Suggest a Songfact / Artistfact
Album: InnervisionsReleased: 1973Charted:
One of Wonder's social commentary songs, this tells of a young kid from Mississippi who moves to New York City. In Mississippi, he dealt with many hardships, but was surrounded by caring people. In New York City, he is quickly taken advantage of and is caught with drugs. His dreams are destroyed when he is sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Reflecting on the messages in his songs, Wonder said: "I think the deepest I really got into how I feel about the way things are was in 'Living For The City.' I was able to show the hurt and the anger. You still have that same mother that scrubs the floors for many, she's still doing it. Now what is that about? And that father who works some days for 14 hours. That's still happening."
This won a 1974 Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Song. The album it came from Innervisions won the Grammy Award for the Album of the Year.
Wonder asked one of the janitors at the studio to say the "Get into that cell, ni--er" line. Public Enemy later sampled the line on "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" a track on their 1989 It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back album.
Wonder played all the instruments on this song and also did all the vocals. The instrumentation is: Fender Rhodes electric piano, drums, Moog bass, T.O.N.T.O. synthesizer, handclaps.
Ray Charles covered the song as did Ike and Tina Turner. Taylor Hicks sang it on American Idol
, and Michael McDonald also recorded the song.