Never Had a Dream Come True

September 1, 2019 • 3:45 pm

Even if you’re a Stevie Wonder fan, like me, you might not know this song, for it wasn’t a big hit when released in 1970. Written by Wonder along with Motown staff writers Henry Crosby and Sylvia Moy, “Never Had a Dream Come True” just wasn’t that popular—not even rising above #26 on the Billboard Hot 100. And you haven’t heard it on the radio in decades.

Despite that, I think it’s one of his best, ranking up there with “Isn’t She Lovely” and “I Was Made to Love Her” (his best song; links to to great live performances). Maybe it’s just me, but I always get a bounce in my step when this songs appears on my iPod nano, and I try to sing harmony on the “doo doo doo” bit. (What happened to those nanos, by the way?)

Well, I just heard it again, and here it is. There is no live version on YouTube, so here’s a lip-synched version with the young star.

No popular music today even comes close to the quality of these three songs.

41 thoughts on “Never Had a Dream Come True

  1. Re today’s music: no disrespect, but speaking as a rock & roll fan, you might try Weezer (ask Leslie Jones), or even better, The Black Keys, especially their new album.

    1. Would they be ‘modern pop music’ though?

      I like Weezer, ditto the Black Keys, but they maybe don’t quite fit that definition.

  2. Sorry, to ‘hand clappy’ for me. Stevie Wonder/Jeff Beck’s Superstition is the only game in Wondertown – the bass groove, keyboards [plural], brass & very good lyrics = top notch. Let down by average drums – not groovetastic aggressive enough, insufficient power & too far back, could be a mix thing I suppose.

    1. I have to say, I’m not a Stevie Wonder fan, at least not of his ballady era, what I’ve heard of it. But Superstition is ruddy great. Rockstar, the videogame company released the trailer for GTA V and used a terrific Stevie Wonder song called Skeletons(?) or something to soundtrack it. So those are the two Wonder songs I like. Everything else of his I’ve heard has been a bit too ‘I just Called…’ for me.

      1. Absofckinlutely right & “I just called…” [& many other similar formula tunes he did] are dreadful musically & lyrically. I’m not a fan of the drum machine synthpop of Skeletons though – why did all those late ’70s musos collectively lose their minds & think computer drums were good? And adopt mullet haircuts? And start wearing pastel suits? Don Johnson & Miasma Vice partly to blame.

        1. I like that drum machine effect. It’s really aged very well. It’s like the way you learn to appreciate the way horrible eighties cars look, just because there’s something iconically gaudy about them.

          At the time I can imagine it sounded atrocious.

  3. IIRC, Stevie played those drums. And the intro, which is just drums, is considered one of the best drum intros in rock history. 🙂

    Give the drummer some!

    1. The intro is from a Beck idea & it’s very good. it put the whole bus on the road heading in the right direction. The drumming elsewhere in the body ain’t up to snuff IMO & the cymbals/hi hat or whatever it is is unnecessary & annoying. Wonder is from jazz drumming moving into funk & he’s considered great, but for me he overdoes the frilly bits when it’s sheer power that’s needed. Not my cup of tea as it needs a BEAST drummer – somebody else.

  4. I saw Stevie open for the Rolling Stones in 1973. He was in a bit of a career trough at the time, with his days as “Little Stevie” and the glory days of early Motown behind him. Later that summer, he released Innervisions and then, before the decade was out, Songs in the Key of Life and Hotter than July, and Stevie was BACK, man, bigger and greater than ever.

    One of my favorites from the early days is “For Once in My Life.”

    1. Now that I think about it, it was 1972 when he opened for the Stones, and Stevie released Talking Book later that year (and, then, Innervisions the next year).

  5. Another good source of Wonder songs that might be under the radar is the Jungle Fever soundtrack. Make Sure You’re Sure is the only one I know on that but it’s beautiful.

  6. That is a very good song, which I have never heard before. Isn’t it especially great when you hear new music, or at least music that is new to you that makes your world stop? Not common with today’s music but it still happens at times.

  7. Do you really believe that final sentence Jerry?

    It seem unlikely to me, even though I occasionally find myself feeling the same way, that that’s true. How likely is it that the period when you were at your most emotionally receptive and passionate also happened to be objectively the greatest era in pop music?

    What’s more probable:

    1. We are nostalgic about the music from our youth, and we were fantastically emotionally engaged with music at that age, or

    2. the history of great pop music just happened to coincidentally peak when we were teenagers, and artists from that point onwards simply stopped writing great music?

    Re. great ‘pop music’, there’s plenty out there, Grimes, Lana Del rey, Lorde, Janelle Monae, etc. but I don’t think that’s the issue. We just don’t feel things the way we did when we were younger.

    1. Yes, I believe it. And, as I’ve posted before, analysis of some indices of quality of modern music show that they’ve degraded compared to old music. Plus it’s often autotuned.

      As I’ve said, somebody had to live in the era of the greatest rock music, and it happened to be me.

