One thing I intended to do in 2016 was put together more lists. They’re easy to do, they’re fun to do, and I’ve been putting lists together of my 10 or 20 favorite musical somethings-or-other since I started reading Jet Magazine in the late Seventies.

It took a metaphorical kick in the ass from my compatriot Alfred Soto and my podcast co-host Thomas Inskeep (and some actual free time) in order to make this happen. But lists are generally good for some well-spirited debate, and their lists of the best Stevie Wonder songs got me thinking–especially since they were both radically different from mine.

Stevie is my favorite songwriter ever, hands down. His music was the first to ever move me. When I was 6, a relative (or rather, the baby momma of a relative) brought me a copy of Innervisions to spin on my little Fisher-Price record player. I was not happy. I was head-over-heels in love with “That Girl” and wanted Original Musicquarium Vol. 1, but wisely, this person was not about to drop fifteen bones or more on a 2-LP set for a six year old. That album wound up rocking my world. From the cover to the lyrics to the musical textures, I was blown away. I had no idea what many of the songs meant-after all, I was in second grade. But there was a color, a vibe to songs like “Too High” and “Jesus Children Of America”, that appealed to me. Of course, as I got older and began to appreciate some of the things Stevie was writing about, I appreciated those songs even more.

While I stayed up on contemporary Stevie (although I certainly didn’t grow up during his “imperial” period), and was of course familiar with the hits that predated my existence, I didn’t do a deep dive into his catalog until I was in my late teens or early twenties. I soon realized that Talking Book was damn near Innervisions‘ equal (minus points for the horrible “Maybe Your Baby” and the not-horrible-but-kinda-meandering “Big Brother”). A series of covers and samples (courtesy of Coolio, Luther Vandross, George Michael and others) made me dig deeper into Songs In The Key Of Life. Janet Jackson’s constant praise of Journey Through The Secret Life Of Plants in interviews led to it becoming one of my first used vinyl purchases ten or so years ago. Former podcast co-host Michael Cunningham recommended Stevie’s cover of “Light My Fire”  to me, and I fell down a ’60s Stevie rabbit hole. And so on…

Stevie’s ’70s work-Where I’m Coming From through Hotter Than July-is indispensable. Not perfect (well, except for Innervisions), but indispensable. And don’t sleep on his work since, either. Each album he’s recorded since has at least 2-3 (sometimes more) stone jams, except for 1995’s weak Conversation Peace. Check out Alfred’s list, and Thomas’s list as well. I’ve included a playlist for your listening pleasure. Narrowing down to 30, and placing the songs in order (this is a fluid list, ask me tomorrow and the songs would likely not change, but the order might) was pretty daunting. But maybe this is the first step towards more content here!

1-Superstition (from Talking Book, 1972)
2-As (from Songs In The Key of Life, 1976)
3-All In Love Is Fair (from Innervisions, 1973)
4-You & I (Talking Book)
5-That Girl (from Original Musicquarium Vol. 1, 1982)
6-Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours) (from Signed, Sealed, Delivered, 1970)
7-Rocket Love (from Hotter Than July, 1980)
8-Higher Ground (Innervisions)
9-I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever) (Talking Book)
10-Jesus Children Of America (Innervisions)
11-Never Dreamed You’d Leave In Summer (from Where I’m Coming From, 1971)
12-If It’s Magic (Songs In The Key Of Life)
13-All I Do (Hotter Than July)
14-Heaven Is Ten Zillion Light Years Away (from Fulfillingness’ First Finale, 1974)
15-I Wish (Songs In The Key Of Life)
16-Blame It On The Sun (Talking Book)
17-Overjoyed (In Square Circle, 1985)
18-Too High (Innervisions)
19-Creepin’ (Fulfillingness’ First Finale)
20-Master Blaster (Jammin’) (Hotter Than July)
21-If You Really Love Me (Where I’m Coming From)
22-Sir Duke (Songs In The Key Of Life)
23-Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing (Innervisions)
24-Do I Do (Original Musicquarium, Vol. 1)
25-Tuesday Heartbreak (Talking Book)
26-Knocks Me Off My Feet (Songs In The Key Of Life)
27-Love Light In Flight (The Woman In Red Original Soundtrack, 1984)
28-Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You) (Music Of My Mind, 1982)
29-These Three Words (Jungle Fever Original Soundtrack, 1991)
30-Boogie On Reggae Woman (Fulfillingness’ First Finale)
31-You Will Know (Characters, 1987)
32-Ribbon In The Sky (Original Musicquarium Vol. 1)
33-Skeletons (Characters)
34-Love’s In Need Of Love Today (Songs In The Key Of Life)
35-He’s Misstra Know-It-All (Innervisions)
36-Visions (Innervisions)
37-Hey Love (Down To Earth, 1966)
38-Light My Fire (My Cherie Amour, 1969)
39-Another Star (Songs In The Key Of Life)
40-Get It (duet with Michael Jackson) (Characters

(I added an extra 10 tracks to the playlist because I legitimately felt guilty for leaving these out.)

¹-I almost feel bad for including this because MJ delivers a (to put it mildly) inspired vocal that almost renders a still-on-his-game Stevie an afterthought. A much more understated King of Pop can be found on track 13.

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