Part-Time Lover

Album: In Square Circle (1985)
Charted: 3 1
Play Video


  • This song is about a cheating couple, and the machinations they go through to keep their affair a secret. They are part-time lovers because they have to keep it on the down-low:

    We are strangers by day, lovers by night
    Knowing it's so wrong, but feeling so right

    The song ends in a twist (or maybe, a tryst), when it becomes clear to the singer that his wife has a part-time lover of her own who is playing the same game.

    Wonder says that he has been in a similar position, with a guy calling his home and trying to disguise his voice when Stevie answered it.
  • Wonder was a pioneer when it came to making and recording music using electronics and computers. This is an early example of digital audio recording, which Wonder put together at his own Wonderland Studios.

    One of the devices he used was a LinnDrum, a popular drum machine/sampler. "He bought the second drum machine I ever made," Roger Linn said in a Songfacts interview. "I think he used my drum machine very well on 'Part-Time Lover.'"
  • According to Wonder, he drew on two songs by The Supremes as a musical influence for this one: "You Can't Hurry Love" and "My World Is Empty Without You."
  • Syreeta Wright, who was Wonder's wife from 1970 to 1972, sang backing vocals. She co-wrote Wonder's 1970 song "If You Really Love Me" and had her own Top 10 hit with her duet with Billy Preston, "With You I'm Born Again."

    Also featured on this track is Luther Vandross, who can be heard humming at the end of the verses.
  • This reached #1 on the Billboard Pop, R&B, Dance and Adult Contemporary charts, making Stevie Wonder the first artist to score a #1 hit on four different Billboard charts.
  • When this song reached the top of the US charts, it was 22 years and three months after his first hit, "Fingertips (Part 2)." At the time, this was the longest span between first and last #1s. The Beach Boys would break this record when "Kokomo" took the top spot in 1988. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Wonder contributed to The Woman in Red soundtrack, released in 1984, but In Square Circle was his first full album in five years - something that didn't sit well with Motown boss Berry Gordy. Wonder was working on an important non-musical project at this time: getting Martin Luther King's birthday recognized as a national holiday in America.

Comments: 5

  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenThe background beat always sounded like Hall and Oates's "Maneater" to me.
  • Tina from Norcross, GaSyreeta Wright may well have sung background on Part-Time Lover, but she was NOT married to Stevie Wonder at the time this record was released. They married in 1970 and divorced in 1972. Part-Time Lover was released in 1984, twelve years AFTER their divorce.
  • John from Nashville, TnThis song was sung as a duet between Wonder and Boy George on the Emmy-winning MOTOWN RETURNS TO THE APOLLO tv special three months before it was released as a single.
  • Rick from Columbus, GaOh, she was a part time lover and a part time maid
    She had nothing to complain about, I mean, she got paid.

    Man, the lyrics are great.
  • Douglas from Portland, OrThis has a great beat, melody and lyrics. One of my Stevie Wonder favorites.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Soul Train Stories with Stephen McMillian

Soul Train Stories with Stephen McMillianSong Writing

A Soul Train dancer takes us through a day on the show, and explains what you had to do to get camera time.

Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk: Rock vs. Televangelists

Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk: Rock vs. TelevangelistsSong Writing

When televangelists like Jimmy Swaggart took on rockers like Ozzy Osbourne and Metallica, the rockers retaliated. Bono could even be seen mocking the preachers.


LecraeSongwriter Interviews

The Christian rapper talks about where his trip to Haiti and his history of addiction fit into his songs.

Charles Fox

Charles FoxSongwriter Interviews

After studying in Paris with a famous composition teacher, Charles became the most successful writer of TV theme songs.

Sending Out An SOS - Distress Signals In Songs

Sending Out An SOS - Distress Signals In SongsSong Writing

Songs where something goes horribly wrong (literally or metaphorically), and help is needed right away.

Paul Williams

Paul WilliamsSongwriter Interviews

He's a singer and an actor, but as a songwriter Paul helped make Kermit a cultured frog, turned a bank commercial into a huge hit and made love both "exciting and new" and "soft as an easy chair."