Brazil, Gil, Stevie and our Climate

In conjunction with the World Cup in Brazil I am posting this article on Gilberto Gil performing a song by Stevie Wonder.

I came across this live album with Gilberto Gil singing back when I was expanding my awareness of the music of Brazil.  While reading the liner notes I was intrigued by the title of one of the pieces, “The Secret Life of Plants.”  Having grown up a big fan of Stevie Wonder I thought I knew most of Stevie’s music.  I had never heard of this Stevie Wonder composition so needless to say I was even more intrigued.

There are several things I love about this song and performance.  I have somewhat of a nostalgia for music of the 70s because I was a young kid then and I remember that music as the soundtrack to many of my fun times growing up.  This performance captures some of that mood and Gil does a great job reinterpreting Stevie Wonder’s music with a Brazilian sensibility.  Gilberto’s emotive whistling and sensitive guitar playing are refreshing amidst the acoustic setting and the flute and percussion add a nice touch as well.

Gilberto Gil version

I was fortunate to find the original song and video of Stevie Wonder’s version online and this is a real treat because it features a young Stevie Wonder wearing his iconic hair beads and he is not wearing shades.  We get a full glimpse of his eyes and facial expressions as he sings this hauntingly beautiful melody. 

Stevie Wonder’s version

I’ve also included below a video of Gilberto Gil and Stevie Wonder doing a delightful informal performance of “Desafinado.”

Stevie and Gilberto singing "Desafinado"

It’s amazing to hear Stevie so playful amidst the myriad of chord changes.  His comfortability with even the most complex music is fascinating and he even hints at his drumming skills by using some synth drums to fill in at the end (some may not know that Stevie plays drums as well and is the drummer on “Superstition” as well as some of his other hits).

After doing some more research I had found out that Stevie composed a whole soundtrack for a documentary entitled “The Secret Life of Plants” and this song was the featured theme.  The movie documents scientific experiments from around the world on the responsiveness of plants to human emotions and activity.  It hypothesizes that plants have an intelligence and can interact with humans.  Some of the early pioneers in plant research like Chandra Bose and George Washington Carver are highlighted as well.  You can watch the full documentary here.

Secret Life of Plants Documentary 
with Stevie’s music as the Soundtrack

The import of this research shows how connected we are to the planet around us and how our thoughts, emotions and actions have a measurable effect even on the plants.  Like the saying in Spiderman “with great power comes great responsibility,” and through research like this we are now becoming aware of our own power over the planet we inhabit and thus we need to be act responsibly in our treatment of the world around us. 

This song, the research that inspired it and the collaboration by Stevie and Gilberto, is a perfect commentary on our current global situation.  With the coming together of so many countries for the World Cup to play together civilly, it’s a wonder why we can’t come together outside of sport and realize our responsibility to each other and the planet we all share.

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