(May 13, 2020). Everyone knows that when it comes to music, there’s hardly anyone that tops the sheer genius of Stevie Wonder, a/k/a Little Stevie Wonder, a/k/a Stevland Morris. He’s been this blogger’s (and this blogger’s mother’s) favorite artist for many decades.
On May 13, the Motown legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer turned 70 years young, and tributes occurred everywhere on the internet as DJs and fans alike took to his incredible, career-spanning song catalog to dance and stroll down a platinum-paved memory lane.
As the celebration continues, djrobblog commemorated the occasion by putting together the list of a lifetime – the 70 Best Stevie Wonder Songs…Ever!
For those readers who may be new to Stevie’s immense catalogue of timeless hits, it’s worth noting that the world’s eighth wonder has been recording since he was just a 12-year-old boy. He had his first No. 1 – “Fingertips, Pt. 2” – when he was only 13.
Even more astonishingly, Stevie was signed to one label – Motown Records – for his entire catalogue of albums, which spans from 1962 to 2005. The only notable projects he had away from the label were one-off collaborations with the likes of Dionne Warwick (“Thats What Friends Are For”), Michael Jackson (“Just Good Friends”) and Paul McCartney (“Ebony and Ivory”), along with a few others.
Those non-Motown hits, as well as his entire Motown catalogue, were surveyed for this list – approximately 200 songs in all. Needless to say, the grueling task of trying to narrow the list down to 70 was a daunting one, especially considering all the great material – including at least one No. 1 song – the blog had to leave on the chopping block.
But for diehard Stevie Wonder fans, having to narrow a list of his greatest works down to 70 is a good problem to have, because most artists would kill to be able to have a list a tenth that size!
With that in mind, and the only things guiding the blog being heart and opinion, here are the songs djrobblog ranks as Stevie’s greatest – from No. 70 all the way to No. 1 – along with an audio or video clip and a mini-story for each one.
Of course, unlike Stevie’s music, this list is not universal and I’m sure you’ll have your own opinion about which of his classics are the greatest. So please feel free to comment (below) and tell us what’s missing, or what’s misplaced.
In the meantime, enjoy the countdown – and, again, Happy 70th birthday, Stevie!
Album: For Once In My Life (1968). The countdown kicks off with this number that goes from a slow and simmering start to a rousing finish that sees 18-year-old Stevie giving a full-on confessional by song’s end. That’s some grown man stuff right there.
Album: Songs in the Key of Life (1976). Warning: there are at least a dozen songs from Stevie’s landmark album ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ on this list. Here’s the first, one of several times the pop and soul legend invoked spirituality in his music.
Album: In Square Circle (1985). Any soul song that has an accordion intro deserves major props. When it’s a Stevie Wonder song, well, that just makes it extra special! It’s hard not to like this gorgeous, sophisticated love song after just a few listens (plus it’s one of my mom’s favorites).
Album: Music of My Mind (1972). Stevie’s first of two albums released in 1972 is sometimes included in his “classic album” period, along with Talking Book (1972), Innervisions (1973), Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974) and Songs in the Key of Life (1976). Truth is, ‘Music of My Mind’ should ALWAYS be included. And this song is just one reason why. Check out the multi-tracking of Stevie’s voice throughout, which included some funny ad libs at the song’s end.
Album: Jungle Fever (Soundtrack, 1991). This song may seem sappy and simple, but that’s only because it is. It’s simply about the importance of saying those three words that we all need to hear from time to time. Stevie has a way of reminding us of life’s simplicities, and making it resonate as only he could.
Album: Where I’m Coming From (1971). Put simply, if you’ve lost a loved one recently - for whatever reason - don’t play this one. You’ll likely be in tears before Stevie sings his last note.
Album: Characters (1987). “Skeletons” was Stevie’s 20th and last No. 1 single on the Billboard R&B chart and his last top-40 hit on the pop chart. Who could have known that both of those fates would play out when we first heard it?
Album: Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours (1970). Few people would be bold enough to take on a Beatles classic in the year of their breakup, and refashion it into a funkier soul classic that ranks right up here with some of Stevie’s best.
Album: Fulfillingness' First Finale (1974). This highly under-appreciated tune from Stevie’s first No. 1 album in eleven years told of a dying relationship - one that both parties were young enough to recover from and find new loves should they be so inclined.
Album: Innervisions (1973). Stevie explored his jazz influences on this stellar track from what is arguably his best album from the classic period. I’ll leave that argument for another day. Meanwhile, just listen to the many components of this opening track: Stevie’s commentary of the effects of illicit drug use, the chirpy background vocals, the instrumental breaks. Classic stuff indeed.
DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.
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