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Superstition by Stevie Wonder

Album: Talking BookReleased: 1973Charted:
  • Wonder wrote this about the dangers of believing in superstitions. Some of the bad luck superstitions he alludes to include walking under a ladder, breaking a mirror (said to bring seven years of bad luck), and the number 13.
  • This was intended for Jeff Beck, who was brought in to play some guitar parts on the album in exchange for a song. At one of the sessions, Stevie came up with the riff and wrote some lyrics, and they recorded a rough version of the song that day for Beck. It took Beck a while to record the song, and by the time he released it, Wonder's version had been out for a month and was a huge hit. Beck felt shortchanged, and made some statements in the press that Wonder didn't appreciate. In 1975, Beck released an instrumental version of Wonder's "Cause We've Ended As Lovers" on his album Blow By Blow. The album was a hit and helped solidify Beck's reputation as an elite guitarist.
  • When Wonder turned 21, he was no longer obligated to Motown Records, and used his clout to sign a deal with the label giving him unprecedented control of his music. He got a large share of royalties and publishing rights, and Motown was not allowed to alter the albums once they were delivered. One thing Motown did control, however, were what songs they released as singles. Knowing Jeff Beck was about to record his version, Motown head Berry Gordy made sure this was the first single and released it before Beck could get his out.
  • Taking a cue from Marvin Gaye, who put musician credits on his album What's Going On, Wonder included credits on Talking Book. On this track, Stevie played Hohner clavinet, drums, and Moog bass. Two of his band members also contributed: Steve Madaio played trumpet and Trevor Lawrence played tenor saxophone.
  • Jeff Beck finally recorded his own version of this song in December 1972 with bass player Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice. They recorded as Beck, Bogert and Appice, and while their album did well, their version of this song was hardly noticed.
  • This was recorded at Electric Lady Studios, which is where Jimi Hendrix recorded. The studios stayed active after Hendrix' death, with artists like Miles Davis and Deep Purple also recording there.

    At the time, Wonder would keep the studio booked so he could record when inspiration hit. Stevie's bass player at the time, Scott Edwards, told us that this was not always convenient for his band. "Because he does not have sight, he's not controlled by daylight," said Scott. "So he may begin his night at midnight. Which is bad, because if they want you to come do an overdub or something, he may call you at 4 a.m. and say, 'Come on in.'"
  • Several artists besides Jeff Beck have covered this. None made much of an impact until Stevie Ray Vaughan released a live version as a single in 1986 on his album Live Alive. His version is still played on Classic Rock radio, and has grown even more popular since Vaughan's death in 1990.
  • This song incorporates many elements of rock music, which helped Wonder extend his appeal to a white audience. Before Talking Book was released, Stevie went on tour with The Rolling Stones, which boosted his credibility in the world of rock. When "Superstition" was released, it was warmly welcomed on the same radio stations that played The Stones, earning Wonder many new fans. It also helped Wonder move past his image as a child star.
  • This was Wonder's second #1 hit in the US. His first was with "Fingertips (Part 2)" in 1963, which he recorded as "Little" Stevie Wonder.
  • Wonder performed this song on Sesame Street in 1973 during the show's fourth season. It was recorded at the show's New York studios at a time when Wonder and his band were playing lots of gigs, and they treated the Sesame Street performance just like any other, extending it to nearly 7 minutes, complete with intricate musical shifts directed by Wonder. Video of the performance shows kids and puppets having a blast on the set, but the band remained focused, since getting distracted by a monster would not be a valid excuse for missing a change.

    Wonder was the biggest musical act to appear on the show to this point, and other top talent followed: Johnny Cash appeared the next year and Paul Simon showed up in Season 8. In later years, just about anyone who grew up watching the show was thrilled to appear, so they had no trouble attracting musical guests. Rather than straight performances, the songs were typically re-written to fit the theme of the show or teach a lesson: R.E.M. did "Shiny Happy People" as "Furry Happy Monsters"; The Goo Goo Dolls turned "Slide" into "Pride."
  • The album was called Talking Book because wonder considered the songs akin to chapters in a book that tell a whole story. On the cover is a rare photo of Wonder without his sunglasses on.
  • Raven-SymonĂ© of The Cosby Show and Disney Channel's That's So Raven fame, recorded this for the 2003 Disney movie The Haunted Mansion, starring Eddie Murphy. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Patrick - Conyers, GA
  • Wonder appeared in Bud Light commercials that debuted during the Super Bowl in 2013. As part of the "It's only weird if it doesn't work" campaign, which showed superstitious fans acting compulsively in an effort to steer their teams to victory, Wonder appeared as some kind of witch doctor in New Orleans (where the game took place). Asking, "are you looking for a little mojo?," Wonder then transports our hero to the big game, where he has a voodoo doll to help his cause. The song "Superstition" plays throughout.
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Comments: 16

