The opening track from Wonder's acclaimed double album is a sermon on love. Hate is breaking hearts around the world, and the singer calls his listeners to send in their love because "love's in need of love today."
"The concept I had in mind was that for love to be effective, it has to be fed," he told Marc Myers, author of Anatomy of a Song. "Love by itself is hollow." Wonder came up with the idea on a cold day in 1974. He was staying at a hotel in New York with Yolanda Simmons, who was pregnant with their daughter Aisha, and captured the chords and bits of lyrics on a tape recorder. "I just play and songs sort of happen," he explained. "Like a painter, I get my inspiration from experiences that can be painful or beautiful. I always start from a feeling of profound gratitude – you know, 'Only by the grace of God am I here' – and write from there. I think most songwriters are inspired by an inner voice and spirit. God gave me this gift, and this particular song was a message I was supposed to deliver."
The following year, he brought the demo to Crystal Sound in Hollywood, where he developed the melody and lyrics. Instead of an instrumental lead-in, he recorded a choral introduction by overdubbing his voice singing all the choir parts. "I knew my harmonized voices had to be clear," he said. "But that my lead vocal had to be heard above the rest, not tucked in the back. The song was going to be a sermon, telling people that love was in need of love."
While working on the intro, he was reminded of the church radio programs he used to hear when he was a child. "An announcer would come on and say, 'Good morning or good evening everyone in radioland. I want to give you a message' – the whole deal, you know. My inspiration was the gospel quartets of the 1950s, like the one Sam Cooke was in. When I sang my final vocal on top, I imagined Sam in the studio with me – his spirit and energy."
Wonder played nearly all the instruments on the track, including the clavinet, bass synthesizer, and drums. He also used a Yamaha GX-1 to create the sound of light strings. Eddie "Bongo" Brown, a drummer who played on several Motown cuts, played the congas.
Wonder wasn't happy with the depth of his bass notes, so he sped the tape up while recording so the notes would sound lower when played back at a normal speed.
The album title came to him in a dream. "The point is that life is endless, so there will forever be songs about things that happen in life," he explained. Singing this song in particular can be a painful task for Wonder. "When I performed it in New York recently, I broke down," he said in 2016. "I've seen people come and go, and live and die, cry and laugh. It all came rushing back."
George Michael sang this in a live duet with Wonder
in 1985 and, three years later, performed it during his Faith tour. Michael also released it as the B-side to his #1 single "Father Figure
This was used in the 1995 movie Sabrina, starring Harrison Ford, Julia Ormond, and Greg Kinnear.