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(Credit: Gijsbert Hanekroot / Alamy)

Music

The devastating Stevie Wonder drum solo that proves he is "the greatest drummer of our time"

@SamWKemp

Stevie Wonder is a supernatural talent. Blind from birth, he was forced to pay close attention to the natural rhythm of the world. It’s no surprise, then, that he was already a multi-instrumentalist prodigy by the age of eight. Two years later, at the age of ten, he signed to a little label called Motown Records and produced his first hit single, ‘Fingertips, Part 2’, which was released in 1963.

It would be the first of a long list of top-selling records that have made Stevie Wonder one of the most celebrated and revered popular musicians of all time. With albums like Songs in the Key of Life (1976) and incredibly famous hits such as ‘Superstition’, Wonder has a seemingly inexhaustible creative drive. This footage of him performing an impressive drum solo is proof of that rare talent – one that the world is unlikely to see again for many decades.

You might not even know Stevie Wonder as a drummer, but in this television performance, we see the musician take on the kit with intense ferocity. He begins by singing over an exuberant horn section before he is guided by a stagehand to where the band’s drummer is keeping a metrical, funk-laden beat. In a seamless transition, Wonder takes the drummer’s sticks – always keeping a steady pulse on the hi-hat – and slides onto the stool, where he explodes into an uproarious breakbeat that suddenly switches into an agitated jazz solo.

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All the previous drummer can do is look on in dismay, nodding his head as Wonder pounds away with superhuman precision and the horn section take a moment to rest their unwieldy trombones. It’s absolutely mesmerising. Watching the clip below, it’s clear that Wonder had a gift that, in previous decades, would have seen him accused of some pact with the devil.

What is so fascinating about this performance is that it reveals Wonder’s ability to play the drums almost like a piano. He combines textures in a way that gives a sense of wholeness to the sound he is producing, as though he is playing according to the rules of classical counterpoint. Then again, perhaps I’ve got it the wrong way round. Maybe Wonder plays the piano like he plays the drums. After all, his first paid performance at the age of eight was as a drummer. Indeed, in 1975, Eric Clapton was reported to have called Stevie “the greatest drummer of our time”.

This footage would certainly seem to provide ample evidence for that claim. See it below.