You Haven't Done Nothin'

Album: Fulfillingness' First Finale (1974)
Charted: 30 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • This song is an angry, acidic attack on US President Richard Nixon, who two weeks after the release of Fufillingness' First Finale resigned over the Watergate scandal and left the White House in disgrace. Shortly after Nixon's resignation, Wonder issued this statement: "Everybody promises you everything but in the end, nothing comes out of it. I don't vote for anybody until after they have really done something that I know about. I want to see them do something first. The only trouble is that you always hear the president or people say that they are doing all they can. And they feed you with hopes for years and years. I'm sick and tired of listening to all their lies."
  • Wonder recorded this song at The Record Plant in Los Angeles. Around this time, he would keep a studio booked if he was in the New York or Los Angeles area, and work when inspiration struck, which could come at very odd times since he wasn't controlled by daylight.

    On this track, Reggie McBride played bass and Wonder handled all the other instruments: Hohner clavinet, hi-hat, cymbal, and keyboard horns. The doo wop backing vocals are by Stevie Wonder's Tamla labelmates The Jackson 5. Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil, who guided Wonder's work at the time, were the engineers and associate producers on the album. Margouleff recalls Michael Jackson showing up with a tutor, and a party atmosphere when the Jackson 5 did their vocals. "Everyone was so blown away with the harmonies they did," he said.
  • Fulfillingness' First Finale won the 1974 Grammy for Album of the Year. He also won the previous year for Innervisions and again in 1977 with Songs in the Key of Life.
  • 1974 was a strange and turbulent year in America, with the Watergate scandal dominating headlines, but riots in Boston and the acquittal of Ohio National Guardsmen who Ohio">shot students at Kent State University also making news. This song reflected the outrage and anger many Americans were feeling. It was not just a #1 R&B hit, but also topped the Hot 100, the only politically charged song to do so that year. Other #1s that year were far more lightweight lyrically. They include "Seasons In The Sun," "Kung Fu Fighting" and "(You're) Having My Baby."
  • There is some serious lyrical dissonance in this song, as the biting lyrics are accompanied by upbeat music. Wonder explained: "The best way to get an important and heavy message across is to wrap it up nicely. It’s better to try and level out the weight of the lyrics by making the melody lighter. After all, people want to be entertained, which is all right with me. So if you have a catchy melody instead of making the whole song sound like a lesson, people are more likely to play the tune. They can dance to it and still listen to the lyrics and hopefully think about them."
  • The Who singer Roger Daltrey covered this for his 2018 solo album As Long As I Have You. Daltrey told Billboard that recording the song gave him an opportunity to express his frustrations with the state of the world.

    "It felt right for where we are politically around the world at the moment," he explained, "because there's so much frustration with the state of our nations and the politics. There's an incredible anger out there, and all it is anger. It seems to be very unfocused. It just feels like we don't seem to be moving on from where we are in the '70s, when that song was written, so I sang it with a little more anger than I think Stevie ever sang it. But the lyrics apply just as much today as they did then."
  • The title is a pretty egregious double negative, literally meaning you have done something, the opposite of what's intended. "You Haven't Done Anything" would be correct.

    It's far from the first hit song that's a double negative: "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" is a classic example.
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 6

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn July 28th 1974, "You Haven't Done Nothin'" by Stevie Wonder entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #93; and on October 27th, 1974 it peaked at #1 {for 1 week} and spent 19 weeks on the Top 100 {and for 7 of those 19 weeks it was on the Top 10}...And on September 22nd, 1974 it reached #1 {for 2 weeks} on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...Was the first of four straight #1 records by Mr. Wonder on the R&B Singles chart; the other three were "Boogie On Reggae Woman", "I Wish", and "Sir Duke"...Mr. Wonder, born Stevland Hardaway Judkins, celebrated his 64th birthday two months ago on May 13th, 2014.
  • Beth from Georgetown, InStevie Wonder; Paul McCartney; John Lennon; George Harrison: musical geniuses!
  • Brandon from Burbank, Ca..."Jackson 5 join along wit' me say...doo doo wop".
  • Guy from Woodinville, WaYeah, just another white boy swept up by the music that seems to pump through Stevie's veins. Love these bitter lyrics on this one! It's unusual for Stevie to be so pointed and angry in his lyrics--he usually sings of love. Also, I never understood the lyrics introducing the first "doo doo wop" chorus till I saw them on this site. Turns out Jackson Five sang on this song! We'll miss the spectacle, Michael!
  • John from Nashville, TnAn early example of the use of a drum machine can be found on this recording.
  • Toby from Milton, WaGrew up on Stevie. Just a white suburban teen who had the good fortune of receiving 'talking book' for a b-day present. I wore that album out and it is ingrained in my dna now. Just heard this song today and was grooving to it. I had thought that Stevie says, 'I would not care to wake up to..the nightmare that they call My Lai'

    The next two lines seemed to concur. I read the lyrics now and stand corrected. But really, it could go either way, don't you think.

    I love you Steveland, how can I help? Just name it, brother.
see more comments

John WaiteSongwriter Interviews

"Missing You" was a spontaneous outpouring of emotion triggered by a phone call. John tells that story and explains what MTV meant to his career.

Movie Stars In Music VideosSong Writing

Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Mila Kunis and John Malkovich are just a few of the film stars who have moonlighted in music videos.

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.

Bill WithersSongwriter Interviews

Soul music legend Bill Withers on how life experience and the company you keep leads to classic songs like "Lean On Me."

Amanda PalmerSongwriter Interviews

Call us crazy, but we like it when an artist comes around who doesn't mesh with the status quo.

Victoria WilliamsSongwriter Interviews

Despite appearances on Carson, Leno and a Pennebaker film, Williams remains a hidden treasure.