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

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, 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, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

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.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #377: Higher Ground by Stevie Wonder.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: 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 of 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. After, initially, recording cover versions of existing songs (including an album entirely comprised of Ray Charles tunes called, “Tribute to Uncle Ray”), 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, has earned 25 Grammy Awards and countless other accolades, 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 a song 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 was of a mind that believed in the possibility of our 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. As such, 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. In fact, 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 and, 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 hit, many years later, for “The Red Hot Chili Peppers”, who began their career as Funk-Rockers. So, get ready to move and groove because here comes Stevie Wonder and, as well, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, with one of the most funked-up songs of all-time, “Higher Ground”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for “Higher Ground” 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”Higher Ground” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Red Hot Chili Peppers, can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. A link to their website can be found here.