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Contract on Love - Stevie Wonder

Distractions and, most recently, a fortnight laid up asleep, have meant that I have been remembering the late Lamont Dozier for over two and a half months, no bad thing, I suppose, but I'll have to skip many more of the tracks I intended to cover as pretty soon we'll be into the fresh batch of yuletide departures.

In 1962, at the age of 11, Stevie Wonder was signed to Motown Records, recording three unsuccessful singles before smashing his way to the number one spot in the US Hot 100 with "Fingertips Part 2", a live encore performance recorded at the Regal Theatre in Chicago. Wonder was thirteen by now, and the accompanying live album from which the single was lifted reached the US Album Number One spot, making him the youngest person ever to have achieved this feat.

Prior to this, desperate for the child prodigy to come good while he was still a child and at his wits' end, Motown boss Berry Gordy had handed over the "boy wonder" to the squeaky new songwriting/production team of Holland / Dozier / Holland and "Contract on Love" was the result.

The song was a flop as far as record sales went, but the ingredients for success were all there, with Wonder providing the gutsy singing, the precocious understanding and emphasis of the words and the innate understanding of the vocal risks needed for great soul singing while H/D/H provide the infectious beat with something somewhere between a sharp handclap and a pair of children's wooden building bricks as well as the Temptations on backing vocals and somehow persuading a 12 year old to go berserk in the confines of the Hitsville USA Studio. Sadly, it was the only time the two teams were to work together. If you listen to just one word on this record, so exquisitely and hoarsely emphasised, the "sign" of the greatness to come is unmissable. And of course, less than two years later HDH were to re-use the intro for the Supremes' first number one and million seller "Where Did Our Love Go"

Here Stevie is canned exuberance. Another song you can spring on the audience in the middle of a sweaty summer retro session, and after they'll be queueing up to ask you who it was.


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