Hotter than July – Music to calm down to!

It was the album of 1980 for me, an amazing fusion of black sounds that inspired me in a way that Kendrick Lamar is inspiring another generation forty years on. The title is apt for today.

Stevie Wonder’s music comes out of the Detroit sound of Tamla Motown but this album is   musically diverse, loads of African beats , lots of reggae. And it is expansive and inclusive not angry and obsessive (like Kendrick or Marvin Gaye -who I admire in a different way).

As a very angry first year student at a posh English university, it was a release from the grind of Closer by Joy Division that had prime place on my turntable that year.

Listening to it last night on Spotify as I walked around a blazing City of London, I remembered the sleeve notes that made me realise that Hotter than July has a  hard-hitting message – one that found its way onto the notes on the sleeve liner.

It is believed that for a man to lay down his life for the love of others is the supreme sacrifice. Jesus Christ by his own example showed us that there is no greater love. For nearly two thousand years now we have been striving to have the strength to follow that example. Martin Luther King was a man who had that strength. He showed us, non-violently, a better way of life, a way of mutual respect, helping us to avoid much bitter confrontation and inevitable bloodshed. We still have a long road to travel until we reach the world that was his dream. We in the United States must not forget either his supreme sacrifice or that dream.

I and a growing number of people believe that it is time for our country to adopt legislation that will make January 15, Martin Luther King’s birthday, a national holiday, both in recognition of what he achieved and as a reminder of the distance which still has to be traveled.

Join me in the observance of January 15, 1981 as a national holiday.
Stevland Morris a/k/a Stevie Wonder

Those notes are the spirit of the album. The photos I remember surrounding the notes were of scenes of brutality and riot. Wonder’s music floats above , reminding us that there is a higher emotion than hate, a more effective solution than violence.

Wonder is one of the great musicians on the planet, a blind man who seems to see beyond the local issues to a transcendent state singing  “songs in the key of life”. His meditative albums like Innervisions and Talking Book were the platform for this album, but it’s “Hotter than July” that got me through my first year at college -it’s such fun!

It might calm you down, it won’t cool you down! It’s too darn hot!

So – on this hottest of days, if you are looking to immerse yourself in  an album of yesteryear that sounds like it was laid down yesterday, add these tracks to your playlist.

Side one
  1. “Did I Hear You Say You Love Me” – 4:07
  2. “All I Do”  – 5:06
  3. “Rocket Love” – 4:39
  4. I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It” – 4:39
  5. “As If You Read My Mind” – 3:37
Side two
  1. Master Blaster (Jammin’)” – 5:07
  2. “Do Like You” – 4:25
  3. “Cash in Your Face” – 3:59
  4. “Lately” – 4:05
  5. “Happy Birthday” – 5:57

Side two
“Master Blaster (Jammin’)” – 5:07
“Do Like You” – 4:25
“Cash in Your Face” – 3:59
“Lately” – 4:05
“Happy Birthday” – 5:57

And if you listen to nothing else, click through to this amazing call to “keep on trying- till I reach the higher ground/ no-one’s going to bring me down.”

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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