Jian on DNTO
DEFINTELY NOT THE OPERA '96
From the July 21, 1996 interview for Definitely Not the Opera. The show allows
current musicians to play the music of those who have inspired them. The entire band
did a show last year of songs by different artists that was broadcast throughout Canada.
DNTO is a national radio show, originating from Winnipeg, It airs on the CBC.
NORA: ...and this week, Jian Ghomeshi from Moxy Früvous tells us about his favorite
summer album. He joins me now from Hogtown. Hi, Jian.
JIAN: Hi Nora. Live in Hogtown.
NORA: Yep. What's up with the hardest working band in show biz these days?
JIAN: Well, the hardest working band in show business is, uh, currently doing a summer
tour. We've been in England, and...mostly in England and the United States, and meeting
wonderful response. Doing some great festivals; we did WOMAD in London, England and
some big folk festivals in the states and having a fun summer.
NORA: Festivals are what summer's all about and we did ask you to come up with your
favorite summer album. Any trouble narrowing things down?
JIAN: Well, I was going to say, before I got to my favorite summer album, if it had been
my 1996 favorite summer album, I would pick the Ben Folds Five, a group that just put
out their debut CD. They're from North Carolina, and they are great. So a plug for the
Ben Folds Five before I get to my main plug [laughing].
NORA: Okay, well, what is your main plug?
JIAN: Well, here it goes. When I was first asked to participate in this segment I was
thrilled, Nora, to be given the chance to spin my choice of a disc I love on national
radio. And being the unfortunate pragmatist that I am, I thought I would develop a
criterion to determine my favorite all-time summer album. Then I realized that I don't
really ascribe seasonal identities or delineations to the music that I love. So I
realized that I was looking for my favorite all-time album. Period. That I listen to
in the summer...and the fall, and the spring, and the winter. And I thought the best
criterion was to select an album that I've probably listened to over a thousand times,
but that I never, ever, ever, get tired of.
And the disc that best fits that
description for me is Stevie Wonder's 1976 double album "Songs In The Key Of Life"
volumes 1 and 2. I've been a long-time fan of almost all of Stevie Wonder's material,
but I chose "Songs In The Key Of Life" because I think it's an album that represents
Stevie at his best in writing passionate, personal, and socially conscious lyrics. And
the first cut I've picked to play here is a well-known song that I think keeps getting
better with time. This is the classic Stevie Wonder piece called "I Wish".
JIAN: That was "I Wish" from "Songs In The Key Of Life" by Stevie Wonder. This is Jian
from Moxy Früvous and my all-time favorite summer pick album "Songs In The Key Of Life".
I actually do have an embarassing little tale about my first real awakening to Stevie
Wonder. Ironically, I didn't really have a clue about "Songs In The Key Of Life"
volumes 1 and 2 when it first came out. I mean, I was 9 years old and though I'd
probably heard a couple of hits on the radio, I think I remember being transfixed by the
fledgeling Andy Gibb phenomenon at the time. It wasn't until five years later, in the
summer of 1982 that I first clued in, albeit straying from my British new wave music
that dominated my record collection at the time.
At the end of my grade 9 year I was
selected from my high school vocal choir to sing in a duet at the Summertime Toronto
Harbourfront Concert Stage, by far the biggest gig I had ever been involved in. And
funnily, the song I was to sing half of and that would lead me to a lifelong love of
Stevie Wonder I think in retrospect was argueably Stevie's WORST musical effort, that
being the irritable hit song he shared with Paul McCartney called "Ebony and Ivory".
And there were some pathetic and comic elements to what transpired at Harbourfront.
First, the person selected to sing the duet with me was my friend and schoolmate Kim
Richardson, who would of course go on to become another famous member of Toronto's
singing Richardson family and win a couple of Juno Awards for her vocals. So here I was
on stage with someone who should have been singing both parts and winning the standing
ovation she deserved rather than being dragged down by me and my post-pubescent voice.
But secondly, Kim is black, and therefore was deemed the appropriate choice for the
"Ebony" Stevie Wonder part, by our music teacher.
So in the ultimate assimilationist
juxtaposition you had me, this little round Persian kid, singing Paul McCartney's
"Ivory" part. And while I resented the quote on quote "ivory" I remember the worst part
was that [shouting] I really wanted to sing the Stevie Wonder part! I realized then and
I've said ever since that if I could wave a magic wand and be given any one singing
voice in the whole world, I would pick Stevie Wonder's. I think what I like best about
"Songs In The Key Of Life" 1 and 2 is that it's a one-package testament to the magnitude
of Stevie Wonder's musical talent, prolific songwriting, and undeniable influence upon
comtemporary pop, R & B, soul, rap, and folk music. The 21 songs on this 2-disc album
are like a greatest hits package; it amazes me that Stevie wrote all of these songs in
such in such a short peroid, after his 1970s classic albums like "Fulfilliingess' First
Musically, "Songs In The Key Of Life" is a masterpiece, and it's a
songwriter's dream: infectious melodies, brilliant grooves and jams, sophisticated
arrangements, and of course, Stevie's trademark unparalelled vocals. Sonically, much of
the album sounds as though it could have been produced in the 1990s rather than 20 years
ago. And the songs, almost all of the songs, are truly classics. Whether you think you
know this Stevie Wonder album or not, unless you're 6 years old or you've been stuck in
an elevator with no music for the last 2 decades, it will sound familiar to you. Not
withstanding some of its huge hits like "Sir Duke" or [singing] "Isn't She Lovely" or "I
Wish" or "Love Is In Need Of Love Today", you may realize that you recognize this record
for tunes that you don't exactly know, but that have so often been copied, emulated, and
downright directly lifted by other artists, in the periods since its release.
By way of
example, if there's anyone who actually believes that there's anything original about
the 1995 mega-hit "Gangsta's Paradise" that rocketed Dangerous Mind rapper Coolio to
fame, the song becomes noteable as simply an inferior cover version once you've heard
Stevie Wonder's original "Pasttime Paradise", which is the second song I want to play
from "Songs In The Key Of Life" volumes 1 and 2. For Definitely Not The Opera, I'm Jian
Ghomeshi, from Moxy Früvous.
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