Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Song Lyric of the Day (Stevie Wonder, Rebuking an American President)

“It's not too cool to be ridiculed
But you brought this upon yourself
The world is tired of pacifier
We want the truth and nothing else.”—American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Stevie Wonder, “You Haven't Done Nothin',” from his Fulfillingness' First Finale LP (1974)

Stevland Hardaway Morris, better known as Stevie Wonder, was born 70 years ago today in Saginaw, Mich. He was a decade into his phenomenal run as a hitmaker—but still only a few years into his zenith as a fully recognized creative force—when he released this uncharacteristic cry of rage.

It wasn’t that the Motown musicmaker did not act as a public social conscience, before or later—he not only covered Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” but would later advocate for a national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in “Happy Birthday”—but 1974 was different for him, as for most Americans increasingly during that time.

Tired of racial division, tired of the ugly aftereffects of the Vietnam War, tired of Watergate—tired, above all, of the politician who, all evidence to the contrary earlier in his career, had promised to “bring us together”—Wonder finally had had enough.

Normally the most warm-hearted of souls, he sent a blast of hot funk at the venal occupant of the White House in August 1974, with his new single, “You Haven't Done Nothin'.” Two days later, Richard Nixon resigned.

Cause and effect? Oh, if only! But he had created a protest song that, nearly five decades later, has become newly relevant.

The next time Wonder has a chance to perform this in concert again, he might want to dedicate it to the Orange Menace now presiding over a greater stream of deception than Richard Nixon could ever have imagined. The singer might provoke a tweet or two from said Menace, not to mention execration from the latter’s army of MAGA hat-wearers. But sometimes the quality of a man is best determined by the nature of his enemies.

(One admirer of Wonder is Dr. Robert Holden, who hails him in the blog post, "Stevie Wonder Is My Life Coach.")

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