      And no, I’ve listened to the new music. Some of it I like, and I think there have been some classic songs–but not many–in the last 20 years, but they don’t meet the quality of, say, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, or any of the great Motown standards. If you think there is a modern group as good as the Beatles, pray tell us. I can tell you, it’s none of the people you named.

      Why would I say something that I didn’t believe?

      The claim that I am most emotionally receptive to music when I’m in my teens doesn’t wash, as I discovered jazz in my forties and I love it to bits and listen to it all the time.

      1. “If you think there is a modern group as good as the Beatles, pray tell us. I can tell you, it’s none of the people you named.”

        But I didn’t say they were as good as The Beatles. I said they were examples of good modern ‘pop music’.

        I love The Beatles, I think all told they’re one of the best bands of all-time. Probably the best. But I’d place Radiohead alongside them, or at least very, very close in second place.

        “analysis of some indices of quality of modern music show that they’ve degraded compared to old music.”

        I saw those analyses. Imo, they’re pretty subjective. They use indices which seem to rig the deck for older music as opposed to modern music. The indices themselves are very arguable.

        As to autotune: have you ever heard Bon Iver singing ‘Woods’? It’s an acapella song made using autotune, and it’s rather lovely. Not everything autotune touches is bad, although you’d be forgiven for thinking so.

        “The claim that I am most emotionally receptive to music when I’m in my teens doesn’t wash, as I discovered jazz in my forties and I love it to bits and listen to it all the time.”

        I wasn’t saying it specifically about you. I was saying it’s true of all of us. And it was a general, statistical argument – I’m not saying we all just die inside once we pass the age of twenty, although again you’d be forgiven for thinking so from looking at depictions of ageing in modern culture.

        …Can I just finally say that my initial post wasn’t meant to be an insult or a criticism. I was trying to distinguish whether you were using ‘get off my cloud’ hyperbole or you really meant what you said.

        I am not constantly trying to criticise you.

        1. I was born in 1955 & Radiohead is the band with the most tracks [87] in my Music Bee in 2019. Their music from 1993 to 2016, though I didn’t get into them until I was 44 around the time I fell over Miles Davis’ brain melting Jazz/Rock fusion [John McLaughlin].

          I was definitely most in love with the music of my teens for more than half my life, but I’ve drifted forward in the second half & discarded a lot of the 60s/70s stuff for all sorts of reasons, e.g. lyrics that are plain embarrassing now such as “under my thumb” or artificial stereo mixes that were great when I first heard them, but now are twee & contrived [original mono versions are often better than the re-engineered stereo sound stage versions]. The best thing from then that’s still fresh to me today is Love’s Forever Changes.

          As you say, Radiohead are easily the equals of the Beatles & in some respects they’ve gone further such as how they structure an album to work ‘of a piece’ – less approachable than the Beatles since they don’t do vocal harmonies. Technically Radiohead are miles ahead in instrument playing skills & still growing, they work very hard at it – my favourite album of theirs at the moment is their A Moon Shaped Pool [2016].

          Possibly The Beatles are more innovative for their era though [not achieved on their own of course] – new studio effects, messing with 4 track, phasing & so on. A big leap in sound.

          1. “I was definitely most in love with the music of my teens for more than half my life, but I’ve drifted forward in the second half & discarded a lot”

            This strikes a chord. Certainly I’ve toned down my teenage snobbery and elitism about which genres and bands were okay to like. I’m more open to new music, wherever it comes from, whatever genre it is. I think you begin to not care so much about that phoney ‘record-collection-rock’ snobbery stuff.

            …And like you say, you do go back, and you listen to stuff that was unimpeachable, flawless, when you were eighteen, and you spot some cracks here and there.

            Forever Changes is unique. ‘Andmoreagain’ is one of the first songs I learned the chords to on the guitar. Exquisite.

            With you on Radiohead. OK Computer was a monolith for me, and I still think it’s probably the greatest album ever made. The sheer weight and strength and beauty of practically every song…each of which would be career-highlights for almost any other band…
            But to still be releasing genuinely interesting and boundary-pushing music this late into their career – that’s vanishingly rare for a band of their stature. In Rainbows is my favourite from this century, but A Moon-Shaped Pool had some great moments on it. I loved ‘Staircase’ too, and the unreleased Bond song for Spectre, and Codex(oh, Codex…) and Suspiria…

            They’re geniuses, and they were canny/fortunate enough to be paired with Nigel Godrich in the production booth – he really elevates their music into the stratosphere.

    2. Eg., I am convinced that the greatest year for albums is 1997, the year that Radiohead and Spiritualized came out with their masterpieces.
      But at the same time I admit that my vision’s probably clouded, because all my favourite videogames, TV shows and films happened to come out around that same time too. And it seems unlikely that all those separate artforms peaked at exactly the point when I happened to be at my most receptive and passionate.

