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By Howard Campbell—–

February is officially Black History Month in the United States. Throughout the month, the Jamaica Observer will acknowledge the contribution of African-Americans to Jamaican pop culture.

Stevie Wonder

JUST about every big artiste in the music business experimented with reggae in the early 1970s. The Staples Singers cut the massive I’ll Take You There while Paul Simon recorded Mother and Child Reunion.

The emerging sound also caught the ears of one Stevie Wonder, the American wunderkind who had been a star at Motown since the mid-1960s. Wonder, like Bob Marley, was on the verge of superstardom when he visited Jamaica in November, 1974 to do a benefit concert for the Jamaican Institute for the Blind.

That show took place at the National Stadium in Kingston and marked the final time the original Wailers (Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Livingston) would perform together. They jammed with Wonder on his big hit, Superstition’ as well as I Shot The Sheriff, a Marley song that had been covered with great success by British rock star Eric Clapton early that year.

Like other high-profile stars like Roberta Flack and George Harrison of The Beatles, Wonder was a Marley admirer whose appreciation of reggae grew in the next 10 years.

For his 1974 album Fulfillingness’ First Finale, he recorded Boogie On Reggae Woman, a funky ode to Jamaican pop music. In 1981, Wonder performed alongside Third World at Reggae Sunsplash in Montego Bay and did Master Blaster (Jammin), his heartfelt tribute to Marley who died in May that year.

Wonder’s reggae connection continued with Third World in the early 1980s when the band was signed to CBS Records. He wrote and produced Try Jah Love and You’re Playing Us Too Close, both songs from their 1982 album You’ve Got The Power.


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