Child prodigy "Little" Stevie Wonder was a full-grown 22-year-old man with the release of his 14th(!) studio album, Music on My Mind. It would mark his first album out from under Motown's iron-fist artistic control, and give Wonder the freedom and independence to make music on his own terms.
"I never did realize it would take me so long to lose that 'Little' Stevie Wonder tag," the artist said in a 1972 interview. "There are times when I wish I'd only just started right this minute. It's amazing how many people still think of me as this sweet young kid."
Music of My Mind would find Wonder becoming infatuated with the then-new Moog synthesizer, and the new layers of sound it allowed him to apply to his music.
"A lot of people don't consider the Moog an instrument, in a sense, and they feel it's gonna take a lot of work away from musicians and all that. But I feel it is an instrument and is a way to directly express what comes from your mind," he insisted. "It gives you so much of a sound in the broader sense. What you're actually doing with an oscillator is taking a sound and shaping it into whatever form you want. Maybe a year and a half ago I couldn't have done these kinds of tracks. I don't know. I think your surroundings and environment have a great deal to do with what come out of you, how you write. I wrote 'Evil,' for instance, in the studios the day after Memorial Day, and did it straight away."
Wonder is referencing "Evil," the final track on Music on My Mind that was penned as the Vietnam War was raging.
"I've always felt I've been confined within a set style of work – that people expected a certain thing from me. I'm not just speaking of Motown, I'm speaking of people in general," the artist would say in 1972 about musical expectations that came with his history. "Like, 'Stevie Wonder appeals to this – this is him.' I think a lot of artists are categorized or labelled in this way and it's bad. People should let you be as free as possible and up until now I really haven't been."
"There are a lot of things musically I still want to express and a lot of things I still want to do," the artist would say at the time. "Probably I'll end up writing for other people, which is fine, because as long as I'm a part of creating something new that's fine with me."