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Music

Watch a rare performance of Stevie Wonder's forgotten Italian hit

@SamWKemp

We’ve taken a look through the archives to bring you this absolute gem of a recording taken from the Italian issue of Steve Wonder’s 1969 album My Cherie Amour. In the 1960s, Italy went through something of a cultural explosion. Following the Second World War, the nation metamorphosed from a largely rural country into one of the most economically advanced and culturally sophisticated in the world.

During this time, the nation also experienced numerous political upheavals, which saw its people abandon Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship for the Socialist Party in 1963. Responding to these societal shifts, an explosion of film, fashion, and music swept through Italy. American record labels spotted an opportunity to access a previously untapped market.

That’s why, throughout the 1960s, a number of artists including The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and Procol Harum were encouraged to record songs in Italian, in an effort to have hit singles in that market. The same happened in Germany, with David Bowie recording a number of his most famous songs in Germany in the 1970s.

Italian issues of Wonder’s My Cherie Amour included two songs sung in Italian, the album’s title track and ‘Solo Te, Solo Me, Solo Noi’ or Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday’. This single was one of the many hit singles yielded by the American issue of My Cherie Amour, which was released on the Tamla (Motown) label on August 29th, 1969.

What’s so interesting about this recording is the way in which Wonder is forced to deliver the lyrics with much more malleable speech patterns in order to ensure the syllables stick to the melody. But Stevie Wonder didn’t just shift the way he sang the lyrics, he also re-recorded the vocal tracks of his backing singers with Italian session vocalists led by the composer Berto Pisano, who had made his name working with the Italian pop sensation Mina.

In this recording of Wonder’s performance of ‘Solo Te, Solo Me, Solo Noi’ on Italian TV, we see the legendary musician performing in the middle of a circle of fans whose rhythmic clapping makes its way into the final recording. It’s always enjoyable to watch these salvaged tapes of ’60s musicians performing on TV because the audience never knows how to behave, something which arguably continued way into the Top Of The Pops era.

Some dance, some stare blankly into the middle distance, others look like they’ve wandered into the wrong room entirely. Still, it’s an interesting look at what is a largely forgotten step in Wonder’s long and illustrious career.

See the performance, below.