Sesame Street and Stevie Wonder are two of the finest cultural monoliths to have arisen in the 20th Century. So when these two titans of their fields came together, it was a wholesome moment that will enrich your soul and might even get you on your feet and dancing.
Appearing on Sesame Street wasn’t a traditional way of plugging your record, but Stevie Wonder helped make it a well-travelled route following his rousing performance of ‘Superstition’. His cameo on the programme could easily have been cringe or ended up as a disaster, but thankfully it all went swimmingly, and Stevie was a more than welcomed addition down Sesame Street.
Following his performance on the show, more artists would follow suit, with Paul Simon, R.E.M. and The Goo Goo Dolls later popping down to see the likes of Big Bird and Oscar The Grouch. Of course, most artists adapted their songs to make them more child-friendly and turn them into nursery rhymes, but Wonder’s band treated the gig with the same amount of vigour as if they were performing at the Village Vanguard in New York.
Wonder didn’t just perform a majestically cool version of ‘Superstition’, which got the kids dancing and having the absolute times of their lives. He also cooked up a special ditty for the programme, aptly titled, ‘123 Sesame Street’. His band didn’t do anything in half-measures and ploughed everything they had into the performance.
‘Superstition’ was Wonder’s first number one hit since he hit the top spot when he was just 12 and went by the name of Little Stevie Wonder. Although he was a child prodigy, the track showed that Wonder had grown into a man, and he had finally come of age.
Speaking with NPR Music in December 2000, Wonder detailed the evolution of the track. “I think that the reason that I talked about being superstitious is because I really didn’t believe in it,” he revealed. “I didn’t believe in the different things that people say about breaking glasses or the number 13 is bad luck, and all those various things. And to those, I said, ‘When you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer.'”
Wonder also revealed that the track came to him while he was on tour with The Rolling Stones. “I was sitting on the drums, and the first thing that I put down were the drums, and then after that I put the Clavinet down, and really, I just starting singing the melody.
“Probably the first thing–the only thing I can remember that I said that I remember keeping was the line ‘Wash your face and hands.’ I think that was from when I was real little, I remember hearing this song saying ‘Get out of that bed, wash your face and hands.’ [It was the song] ‘Shake, Rattle & Roll.'”
Who knew the journey that the track would take from its inception while on tour with The Stones, and despite it reaching the top spot — surely taking it on to Sesame Street is a more significant source of pride for Wonder than topping the Hot 100?
Enjoy the clip in all its elegance below, and freak out to ‘Superstition’ like your Grover.