Hard to believe that is him on the skins cause that is a PROFESSIONAL GROOVE there people. I mean world freaking class !Tony - San Diego
He did such a WONDERfull arrangement - the LAYERS are patiently added - four whole bars of just a simple-but-solid drumbeat, then that awesome Clav groove [plus bass guitar], then he starts singing and it already feels complete.... but it keeps GROWING.... nearly a full minute has gone by when the horn section starts peeling the paint off the walls with that riff AND the bass guit changes into a jazz-fusion style not heard on radio before then.... My GAWD I am coming out of my SKIN by this point - and it is all one ONE CHORD - that Clav riff is still going on, over and over and somehow never sounding repetitious - it is like a magic carpet that is carrying a freight train full of funk!!

And THEN he changes chords and lays down the meaning of the song - "when you believe in things you don't understand... then you suffer - superstition ain't the way" - so it really bugged me that the singer in my band in 1976 would get it wrong by singing "superstition is the way". I would go up to him at the break and say "IS the way? No man, superstition AIN'T the way" - but he always got it wrong. He was also the keyboard player and he nailed that Clav riff so I had to admire him regardless. I looked forward to playing this song every night, and after I moved on from that band I took the arrangement to every band I was in and made it part of our set list. [I played sax].

Ahhh, glory days.... but I could never put this song on for having sex because I would cum too soon - at the one minute mark, obviously.
Karlin - Nelson, Bc
Loved Philip Philip's AI version! Very upbeat and soulful.Jim - Chula Vista, Ca
I just wanted to take this opportunity to say that Stevie Wonder is the greatest, funkiest, most talented man ever to have walked the earth. That is all.Jim - Boston, Ma
Curiously enough, the funky "guitar" riff that underscores most of the song was generated on a Hohner Clavinet D6 keyboard, a relatively primitive device that is, to this day, still a mainstay among Stevie Wonder's array of keyboard instruments.John - Dublin, Ireland
Bake Beans? Stevie sing "Thirteen month old BabY"
Imagine dining out on 13 months of bake beans?
Love the track and it moves baby maves!
Ken Sparkes - Sydney, Australia
Thirteen months of baked beans.What does this mean?John - Brisbane, United States
I always thought stevie sang these words,Thirteen years of baked beans,broken looking glass.This is why I do not eat baked beans on friday thirteenth.John - Brisbane, United States
Stevie Wonder got booed offstage at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York for playing this then-new song. A few months later, it became his second #1 pop single.John - Nashville, Tn
He did play it on Sesame Street, I saw it on youtube. It is even better than the studio version!James - Gettysburg, Pa
the BBA version is way better than this.Cameron - Irvine, Ca
thats interesting about the jeff beck thing. i wonder if the song would have been as popular had jeff beck recorded it first.Dylan - Burlington, Vt
This song has also been covered by another Stevie, namely the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan. SRV's live rendition of "Superstition" appears on his Greatest Hits Vol. 2 CD.Joshua - Twin Cities, Mn
The Stones recorded during that tour and wanted to release an album featuring them and Stevie but the Stones' record company said no. This tour did expose Stevie to white audiences and helped his career progress from Little Stevie Wonder to mature artist.Don - Newmarket, Canada
I believe he once played this on 'Sesame Street', which is my earliest recollection of him. I remember thinking 'who is that guy'.Nate - Newport News, Va
Opening for The Rolling Stones on their world tour in 1972 exposed Wonder to a white audience that helped propel this song and the followup "You Are The Sunshine of My Life" to no. 1. in the U.S.Charles - Charlotte, Nc
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