 3, 1981. It was Wonder's most successful album in the UK, peaking at number two on the UK Albums Chart and producing four top ten singles there. The first, third and fourth single were released with music videos.
Hotter than July was nominated for Favorite Soul/R&B Album at the 1982 American Music Awards. Writing for The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), J. D. Considine found the album "buoyantly tuneful" and said fans viewed it as a return to form after the commercial disappointment of Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants.
The commercial failure of his last album Journey through the Secret Life of Plants with only one single "Send One Your Love" making the top 5 of the Billboard chart left Stevie Wonder struggling at the turn of the new decade. He let the media know that he felt that Motown had not promoted the album very well. His talents kept him busy when he co-wrote the song "Let's Get Serious" with Lee Garrett for Jermaine Jackson's 1980 album of the same name and another with Eric Mercury called "You Are My Heaven" which became a success for Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway on Atlantic Records. During this time of upheaval, he was also in demand as a guest artist on many other albums ranging from the likes of B.B. King, James Taylor, Quincy Jones and Smokey Robinson among others.
Wonder finally began work on a new album which was to be titled Hotter than July. Inspired by his love for reggae music from meeting Bob Marley, Wonder was encouraged to write the first track, "Master Blaster (Jammin')", after their performance at the in Philadelphia in 1979. The recording sessions were primarily done at in Los Angeles (which Wonder had recently acquired) where he became responsible for writing, producing and arranging his own material for the new album.
Inspired by the growing popularity of Bob Marley's music and its clear messages against war, "Master Blaster (Jammin')" (US #5; R&B #1) was Wonder's way of honoring Marley. The country-tinged "I Ain't Gonna Stand for It" (U.S. #11; R&B #4), the ballad "Lately" (U.S. #64) and the upbeat "Happy Birthday" were other notable successes from the album. In the UK, all four singles reached the top 10, with the first and last releases peaking at #2 in the charts.
Track two, "All I Do", had originally been written by a teenaged Wonder and collaborators Clarence Paul and Morris Broadnax in 1966. Tammi Terrell recorded the original version of the song that year, but her version never saw release in her lifetime and remained in the Motown vaults until it was posthumously included on the compilation A Cellarful of Motown! in the UK in 2002, 32 years after her death. Brenda Holloway also recorded a version that was released on her Motown Anthology set in 2005. Michael Jackson, Eddie Levert and Walter Williams of the O'Jays, and Betty Wright provided backing vocals for the song on Wonder's album. Charlie and Ronnie Wilson of the GAP Band, handled backing vocals for "I Ain't Gonna Stand for It". Wonder's ex-wife Syreeta also shows up on "As If You Read My Mind".
Despite the wide critical acclaim for Wonder's previous works such as Songs in the Key of Life and Innervisions, Hotter than July was his first album eligible for platinum status, as Motown sales records before 1977 were not audited by the RIAA.
Sleeve liner design and Martin Luther King Day activism
Wonder wrote "Happy Birthday" in order to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and used the song to campaign for King's birthday, January 15, to become a national holiday in the US ( (Martin Luther King Jr. Day would be declared a federal holiday in 1983, first celebrated in 1986). The sleeve liner design (of the 1980 Motown LP issue) is entirely dedicated to these two purposes. Both sides are printed in a black-and-white semi-glossy photographic process. One side features a large square photograph portrait of King inset on a black background with white lettering above and below. Above the photo is printed "Martin Luther King, Jr." "January 15, 1929 -- April 4, 1968" (on two lines, centered), and below it appears a passage of text written by Wonder. The text below the photo reads:
It is believed that for a man to lay down his life for the love of others is the supreme sacrifice. Jesus Christ by his own example showed us that there is no greater love. For nearly two thousand years now we have been striving to have the strength to follow that example. Martin Luther King was a man who had that strength. He showed us, non-violently, a better way of life, a way of mutual respect, helping us to avoid much bitter confrontation and inevitable bloodshed. We still have a long road to travel until we reach the world that was his dream. We in the United States must not forget either his supreme sacrifice or that dream.
I and a growing number of people believe that it is time for our country to adopt legislation that will make January 15, Martin Luther King's birthday, a national holiday, both in recognition of what he achieved and as a reminder of the distance which still has to be traveled.
Join me in the observance of January 15, 1981 as a national holiday.
Stevland Morris a/k/a Stevie Wonder
To the right of this text is a thumbprint, presumably Stevie Wonder's (Stevland Morris's), serving as his signature.
