Song of the Day #325: ‘Superstition’ – Stevie Wonder

stevieOK, now I’m going to blow your mind.

Stevie Wonder was just 22 years old when he released Talking Book, the critically-acclaimed album that contained ‘Superstition.’ No, that’s not the part that should blow your mind. This is: It was his 17th album!

Seventeen albums in ten years, starting as a boy of 12. And he followed up Talking Book with a trio of albums as well-reviewed and well-loved as any ever recorded: Innervisions, Fulfillingness’ First Finale and Songs in the Key of Life. Then he turned 26.

That mind-blowing early output makes it all the more mysterious that he released only 6 more albums in his career (not including soundtracks and compilations). Did he feel like he’d accomplished more than enough for one lifetime already? Or did his muse abandon him?

Why is it that so often musicians, whose talents should grow with age, have career trajectories like professional athletes, whose bodies deteriorate? That’s not always the case, of course (just ask Bob Dylan or Steven Tyler) but it seems to happen more often than not.

My guess is it’s all about comfort. Comfort means the death of creativity. When you find yourself creating because you should and not because you need to… that’s when the magic stops happening.

This ties back to the Billy Joel theme that’s nearing completion. Joel hung up his hat after 12 incredibly successful albums and hasn’t recorded again for nearly 17 years. I bet he just doesn’t feel that burning inside and he’s not content to put out half-assed albums.

And I bet Stevie Wonder feels the same way.

Very superstitious, writings on the wall,
Very superstitious, ladders bout to fall,
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin’ glass
Seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past.

When you believe in things that you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain’t the way

Very superstitious, wash your face and hands,
Rid me of the problem, do all that you can,
Keep me in a daydream, keep me goin’ strong,
You don’t wanna save me, sad is my song.

When you believe in things that you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain’t the way, yeh, yeh.

Very superstitious, nothin’ more to say,
Very superstitious, the devils on his way,
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin’ glass,
Seven years of bad luck, good things in your past

When you believe in things that you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain’t the way, no, no, no

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6 thoughts on “Song of the Day #325: ‘Superstition’ – Stevie Wonder

  1. Amy says:

    Now we’re talking. What a talent! The music starts, and you immediately think Stevie Wonder. I love this song, and I love this man. Despite the fact that I don’t own single one of those 20+ albums. Strange, isn’t it?

    I don’t know that I buy the comfort theory, because it assumes that an artist creates out of discomfort, and I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. Rather there are likely periods of your life when your “muse” is particularly strong, and the creative juices are really flowing. Whether because your circumstances are suitable for a visit by the muse (fewer obligations, fewer emotional involvements, etc) or because you are braver or less critical (and not as quick to dismiss what the muse is delivering), there are times when artists create. For someone like Stevie Wonder, it’s difficult to imagine he ever stopped writing music. Hell he GAVE AWAY some great music to that hack Smokey ;-) Still, he may simply have felt no need to record the songs, as he wasn’t sure they lived up to his already impressive canon of work.

    One thing is evident. He gets immense joy out of continuing to perform his songs. Maybe that’s the creative outlet he now pursues?

  2. Clay says:

    I own only Songs in the Key of Life, but hearing this and reading up on his other albums makes me want to go buy the rest right now.

  3. Dana says:

    Stevie Wonder is on my musical genius list. Billy Joel, by the way, as much as I love his music, is not on that list. And this song is amongst Wonder’s best.

    And, while Amy may not know it, we have owned music by Wonder, or at least I have. I had Hotter Than the Fourth of July on cassette and adored it–really need to get it on CD. I also had/have the soundtrack to Jungle Fever–great stuff there also. Years ago, I also had Songs in the Key of Life and Talking Book on cassette, but need to get those again on CD.

    Anyway, as for the comfort theory–Billy Joel has often described his writing of songs as akin to giving birth–meaning it is a lonely and laborious process that does not come easily or naturally.. The music doesn’t flow out of him–he pulls it out, and it takes much effort to do so. As such, I’m sure when you are a multi-millionaire and already have a catalog of 120+ songs, and can make more money performing those songs than making new music, and it is far more joyful to do so–that’s what you do.

    Now, I would be a bit surprised if that is the reason Wonder slowed down as I would think music comes out of his pores–but perhaps not. So maybe for Wonder, he now prefers to take his time with projects. He also, I believe, is very involved with charitable work and so perhaps he has simply shifted his priorities.

  4. Clay says:

    Charity schmarity! Get thee to a piano, man!

    I say we all vow to pick up a Stevie Wonder album this week.

  5. Amy says:

    I see a Father’s Day gift idea coming my way :)

  6. Clay says:

    I completely forgot… I also own Innervisions, which is an excellent album.

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