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The lyrics deal with getting a second chance ("So darn glad he let me try it again") and making the most of it. Strangely, Wonder recorded it three months before he was almost killed on his way to a benefit concert in Durham, North Carolina. The car he was riding in was behind a truck carrying a load of logs, which stopped suddenly, sending a log through the windshield and hitting Wonder in the head. The accident put Wonder in a coma for four days. His road manager and good friend, Ira Tucker Jr., knew that Stevie liked to listen to music at high volume, so he tried singing this song directly into his ear. At first he got no response, but the next day, he tried again and Wonder's fingers started moving in time with the song - the first sign that he was going to recover.
Recalling his time in the coma, Wonder said, "For a few days I was definitely in a much better spiritual place that made me aware of a lot of things that concern my life and my future and what I have to do to reach another higher ground. This is like my second chance for life, to do something or to do more and to face the fact that I am alive."
Innervisions was released on August 3, 1973, just three days before Wonder's accident.
Guided by a mix of Christian morality and astrological mysticism, Wonder believed he was writing a "special song" whose lyrics suggested a coming day of judgment. "I did the whole thing in three hours" he told Q magazine. It was almost as if I had to get it done. I felt something was going to happen. I didn't know what or when, but I felt something."
When he turned 21, Wonder renegotiated his deal with Motown Records, taking control of his recordings by forming his own production and publishing companies. Motown was very regimented in terms of what musicians and producers were used on recordings, but Stevie wanted to do most of this work himself. In 1971, he teamed with the engineers Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil and began a constant cycle of recording in which he played most of the instruments himself. On this track, Wonder is the only credited musician, listed as playing Hohner clavinet, drums, and Moog bass.
In 1993 UB40 included a cover version on their Promises And Lies album that reached #45 in the US and #8 in the UK.
Wonder was a huge influence on The Red Hot Chili Peppers, who remade this with a more uptempo beat on their Mother's Milk album. They even thank him in the lyrics by adding the phrase "You know what Stevie says." Their version helped introduce many listeners to Wonder. (thanks, Shirl - Bay Area, CA)
Wonder sang an a cappella version of this song with Alicia Keys at the Grammy Awards in 2006.
Susanna Hoffs - "Eternal Flame"
The Prince-penned "Manic Monday" was the first song The Bangles heard coming from a car radio, but "Eternal Flame" is closest to Susanna's heart, perhaps because she sang it in "various states of undress."
John Doe of X
With his X-wife Exene, John fronts the band X and writes their songs.
Cy Curnin of The Fixx
The man who brought us "Red Skies" and "Saved By Zero" is now an organic farmer in France.