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Music

Five songs Stevie Wonder wrote for other artists

Stevie Wonder needs no real introduction. Whether it be music or image, he is one of the definitive icons of modern music. A true pioneer, who helped bring soul, gospel and funk to the mainstream, Wonder is well known for his dextrous musical ability and capacity to draw on a number of genres, including jazz, pop, funk and electronic. 

Hailed as something of a one-man band, during the 1970s, he hit new heights and rewrote the handbook for R&B, defying the longstanding traditions that had governed his time on the legendary Motown label. Added to this, his music is imbued with a substantial degree of soul, and he was noted for his social commentaries and intricate compositions, making him respected by both academics and consumers. 

It is well known that Wonder has been blind since not long after his birth, but that never stopped him. He was a child prodigy in every sense and signed to Motown’s subsidiary, Tamla, aged just 11, where he was dubbed ‘Little Stevie Wonder’. Going from strength to strength, he secured his first number one hit in 1963 with ‘Fingertips’, and this set a precedent for the rest of his career moving forward. At the time, he became the youngest ever artist to top the charts, an incredible achievement for an African-American child from Michigan. 

Throughout the 1960s, he would continue to find success, but it was in the ’70s that he really became a superstar. As is the case with any star of his stature, he enjoyed what is now known as a “classic period”, which began in 1972 with the releases of the iconic Music of My Mind and Talking Book, the latter of which contained the megahit ‘Superstition’. Moving forward in remarkable fashion, his albums Innervisions (1973), Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974) and Songs in the Key of Life (1976) all won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, which confirmed Wonder’s genius to the masses. 

In the ’80s, Wonder continued to be incredibly successful and enjoyed his most commercial period yet, collaborating with the likes of Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson as well as using his platform to promote numerous righteous causes. 

A true genius, one of the most mindblowing factors of Wonder’s career has been that he’s not only written endless classics for himself but for other artists too. Indicative of the measure of his intellect and musical propensity, today, we’ve listed five examples of great songs Stevie Wonder has written for other artists. Be prepared to be reminded of some stellar cuts.

Five songs Stevie Wonder wrote for other artists:

‘Tell Me Something Good’ – Rufus and Chaka Khan (1974)

If prior to reading this article you’d always thought that the 1974 classic song by Rufus and Chaka Khan, ‘Tell Me Something Good’, sounded like a Stevie Wonder number, you were bang on the money.

A funky track, it was one of the earliest songs to utilise the wah-esque sound of Tony Maiden’s guitar talkbox and, duly, remains one of the most iconic songs of the era. Added to this is the twang of the bass groove, which is just exquisite. As for the chorus, it is genius and is one of the best he ever wrote.

‘Tears of a Clown’ – Smokey Robinson and The Miracles (1967)

Released by the Motown division, Tamla, 1967’s ‘Tears of a Clown’ has long been regarded as one of, if not the definitive song by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. Upbeat and catchy as hell, it’s an early anthem by Stevie Wonder that clearly reflects just how dynamic his songwriting can be.

Written by Wonder in tandem with his producer Hank Cosby, it’s one of the most enduring songs of Motown’s golden age.

‘I Can’t Help It’ – Michael Jackson (1979)

Track eight on Michael Jackson’s masterpiece Off the Wall, there’s no real surprise that ‘I Can’t Help It’ is actually a Stevie Wonder piece. Coloured by the unmistakable sound of Wonder’s Hohner Clavinet, the arrangement is one of the most dreamlike Wonder ever penned.

Romantic, introspective and warm, there’s so much to love. The chorus is also a mark of his brilliance, and the way it rises from the languid pace of the verses was a simple way of pulling the listener in, immersing them in this dreamy landscape even further.

‘Until You Come Back To Me’ – Aretha Franklin (1973)

One of the most iconic songs Aretha Franklin ever released, it has since been covered countless times by everyone from Leo Sayer to Luther Vandross. The lyrics are drenched in the Romanticism that we all love Stevie Wonder for.

They are sung from the perspective of a lover abandoned by their partner, who is determined to win them back, an intriguing lyrical standpoint. The flute is nothing short of glorious, another testament to Wonder’s skill.

‘Perfect Angel’ – Minnie Riperton (1974)

No list of songs Stevie Wonder has written for other people would be complete without this Minnie Ripperton staple. Written during a time when Ripperton was in semi-retirement, she had only just signed to Epic, as the label wanted her to make a resurgence from her current role as a homemaker and mother of two young children in Florida. 

Wonder was requested by Ripperton’s husband, Richard Rudolph, to produce the album Perfect Angel, and although he was busy at the time with his band Wonderlove, he acquiesced. 

Signed to Motown at the time, Wonder agreed to produce the album on the proviso that he produce it under a pseudonym, with Rudolph supporting him as co-producer. Per an account from Rudolph, they created the name El Toro Negro for Wonder and the rest was history. 

Despite the fact that lead single ‘Lovin’ You’ is the most well-known song on the record, the title track, a Wonder original, makes a strong claim for being the best on the album. Heady and funky, it allowed Ripperton to deliver one of her finest vocal performances.