(Photo: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)
Singer-songwriter extraordinaire Stevie Wonder will release a gospel album, with an Arabic twist, that will pay tribute to his late mother, Lula Mae Hardaway.
In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, Wonder said his album will spread the message of truth to a wide audience, and said the gospel is not about religion but a personal relationship with "the one you serve and you worship." The upcoming album, Gospel Inspired by Lula, is one of several projects that Wonder is working on as he enters into the faith-based music genre.
"We're going to do some traditional gospel stuff, but I'm thinking about doing a gospel song in Arabic. I'm going to twist it all up in different ways, because I think everyone needs to hear the word of the gospel," said Wonder.
Wonder shared that he conceived the idea about making a gospel album while his mother was still living. "I promised her I would do it. She always wanted me to do it before she passed away, the untimely passing away," said Wonder. "We've been working on some songs and some ideas. So we're going to complete that as well."
Long before her passing, Lula Mae Hardaway, the daughter of a poor Alabama sharecropper, left Wonder's abusive father for a better life in Detroit. She co-wrote a few of Wonder's hit tracks early on in his career, including, "I Was Made to Love Her" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours." Then in 2006, she died in Los Angeles at the age of 76.
While he works on his mother's tribute album, Wonder will also collaborate with producer David Foster to revive a few of his classic material along with a symphony orchestra for songs like "Isn't She Lovely," among others. He is also working on two additional albums, Ten Billion Hearts and When the World Began.
Although there is no set date for the dedication album release, Wonder said his projects will come out "relatively soon."
"I never put a time on things, because the most important thing is that it's good. Hopefully we get it the way it feels good to me, and in the case of the one I'm working on with David, both he and myself feel good about it," said Wonder.
Not only did Wonder speak about music in the Rolling Stone interview, but he talked about issues within America and the need to acknowledge the nation's spiritual condition. When asked about taking the arts out of public schools indefinitely, he stated that doing so would be the catalyst to negativity as was the case with eliminating prayer.
"We have taken prayer out of schools because it alienates certain people, and I don't like that they did that, only because I think if a person doesn't want to believe in praying, then you go and you take a time out. But to stop the essence of giving praise to life in hoping for a better life, to me, is unacceptable," said Wonder.
He also spoke about his stance on gun control and current events that result in the "deterioration of a nation." "The great thing about being blind is I don't see all this, but I see it even deeper than everybody, so it hurts even deeper, because it's even deeper than I can imagine. It's gotten out of control . . . we have to understand that we are dealing with a spiritual war and we have to do something about guns," he added.
In keeping in line with his faith-centered beliefs about social issues, Wonder just wants the message behind his mother's homage to resonate clear.
"The word of the gospel really is love and it really is about people following the word…," said Wonder.