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08.12.2015
For years, we had been mystified by the Stevie Wonder album of nearly the same name, because the movie was nowhere to be found. Time-lapse photography documents the pain and joy plants experience and how they communicate it. The book was the basis for the 1979 documentary of the same name directed by Walon Green and featuring a soundtrack by Stevie Wonder, later released as Journey through the Secret Life of Plants.
Published in 1973, The Secret Life of Plants was written by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird.
Stevie Wonder created the soundtrack for the documentary The Secret Life of Plants (directed by Walon Green) in 1979. Now, with the power of the internet, we have discovered this fascinating unreleased and rare movie, The Secret Life of Plants, which features a mysterious soundtrack by Stevie Wonder. The book, which is generally regarded as a pseudoscientific work, discusses the alleged unusual phenomena regarding plants such as plant sentience, as well as alternative philosophy and alternative farming methods. The film made heavy use of time-lapse photography (where plants are seen growing in a few seconds, creepers reaching out to other plants and tugging on them, mushrooms and flowers popping open, etc.).


It was the basis for the 1979 documentary of the same name, with a soundtrack especially recorded by Stevie Wonder. The album was released by Motown as the sequel to Wonder’s 1976 Grammy Award-winning Songs in the Key of Life. From the release of Songs in the Key of Life through the release of Plants, Wonder had been active, actually, but only as a collaborator, working with Ramsey Lewis, the Pointer Sisters, Minnie Riperton, Syreeta, Ronnie Foster, and Michael Jackson. This sentience is observed primarily through changes in the plant’s conductivity, as through a polygraph, as pioneered by Cleve Backster. Although The Secret Life of Plants was not as well-received as Songs in the Key of Life, some critics still found it compelling. Anticipation was so high that this release peaked at number four on the Billboard 200 and R&B album charts. It quickly slipped to footnote status; when Wonder’s 1972-1980 albums were reissued in 2000, it was left out of the program. Though it is dominated by synthesizer-heavy instrumental pieces with evocative titles, there is a handful of full-blown songs.


The gorgeous, mostly acoustic ballad “Send One Your Love” was a Top Ten R&B single, while the joyous “Outside My Window” registered in the Top 60. Beyond that, there’s the deep classic “Come Back as a Flower,” a gently lapping, piano-led ballad featuring Syreeta on vocals. Otherwise, there are playfully oddball tracks like “Venus’ Flytrap and the Bug,” where Wonder chirps “Please don’t eat me!” through robotizing effects, and “A Seed’s a Star,” which incorporates crowd noise, a robotized monologue, and a shrieking Tata Vega over a funkier and faster version of Yellow Magic Orchestra. The album is not for everyone, but it suited its purpose and allowed its maker an amount of creative wiggle room that few major-label artists experience.



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