If You Really Love Me

Album: Where I'm Coming From (1971)
Charted: 20 8
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Songfacts®:

  • In this song, Stevie Wonder wants his girl to stop dragging her feet and commit already! He wrote it with Syreeta Wright, whom he married the previous year.

    Wonder and Wright met at Motown records, where she started as a secretary but worked her way up to demo singer and songwriter. They co-wrote the 1970 Spinners hit "It's A Shame," and all nine tracks on Wonder's 1971 album Where I'm Coming From, including "If You Really Love Me." In 1972, they worked together on Wright's debut album, but also divorced that year. They maintained a professional relationship long after their marriage ended, with Wright showing up as a backup singer on some of Wonder's songs into the '90s.
  • Wonder was 20 years old when he recorded and released this song. He signed with Motown as a minor and by law could void his contract with the label when he turned 21, which he said he would do unless granted total creative freedom. Motown complied, and Where I'm Coming From was his first album under the new arrangement. He recorded "If You Really Love Me" and other track from the album at Motown with their musicians (the Funk Brothers), but used other studios and musicians on subsequent releases.
  • The song opens with a horn-filled chorus, but just 39 seconds in, Wonder breaks it down, switching to just piano and vocal as he explains how his girl will be very sweet to him, only to turn on him a short time later. This is effectively the first verse; after the next chorus he does it again, breaking it down for a second verse. These kind of dynamics helped set Wonder apart as a songwriter and performer - he didn't still to a particular structure. This also opened up room for improvisation when he performed live. On "If You Really Love Me" he would often extend the intro and the verses; his band had to really pay attention because it was hard to know what he was going to do next.

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