Making the once known known again.
I’ve played musical instruments ever since I was deemed “ready.” At my elementary school we were allowed to begin instruments in fourth grade and I could not wait to get my hands on one. I started on violin but soon got bored and switched to cello. In fifth grade I saw Dizzy Gillespie on “The Cosby Show” and switched to trumpet so I could be like him. I played trumpet throughout middle school and high school and somewhere along the way began fooling around on the piano as well. By senior year, music had become a major part of my identity and I knew I wanted to incorporate it into my future. I wanted to use music as a means of doing something. I just had no idea what that ‘something’ was or what it even looked like.
During Christmas break of my senior year, my Aunt Janice saw my passion for music and was inspired to give me her entire vinyl collection. We’re talking crates of the best R&B/soul albums ever recorded. One of those albums was “Fulfillingness’ First Finale” by Stevie Wonder. This album is brilliant lyrically, vocally, sonically, everything-ly. Listening to it helped define what I wanted to do with my talent. It showed me the importance of using your gifting for a greater purpose. Stevie wasn’t singing songs like “Birds of Beauty” and “They Won’t Go When I Go” for kicks and giggles. He was using his music to make a statement. I decided that if I couldn’t use music to affect some portion of the earth in a positive way, I didn’t want to use music at all. The song from “Fulfillingness’ First Finale” that affected me most the was the first song on side two-“You Haven’t Done Nothin’.”
“You Haven’t Done Nothin’” is a political song squarely aimed at President Richard Nixon. The song was released just as Nixon was suffering from the outcome of the Watergate scandal. With lyrics such as “We are amazed but not amused by all the things you say that you’ll do,” Stevie is holding Nixon accountable for promises that went unfulfilled. For extra impact, he enlisted label mates The Jackson 5 to sing background vocals. Understanding that their voices would be heard when the average American’s wouldn’t, two of the biggest acts in the country spoke on behalf of the country. If that’s not using talent for a greater purpose I don’t know what is.
“You Haven’t Done Nothin’” became Stevie Wonder’s fourth number one single in November 1974. Yet of all his singles, I’d venture to say this one gets the least amount of radio play. I’ve been a faithful listener of some of the best oldies stations in the country and I have never heard a DJ spin this song. Coincidentally, the song made one of the biggest drops from number one in music history. I don’t know the reasons behind the drop or the lack of airplay, but I do know this song is more than worthy of being excavated.
I believe that everyone of us has at least one talent. Maybe it’s not music. It could be sports or drama. Maybe it’s interior design. Perhaps it’s performing surgery or teaching kindergartners. Regardless of what it is, I want to know what you’re using your talent for. Are you using it for a greater purpose like Stevie Wonder? Are you giving a voice to someone who isn’t being heard? Do you have a responsibility to use your talent to benefit others or are you using it for yourself? Are you unsure of what to do with your talents like I was before I discovered “Fulfillingness’ First Finale?” You all have been creating great conversation on this site. Let’s keep it going! See you next Monday.
P.S. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the song as well.