This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #377: Higher Ground by Stevie Wonder.
Stevie Wonder spent most of his childhood in The Motor City: Detroit, Michigan. That is noteworthy because Detroit was also the home of Motown Records. When Stevie was a child, he sang all around Detroit in church choirs. At age 11, he wrote and performed an original composition that was heard by one of The Miracles (of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles fame) who, in turn, brought Stevie to the attention of Motown head Barry Gordy. Gordy liked what he heard and signed Wonder to his first recording contract. Stevie’s career began with him recording cover versions of existing songs (including an album entirely comprised of Ray Charles tunes called Tribute to Uncle Ray). Not long afterwards, Stevie began touring with The Motortown Revue. One of his live sets (20 minutes long) was recorded and released as an album called Recorded Live: The 12 year old Genius. In that set was a song called “Fingertips”. “Fingertips” went to #1 on the charts, making Stevie Wonder the youngest singer to ever top the charts. Needless to say, that song was just the beginning of a career that remains relevant to this day.
Overall, Stevie Wonder has sold hundreds of millions of albums, he has earned 25 Grammy Awards and countless other accolades and he has released dozens of #1 hits songs such as “Superstition”, “My Cherie Amour”, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours”, “You are the Sunshine of my Life”, “Living in the City” and many more. One of his funkiest songs was one that eerily predicted a life-altering event that almost cost Wonder his life. That song was “Higher Ground”.
“Higher Ground” was released in 1973 from an album entitled Innervisions. The song deals with themes of reincarnation. Wonder is quoted as saying that he believed in the possibility of the human spirit transcending our time on earth and that our soul had a strength that might enable it live on even after our the shell of our body was diminished and gone. Not long after the release of this song, Stevie Wonder was involved in a serious car accident that left him in a coma for several days. Like many who have experienced similar situations, Wonder emerged from his hospitalization with a renewed determination to make his life count for something more than just fame and fortune. He took the stirrings for Civil Rights and for Social Justice that had always existed within him and brought them to the forefront of his public life. Consequently, Stevie Wonder has been lauded with many humanitarian awards and has lent his name to many important causes throughout the rest of his days.
The song “Higher Ground” incorporated many aspects of a style of music called Funk that was becoming popularized by artists such as James Brown at the time. One bit of trivia concerns the fact that although many musicians are present in the video you are about to see, the reality is that Stevie Wonder played all instruments used in the recording of this song. He did this on most of his songs. As a result, Stevie Wonder has been often called a genius and a one-man band. “Higher Ground” was a Top Ten hit for Stevie Wonder. It was also a Top Ten for “The Red Hot Chili Peppers” many years later. So, get ready to move and groove because here comes Stevie Wonder and The Red Hot Chili Peppers with “Higher Ground”, one of the most funked-up songs of all time. Enjoy.
The link to the official website for Stevie Wonder can be found here.
The link to the official website for The Red Hot Chili Peppers can be found here.
Thanks to Rolling Stone Magazine for helping to inspire the writing of this post. A link to their website can be found here.
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