Sir Duke

Album: Songs In The Key Of Life (1976)
Charted: 2 1
Play Video


  • Stevie Wonder wrote this song as a tribute to music, specifically to Duke Ellington, who had passed away in 1974. Ellington was a jazz bandleader and composer who was a big influence on Wonder.

    "I knew the title from the beginning but wanted it to be about the musicians who did something for us," Stevie said. "So soon they are forgotten. I wanted to show my appreciation. They gave us something that is supposed to be forever. That's the basic idea of what we do and how we hook it up."
  • In addition to Ellington, musicians referenced in this song are "Satchmo" Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and Sodarisa Miller. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brent - Moosic, PA
  • This wasn't the first song Wonder wrote in tribute to one of his musical inspirations: "Bye Bye World" from his 1968 album Eivets Rednow is about the guitarist Wes Montgomery. Wonder's second album, released in 1962 when he was just 12 years old, was Tribute to Uncle Ray, which paid homage to Ray Charles. This was more of a marketing ploy by Motown, who were pushing Wonder as the second coming of Charles.
  • The lead guitarist on this song was Mike Sembello, who had a hit in 1983 with "Maniac." The other musicians on this track, as listed on the album, are:
    Raymond Pounds – drums
    Nathan Watts – bass
    Ben Bridges – rhythm guitar
    Hank Redd – alto saxophone
    Raymond Maldonado – trumpet
    Trevor Laurence – tenor saxophone
    Steve Madaio – trumpet
    Stevie Wonder – all other instruments

Comments: 11

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 27th 1977, "Sir Duke" by Stevie Wonder entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #74; seven weeks later on May 15th, 1977 it would peak at #1 {for 3 weeks} and spent 17 weeks on the Top 100...
    And on May 22nd, 1977 it also reached #1 {for 1 week} on Billboard R&B Singles chart...
    Between 1963 and 2005 he had sixty-five Top 100 records; twenty-eight made the Top 10 with ten reaching #1*...
    He just missed having two more #1 records when "I Was Made to Love Her" {1967} and "For Once in My Life" {1968} both peaked at #11...
    * Two of his #1s were collaborations; "Ebony and Ivory" with Paul McCartney {1982} and "That's What Friends Are For" with Dionne Warwick and Friends {1985}.
  • Roman from Modesto, CaVery little is known about Sodarisa Miller except for the fact that she cut thirteen sides for Paramount Records in 1924 and 1925. Some of her records had her billed as "Sodarissa". Apparantly Paramount thought that they had found their new Bessie Smith but due to their poor recording techniques the listener might be quick to judge not so. Sodarisa cut one more record for Victor in 1926 with Hersal Thomas on piano that did give her a better sound. But the label soon dropped her due to the fact that it only sold 5,000 copies, when it was easy for Columbia to sell a Bessie Smith record at 15,000 copies. She was never heard from again. I'm pretty sure that Stevie was referring to Glen Miller in this song though
  • Matthew from Bardstown, KyThe song was written in tribute to Duke Ellington, the influential jazz legend who had died in 1974. The lyrics also refer to Count Basie, "Glenn Miller", Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.
  • Jessie Steele from Bartlett, Tnthis is probably my favorite stevie wonder song
    its so fun
  • David from Deerfield Beach, FlPosted on 11/7/2007. My favorite Stevie Wonder song hands down. Great song.
  • Lalah from Wasilla, AkI thought Miller was for Glen Miller too. Anybody who ever heard Ella Fitzgerald sing beebop knows the horn rifts are mimicing her.
  • Rochelle from Dallas,q, TxLead guitar on this track is played by 'Mike' Sembello, also known as MICHAEL SEMBELLO, the same guy who did "MANIAC" from the Flashdance soundtrack.
  • Khalifa from Reading, EnglandThis is my favourite stevie track, fills me with hope and happiness. A great song to pick oneself up after a bad day. AND WHAT A HORN LINE!
  • Frank from Morenci , AzOh yeah...Sir Duke had a great horn line intro
  • Jerry from Brooklyn, NyI have no idea who Sodarisa Miller might be, but in the context of the others mentioned I have no doubt he was referring to Glen Miller. the Big Band leader who died in a military plane crash near the end of World War II. Stevie Wonder shows great respect for the roots of R&B, soul and rock -- something that a lot of today's artists seem to miss. They act as if they are not drawing on the works of those who came before them. Stevie Wonder knows better.
  • Anitra from Greenville, ScThe best horn line EVER!
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Charlie Daniels

Charlie DanielsSongwriter Interviews

Charlie discusses the songs that made him a Southern Rock icon, and settles the Devil vs. Johnny argument once and for all.

Frankie Valli

Frankie ValliSong Writing

An interview with Frankie Valli, who talks about why his songs - both solo and with The Four Seasons - have endured, and reflects on his time as Rusty Millio on The Sopranos.

Waiting For The Break of Day: Three Classic Songs About All-Nighters

Waiting For The Break of Day: Three Classic Songs About All-NightersSong Writing

These Three famous songs actually describe how they were written - late into the evening.

Bob Daisley

Bob DaisleySongwriter Interviews

Bob was the bass player and lyricist for the first two Ozzy Osbourne albums. Here's how he wrote songs like "Crazy Train" and "Mr. Crowley" with Ozzy and Randy Rhoads.

Did They Really Sing In That Movie?

Did They Really Sing In That Movie?Fact or Fiction

Bradley Cooper, Michael J. Fox, Rami Malek, Reese Witherspoon, Gwyneth Paltrow and George Clooney: Which actors really sang in their movies?

James Williamson of Iggy & the Stooges

James Williamson of Iggy & the StoogesSongwriter Interviews

The Stooges guitarist (and producer of the Kill City album) talks about those early recordings and what really happened with David Bowie.