The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #55: Superstition by Stevie Wonder (RS)

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 #55: Superstition by Stevie Wonder.

By the time that Stevie Wonder released, “Superstition”, he was already on to album #15(!) called, “Talking Book”. By the time, “Talking Book” came out, Stevie Wonder was entering the prime of his career….even though he was only in his early twenties at the time. By then, he had fulfilled his contractual obligations to Motown Records and had re-negotiated a deal (similar to the one Marvin Gaye signed) that gave Stevie a larger share of the profits from royalties and concert sales. He, also, had more freedom as to the songs he recorded and the players he worked with. In the specific case of “Superstition”, Wonder had been made aware that legendary guitarist, Jeff Beck, was a big fan. So, he invited Beck to play on the song. Beck agreed to do so in exchange for a song, written by Stevie, for Beck’s upcoming album. Wonder agreed. In fact, once “Superstition” was finished, he signed an agreement with Jeff Beck, whereby, Beck could also record and release the song on his own album if he wanted to. Beck agreed to that and the deal was mutually signed and sealed. Stevie Wonder released his version first and it became his first #1 hit since “Fingertips”, waaaaaay back in the early days when Wonder was still just a boy of 13 years of age. Beck released his version a few months later and, by then, most folks viewed it as a mere cover song and did not pay much attention to it at all. For what it is worth, I think it rocks fairly hard and is a faithful rendition of the version we all know so well but, at the same time, it is uniquely Jeff Beck’s, as well.

“Superstition” is a song about actual superstitions such as black cats, walking under a ladder, the number 13 and so on. But more, it is a song about not succumbing to illogical thinking. Far too often in life, we all fall prey to making decisions based upon emotional reactions or else, upon heresay, instead of actual, factual information. Stevie Wonder was attempting to use all of the funked up skills at his disposal to make a light-hearted but, serious point, that thinking with a clear mind is the best way to proceed in life.

Stevie Wonder is one of the most talented performers on this list. Listed as a multi-instrumentalist, Wonder can play every instrument that has ever appeared on any of his records. In fact, in most cases, he plays each instrument when it comes time to record the individual tracks. It is only when he would play live on a stage that he would use other, professional session players to fill in the roles that he was comfortable performing himself. The only slight exception to this rule was when it came to guitarists. Wonder could play the guitar, if he had to but, that was one instrument that he didn’t seem to mind delegating. That is how Jeff Beck came to be invited into Wonder’s recording studio.

One final story I will share about the recording of “Superstition” and the other songs on “Talking Book” album is something that was said about his blindness that I had never heard before nor, considered. Those who worked on the recording process of the album often complained about how Stevie worked. Perhaps, “complain” is a strong word. They needed to adjust to how he worked. You see, most sighted people are awake and active during the day time and then, we sleep at night. The circadian cycle controls how our internal body clocks work and thus, we function accordingly. Well, apparently, those rules did not apply to Stevie Wonder. Day time and night time were all the same to him. He worked when he felt like it and slept when he felt like that, too. So, as often would happen, Stevie would feel inspired and want to record some tracks so he would call his sound engineer to meet him at the studio that he had pre-booked for twenty-four hours a day….the only problem was that Stevie’s call might come at 4:00AM. To Stevie Wonder, 4:00AM is just another hour in the working and living day. However, to the sound engineer, it was the middle of his sleep time. In the end, it all worked out but, it certainly was an adjustment and just goes to show how easily we forget to empathize with the way people who may be different from us go about living their lives.

“Superstition” is a song that helped Stevie Wonder win two Grammy Awards and, like I said earlier, it reached the top of the charts, as well. It is a funky song with a timely message. So, without further delay, here is Stevie Wonder with “Superstition”, from the album, “Talking Book”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Stevie Wonder, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Superstition” by Jeff Beck, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Jeff Beck, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

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