On the other side of the sleeve is a collage of five historical photos. Two images, one above the other, form the background. The top image shows an aerial view of a low-lying urban area with a six-lane highway passing through it and thick smoke rising from many of the buildings on both sides of the highway—apparently a riot scene. The bottom image shows a confrontation, in an urban street four of five lanes wide, between a large group of African Americans standing in non-violent defiance and law enforcement officers with white helmets and weapons who are apparently advancing on them. The other three, smaller photos are laid out horizontally across the midline where the background images meet and are about 40% of the height of the sleeve. In the center is a wide rectangular photo of a large peaceful demonstration march, with both black and white participants, being led by Martin Luther King Jr. To either side are two square photos of apparent police brutality: in the photo to the left, three officers in white helmets seize a male African-American youth by his arms and one leg; one officer holds as a club what appears to be a long nightstick turned around with the thicker handle end out. In the photo to the right, an African-American man lies in a pool of blood on the sidewalk in front of an urban store, while in the foreground an officer in a white helmet stands at a distance and looks toward him, and in the background another Africa-American man crouches with his back against the wall and looks away. (King directly mentioned police brutality in his famous "I Have A Dream" speech.)
These images contrast with the general mood of the album, which is upbeat and positive, including "Happy Birthday". Exceptions are the few songs about romantic turmoil ("Rocket Love", "I Ain't Gonna Stand For It", "Lately") and the socially critical "Cash In Your Face", which protests racial housing discrimination.
|Christgau's Record Guide||A−|
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone, Stephen Holden said Hotter than July proved Wonder was still "our most gifted pop muralist" because of his evocative, unique synthesis of pop and African elements. It was voted the eighth best album of 1980 in The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll. Robert Christgau, the poll's creator, ranked it eighteenth on his own year-end list and, in a retrospective review, wrote that while "Master Blaster" and perhaps "Happy Birthday" were the only "great Stevie here", the pleasure in which Wonder performed the songs was evident in "his free-floating melodicism and his rolling overdrive, his hope and his cynicism". In The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), J. D. Considine found the record "buoyantly tuneful" and said fans viewed it as a return to form after the commercial disappointment of Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants.
All songs written, produced and arranged by Stevie Wonder except where noted.
- Side one
- "Did I Hear You Say You Love Me" – 4:07
- "All I Do" (music: Wonder; lyrics: Wonder, Clarence Paul, Morris Broadnax) – 5:06
- "Rocket Love" – 4:39
- "I Ain't Gonna Stand for It" – 4:39
- "As If You Read My Mind" – 3:37
- Side two
- "Master Blaster (Jammin')" – 5:07
- "Do Like You" – 4:25
- "Cash in Your Face" – 3:59
- "Lately" – 4:05
- "Happy Birthday" – 5:57
- Stevie Wonder - vocals, synthesizer, drums, Fender Rhodes, bass guitar, clavinet, background vocals, ARP, vocoder, piano, harpsichord, celeste, keyboards, harmonica, cabasa, percussion, bells, handclaps, flute
- Nathan Watts - bass guitar, background vocals
- Benjamin Bridges - guitar, background vocals
- Dennis Davis - drums on "Did I Hear You Say You Love Me," "As If You Read My Mind" and "Master Blaster (Jammin')"
- Earl DeRouen - percussion, background vocals
- Isaiah Sanders - keyboards, piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond organ, background vocals
- Hank Redd - saxophone, handclaps
- Robert Malach - saxophone
- Larry Gittens, Nolan A. Smith Jr. - trumpet
- Paul Riser - string arrangement
- Hank DeVito - steel guitar
- Rick Zunigar - guitar
- Angela Winbush, Mary Lee Whitney Evans, Susaye Greene Brown, Alexandra Brown Evans, Shirley Brewer, Eddie "Bongo" Brown, Charlie Collins, Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, Michael Jackson, Jamil Raheem, Betty Wright, Ronnie J. Wilson, Charles K. Wilson, Syreeta Wright, Marva Holcolm, Melody McCulley, Delores Barnes - background vocals
- Stephanie Andrews, Bill Wolfer, Trevor Lawrence, Dennis Morrison, Kimberly Jackson - handclaps
|1980||"Master Blaster (Jammin')"||Billboard Hot Soul Singles||1|
|Billboard Pop Singles||5|
|Billboard Club Play Singles||10|
|UK Singles Chart||2|
|1981||"I Ain't Gonna Stand for It"||Billboard Hot Soul Singles||4|
|Billboard Pop Singles||11|
|1980||UK Singles chart||10|
|1981||"Did I Hear You Say You Love Me"||Billboard Hot Soul Singles||74|
|"Lately"||Billboard Hot Soul Singles||29|
|Billboard Pop Singles||64|
|UK Singles Chart||3|
|"Happy Birthday"||UK Singles Chart||2|
|Canada (Music Canada)||2× Platinum||200,000^|
|Japan (Oricon Charts)||—||73,000|
|New Zealand (RMNZ)||Platinum||15,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||300,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,000,000^|
^shipments figures based on certification alone
- Holden, Stephen (February 5, 1981). "Hotter Than July". Rolling Stone. New York. Retrieved November 23, 2013.
