As the American funk and soul legend lines up to play all of his ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ LP, which this year celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, we thought it apt to round up the best Stevie Wonder songs. Whether you're seeing his headline set at British Summer Time in Hyde Park (July 10) or not, these eight songs spanning Stevie's career will leave you feeling Wonder-ful.
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Stevie Wonder's best songs
Such is the quasi-spiritual status of the man born Stevland Morris that this explosively shuffly song about reincarnation was written just before he was involved in a near-fatal car accident. Thank the lord he survived.
Shout out to the pre-’70s, pre-synth Stevie, who could seemingly slam down a floor-filing funk masterpiece – in the classic ‘60s Motown mould – on an almost daily basis. From 1968, this is Stevie in a super flirty, super funky mood.
Some Wonder lovers might think it sacrilege to choose a song written for ‘The Woman in Red’ – an ill-received 1984 comedy starring Gene Wilder. But it’s a prime example of Stevie crossing over into the bleepy, drum machine-aided ‘80s with trademark style.
Tucked away on the second side of his often-overlooked 1972 album ‘Music of My Mind’, this beatless ballad is not only heart-melting in its emphatic romanticism, it’s also a great display of his virtuosity too: dig the way he slows the tempo right down to a playful sway for the last verse. Genius.
Insanely fiddly and complicated horn arrangements: check. Melody so joyful it could heal the world: check. Groove that’s able to keep you glued to a floor for over ten minutes (the length of the LP version of this 1982 classic): check, check and check!
Never knowingly unambitious, Wonder attempts to encapsulate the black American experience in just one song. And of course, not only does he nail it lyrically, he lends the subject such significance with almost operatic flourishes and foot-stomping funk.
It’s an obvious choice. If you feel like the latent genius of this 1972 hit may have been chipped away via overexposure at weddings, then listen to Todd Terje’s masterful edit of ‘Superstition’ and marvel at the swing in those drums, the squelch in that bass and the command in Stevie’s voice.
Given that Stevie’s coming to Hyde Park this week to play all of his seminal album ‘Songs in the Key of Life’, it’s only fair to stick one of the album’s standouts at number one. A combination of childhood-evoking lyrics and a mesmerisingly clever bass groove make it the quintessential Stevie track. Surely the only song that can withstand getting sampled by Will Smith and covered by Celine Dion.
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