Monday, January 14, 2019

Musical Monday - Master Blaster (Jammin') by Stevie Wonder

#1 on the Billboard Hot 100: Never.
#1 on the Cash Box Top 100: December 6, 1980 through December 13, 1980.
#1 on the U.K. Chart: Never.

Stevie Wonder was, and is, one of the funkiest men who ever lived and this song (along with Superstition) is one of the primary exhibits I would advance in support of that assertion. The only thing that I wonder is how Wonder got from the upper realms of funkdom to the soft rock swamps of songs like I Just Called to Say I Love You, but that's a head scratcher for another day.

This song is, at its core, Stevie Wonder paying homage to another one of the great musicians of his day, specifically Bob Marley, and to the Afrocentrism that he represented. Master Blaster is not quite a memorial to Bob Marley - since Bob Marley wouldn't die until 1981, well after this song was released, but it is clearly inspired by Marley's association with the Zimbabwean independence movement that bore fruit in 1980 and was celebrated with Marley's two concerts in Harare on April 18th and 19th of 1980. You can feel the optimism and elation in this song. Sure, in subsequent years, Zimbabwe has had some hard times - some of them at least partially self-inflicted - but in 1980, you can see how it felt like a new age for Africa was dawning. To a certain extent that was true, it just took longer to get here than anyone expected. Despite the uncertainty that faced nations like Zimbabwe, in 1980 it was still possible to believe in a bright future, and Stevie eagerly joined Marley in celebrating from the beginning. His joy is infectious.

Previous Musical Monday: Super Trouper by ABBA
Subsequent Musical Monday: (Just like) Starting Over by John Lennon

Previous #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: Lady by Kenny Rogers
Subsequent #1 on the Cash Box Top 100: (Just like) Starting Over by John Lennon

List of #1 Singles from the Billboard Hot 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles from the Cash Box Top 100 for 1980-1989
List of #1 Singles on the U.K. Chart for 1980-1989

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