Subscribe to our newsletter

(Credit: Press)

Music

Red Hot Chili Peppers reveal Stevie Wonder’s hilarious reaction to their ‘Higher Ground’ cover

Funk rock masters Red Hot Chili Peppers have given fans many stellar moments over the years. From ‘Under the Bridge’ to ‘Dark Necessesities’, the band have a knack for producing rock tracks that have a universal appeal. Arguably, this has much to do with the fact that the Californian band always imbue their work with the essence of a good time, cementing them as stadium fillers since they first broke through into the mainstream.

Whilst they’ve penned many originals over their long career, one of the band’s highlights is actually a cover. This is their hard-rocking rendition of Stevie Wonder track ‘Higher Ground’, which they released as the lead single from 1989’s Mother’s Milk. Since the band dropped the song, it has been a fan favourite and a highlight of their live show.

During an April 2022 interview on The Howard Stern Show, the band discussed the track’s origins, and then shared a duo of comedic anecdotes that seem to infer that the Motown legend isn’t bothered by their cover, but is quite happy with the boost it gave to his bank account. 

Stern told the band that they are “particularly good at covers”, and then asked them if they had to secure permission from Wonder to cover the song.

John Frusciante’s favourite Red Hot Chili Peppers songs

Read More

In response, the band discussed how their iconic cover came about. John Frusciante recalled: “Flea was saying what a good idea it would be to do a heavy metal version of ‘Higher Ground’, you know? That was your idea (looks at Flea)… ‘coz it was in the ’80s when there was so much bad heavy metal and Flea was like, ‘Heavy metal can be so rockin”. We definitely weren’t thinking ‘Let’s do a really ambitious, courageous thing’, you know? For us, it was just like ‘Sounds like a cool idea, let’s try it’. You’re just curious what would happen.”

The Chilis were then asked the question on everyone’s lips: did Stevie Wonder like the cover or not? Weighing in on the chat, Chad Smith revealed that he’s seen Wonder recently and that he made his thoughts on their version of ‘Higher Ground’ very clear. He said: “I actually saw him not too long ago, with a good friend of mine. He came over, and he said ‘Hey Stevie, what did you think of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, did you like the way they covered ‘Higher Ground’?’ and he goes, ‘I liked the publishing cheques'”.

Attention then turned to Flea, who recounted “a funny experience” he once had with Wonder in a hotel lobby in Detroit. He said: “Someone called me and said, a road manager or something, ‘Stevie Wonder’s in the lobby of the hotel’, and I was so excited ‘coz this is my hero. I love Stevie Wonder, one of my greatest heroes.”

The bass hero continued the story, revealing that he completely fanboyed Wonder: “I ran down to the lobby to try to say hi to him, thinking maybe he’d talk to me because of the cover and stuff. He was sitting there, and I walked up to him and I was like, ‘Stevie, hi, I’m Flea, I play in the Red Hot Chili Peppers and, you know, I just wanted to say hello, we played your cover, you know, and I love you’, and I kind of waited and felt awkward, and a minute went by. I said it again, ‘Well, I just wanted to say hi, I’m Flea, and anyways, your music means so much to me, have a beautiful day'”.

“I didn’t know what to do, and another minute went by. I got more and more awkward, and he said nothing, ignored me. I got ready to walk away, and I kinda walked away, and he goes, ‘Are you one of the members?’ I was like ‘Yeah, Yeah I’m the bass player’, I thought he was gauging to see if I was full of shit or not.”

Flea concluded: “He was like, ‘Oh, okay, uh Hi, would you guys play my fundraiser next month?’ for the boulevard or something, I can’t remember. I was like, ‘How ever we could be of service Stevie; if we can’. Then we chatted for a minute or something, but since then, I’ve met him a number of times, and he’s always been really generous of spirit, and kind and engaging.”

Watch Red Hot Chili Peppers discuss their interactions with Stevie Wonder below. 

Follow Far Out Magazine across our social channels, on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.