      I don’t know if it’s ever been done, but I suspect that if you asked people to name their favourite films, songs, albums, etc., they will tend to have been released when the respondents were in the 15 to 20 years old range. And if they weren’t released then, then the respondents will have _experienced_ them first at that age.

      Neurologically we’re so extreme at that stage – our responses to the world are so extreme, our love is so strong and our hatred so fierce – that the albums we listen to, the films we watch, the books we read, burn into our hearts much more deeply than they would if we’d come across them later in life.

    3. even though this was not addressed to me…

      part of the nature of music is, I think, something of a time machine – reminding us of the past. Intrinsically, a piece of music will remind us of the past – nostalgia.

      it is hard for me to ignore the museum-like sense I get with classical compositions – “Early Music”, Telemann, Mozart – I find myself naturally imagining the composers’ living moments – though of nobody currently alive.

      likewise for Stevie Wonder – though, I am reminded of my own lifetime, in parallel with the date of the recordings.

      And of course there are terrible songs that I still find amusing. Why this is, I don’t know. Music is mysterious.

      so I think I would say (though this comment was not for me):

      Just because a piece of music has a nostalgic effect does not mean it lacks merit – or possesses it. The heartening thing is that Stevie Wonder composed and recorded his songs 100’s of years after Mozart.

      1. “Just because a piece of music has a nostalgic effect does not mean it lacks merit – or possesses it.”

        No, definitely not. But it can distort things and make it hard to judge whether a certain era really is objectively better than another.

        Yes, music really is mysterious. It makes no sense to me, and I love it, I love that it makes no sense. I actively don’t want it to make sense. Just air moving in different ways, traveling into my ears and then making my brain feel all these universes of emotion. It’s the closest thing to genuine magic in the world.

        1. “… hard to judge whether a certain era really is objectively better than another”

          after thinking just now again about it,… I don’t think there’s anything that assures anyone there “objectively” an answer…

          I agree with the entire last paragraph you wrote – indeed, I have a hunch that professional musicians who are entirely literate and competent also, at root, do not really understand how it works – it just does… but perhaps the teams of pop music writers DO understand… perhaps by invoking the “many ways” of knowing – i.e. looking in their wallets.

  8. I think the strongest part of this recording is how it shows how great a singer he is. Not that he hits the notes, or does some neat riffs that he always does, and really any singer can do, but he expresses the music so clearly. I always feel myself connected somehow, like he is my friend. Like he is being absolutely honest. It doesn’t matter what song he sings. His personality comes through. And his unique sound. “Isn’t She Lovely” is about his (?) newborn daughter, and even with his reference to god in the lyric, this moment always gets me bad. And he can play substantial compositions, like Chick Corea’s Spain.

    And then he can go and play piano while singing.

    And play other instruments. He composes. And did we mention he is blind? The man is a genius.

      1. Bloody hell, that’s amazing [terrible & great].
        Blonde Greek woman in cornrow wig, face paint & shades
        Sings a bit off key while performing manic Muppet-inspired Stevie Wonder body moves
        And possibly, but I’m not sure, pretends to play her keyboards [using the Yamaha Memory Function as beloved of a lot of synth bands that know only three chords].

        Name of “Mando” – just watched her on YT in slinky female mode [her, not me] – an all round musician the Greeks say

        1. It’s great isn’t it? And terrible too. Of course.

          I used to have a Yamaha that had a big orange button that if you pressed it immediately played a tinny, hysterically energetic, instrumental version of ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ at ear-splitting volume. The button had no function besides that. It was just the Wham button I suppose. It was evil.

    1. Important instrument to mention: harmonica! Many of Wonder’s recordings feature a signature harmonica solo!

      Stevie Wonder and Toots Thielemans – easy to forget they elicit such expressive voices from such an instrument as a harmonica – in fact they performed together (just type it in Google)

  9. The reason you can’t hear those nanos is that Spotify and other streamers ‘clean=up” the music. Last week’s NYT had an op-er by Neil Young about what that is doing to our psyches and our minds (not good!) He fixed it on his site: neilyoungarchives.com. Worth a visit.
    If I can find the op-ed, I’ll post it.

    1. I think NY started a high-quality music-streaming service of his own. I don’t know whether it went anywhere but he sure was keen on it.

      1. Pono – bought by Apple & killed in its sleep. NY didn’t have control & paid the price for a half good idea.

        Last couple of years or so He’s started a High Quality music streaming archive service that doesn’t require a dedicated piece of user hardware. He’s keeping ownership 100% his this time & I think it’s just his stuff on there at the moment.

  10. I agree with your choice of favorite Stevie Wonder songs 100 per cent.I have been a Stevie Wonder fan since Finger Tips.My list of Stevie Wonder songs are endless.We are the same age and I have owned all of his albums by way of wax, 8 track, cassette,and CD.

  11. SW is a great example of where I can recognize the sheer amazing talent of an artist and yet not really get into their music.

    (Though I do use his “I just called to say I love you” line. :))

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