- Brhel, John (May 1, 2010). "Top 10 Best R&B Albums of the '80's". Made Men. Defy Media. Archived from the original on August 19, 2018. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
- Davis, Sharon Stevie Wonder: Rhythms of Wonder p.142.
- Davis, Sharon Stevie Wonder: Rhythms of Wonder p.134.
- Davis, Sharon Stevie Wonder: Rhythms of Wonder p.132.
- "OfficialCharts.com - Stevie Wonder ''Hotter than July'' chart details". Archive.is. 1982-03-20. Retrieved 2013-12-27.
- Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian David (2004). Rolling Stone Album Guide review. ISBN 9780743201698. Retrieved 2013-12-27.
- Davis, Sharon Stevie Wonder: Rhythms of Wonder pp.135-7.
- Davis, Sharon Stevie Wonder: Rhythms of Wonder p.141.
- Davis, Sharon Stevie Wonder: Rhythms of Wonder p.107.
- "OfficialCharts.com - Stevie Wonder UK chart discography". Archive.is. Retrieved 2013-12-27.
- Allmusic review
- Christgau, Robert (1990). Christgau's Record Guide: The '80s. Pantheon Books. p. 444. ISBN 067973015X.
- Phil Sutcliffe. "Sounds review". Rocksbackpages.com. Retrieved 2013-12-27.
- "The 1980 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. New York. February 9, 1981. Retrieved November 23, 2013.
- Christgau, Robert (February 9, 1981). "Pazz & Jop 1980: Dean's List". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved November 23, 2013.
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
- "austriancharts.at Stevie Wonder – Hotter than July" (ASP). Hung Medien (in German). Retrieved February 20, 2013.
- Library and Archives Canada. Archived 2016-05-14 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved February 20, 2013
- "dutchcharts.nl Stevie Wonder – Hotter than July". Hung Medien. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
- "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste" (in French). infodisc.fr. Archived from the original on May 7, 2013. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
- "Hit Parade Italia - Gli album più venduti del 1980" (in Italian). hitparadeitalia.it. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
- Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970-2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
- "charts.nz Stevie Wonder – Hotter than July" (ASP). Hung Medien. Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
- "norwegiancharts.com Stevie Wonder – Hotter than July" (ASP). Hung Medien. VG-lista. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
- "swedishcharts.com Stevie Wonder – Hotter than July" (ASP) (in Swedish). Retrieved February 20, 2013.
- "The Official Charts Company – Stevie Wonder – Hotter than July" (PHP). Official Charts Company. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
- "allmusic ((( Hotter than July > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". allmusic.com. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
- "Album Search: Stevie Wonder – In Square Circle" (in German). Media Control. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
- "Les Albums (CD) de 1980 par InfoDisc" (in French). infodisc.fr. Archived from the original (PHP) on January 9, 2016. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
- "Complete UK Year-End Album Charts". Archived from the original on May 19, 2012. Retrieved October 3, 2011.
- "Top Pop Albums of 1981". billboard.biz. December 31, 1981. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
- "Austriancharts.at - Bestenlisten - 80-er album" (in German). Hung Medien. Archived from the original (ASP) on October 15, 2011. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
- "Canadian album certifications – Stevie Wonder – Hotter than July". Music Canada. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
- "Les Meilleures Ventes de CD/Albums depuis 1968". infodisc.fr (in French). SNEP. Archived from the original on September 26, 2015. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
- "French album certifications – Stevie Wonder – Hotter than July" (in French). InfoDisc. Select STEVIE WONDER and click OK.
- "Dutch album certifications – Stevie Wonder – Hotter than July" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. Retrieved 16 April 2019. Enter Hotter than July in the "Artiest of titel" box.
- "New Zealand album certifications – Stevie Wonder – Hotter than July". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 1 June 2019.
- "British album certifications – Stevie Wonder – Hotter than July". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved February 20, 2013. Select albums in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type Hotter than July in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
- "American album certifications – Stevie Wonder – Hotter than July". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved February 20, 2013. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH.
- Unofficial website reviewing album with sound clips
- "Cash in Your Face: exploring the harder edge of Stevie Wonder"
- Stevie Wonder interview by Pete Lewis, Blues & Soul, March 1995
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