Stevie Wonder turned 67 yesterday. In tribute to one of the best songwriters of the last 50 years, I’ve decided to make today’s Smooth Jazz Sunday about songs that he has written or co-written, as performed by other artists. The Sunday Slow Jams post that will go up later today will also be a tribute to Wonder, as I will choose some of my favorite ballads and Quiet Storm favorites for that post.
There really doesn’t need to be a whole lot written about Wonder at this point. Though there hasn’t been much new music from him in over a decade, what he has produced to this point—particularly from about the mid-1960s through the late 1980s—has resonated for years after the original releases. Many of his hits have become standards in pop and R&B, and many songs that he has written have become favorites when done by others. I don’t know how many people you put on a Mount Rushmore for R&B, but Wonder definitely merits consideration, if not outright inclusion. In many ways, his influence in that genre is as great as James Brown’s; and that’s no hyperbole in saying so.
Today’s playlist features some familiar songs that Wonder has performed, but also some “obscurities” that many people either didn’t know he wrote, or that he himself never released under his name. As always, I’ve provided a list of the songs in the playlist, in case you cannot hear one or several of them.
- “Another Star” by Pete Escovedo
- “Golden Lady” by Soulive
- “Send One Your Love” by Art Porter
- “Love Notes” by Ramsey Lewis
- “Bird Of Beauty” by Greg Kavanagh
- “All In Love Is Fair” by Eric Marienthal featuring Grant Geissman
- “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do) (Acoustic Version)” by Hil St. Soul
- “Tell Me Something Good” by Ronnie Laws
- “Too High” by Norman Brown
- “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” by Jeff Beck
- “Ribbon In The Sky” by Ben Tankard
- “Jesus Children Of America” by Jeff Golub
- “Creepin'” by Bob James
For a few notes on some of the songs:
It’s not a real surprise that many of the songs featured come from Wonder’s “Golden Era” (roughly 1972-1976, or from Music Of My Mind through Songs In The Key Of Life). “Love Notes” was written by Wonder, but never released by him. “Tell Me Something Good” of course, was made famous by Rufus & Chaka Khan. The song was written for the band by Wonder after he heard them perform his “Maybe Your Baby” and they were in the studio at the same time. Though Jeff Beck was given “Superstition” by Wonder (and then taken back), his version of “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” is one of Beck’s most revered songs. “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do” is probably best known by Aretha Franklin’s version, as well as being a part of Luther Vandross’ “Superstar/Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do” slow jam classic, but many other singers have taken a crack at it as well.
For those who use Spotify, here’s the playlist if you cannot hear the YouTube versions.
I hope you like this first of two Stevie Wonder tributes for today. As always, thanks for reading and listening.