masters of the airwaves

Fall in love to music.  Fall in love with music. @LindsayWesker talks soul, Stevie and strong, black women.

“I’m not totally sure why my parents were into Dionne Warwick, Nina Simone, Sarah Vaughan and Mahalia Jackson.

My father had been brought up on classical music, English, Hebrew and Yiddish folk music and a smattering of jazz, while my mum had been brought up on rock & roll and pop.

But, here they were in my parents’ record collection: these strong, powerful, black women; the heroines of soul, blues and jazz fraternities.   

 I guess it just touched them?  And I guess it just touched me.  I remember listening to Dionne Warwick singing ‘Walk On By’ and 'Anyone Who Had A Heart’, and it just sounded so effortless and natural, as if these people had been born to make music.

 Like any sixties household, we also listened to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones but, in 1967, when my grandmother offered to take me to Ridley Road market to buy a record, I opted for a black, seven-inch, Tamla Motown single entitled 'This Old Heart Of Mine’ by The Isley Brothers.

So I guess you can say my love affair with soul music began there?  From that point, I was hooked!  It was a golden period for soul music: Stax, Atlantic, Motown, Philadelphia International and, of course, the emergence of the British soul music scene (Billy Ocean, The Real Thing, Linda Lewis etc.)

We had a decent upright piano in our dining room and I used to sit in there and 'noodle’, writing songs and singing them for my parents’ friends at dinner parties.  They sounded like a mixture of The Beatles, Elton John and James Taylor.

When I listened to music, it felt achievable.  It felt like music I could replicate.  When I listened to the hits on Radio One, I would think to myself, "I could do better than that!”

But, when I heard Stevie Wonder’s 'Music Of My Mind’, I was floored!  I listened to that album and thought, “How on Earth has he written that song?  How on Earth has he created those sounds?”

That was the first album I ever heard that made me think, “Hmm … I’m gonna have to get serious!”

The album featured the epic 'Superwoman’, an eight-minute opus to the love of Stevie’s life, and constructed like the movement of the symphony.  At the time, Stevie was using a keyboard called the Clavinet, and it produced these other-worldly sounds that made it seem like Stevie had collected these songs from another galaxy! 

'Music Of My Mind’ also featured 'I Love Every Little Thing About You’, which I adored and related to very strongly because I was in love with this difficult woman at the time.  The song seemed to be saying, in order to love someone, you have to love every little thing about them, warts and all!  Whether they are difficult or not!

There was a line in there that said, “There’s only one I place above you: it’s God that I place above you,” and that seemed like the biggest compliment you could ever pay because it was sincere and realistic.  This woman wasn’t quite a deity, but she came a close second!“