Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder song)

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"Higher Ground"
Single by Stevie Wonder
from the album Innervisions
B-side "Too High"
Released July 1973
Format 7" 45 RPM
Genre Funk
Length 3:42 (Album version)
3:10 (Single version)
Label Tamla
Writer(s) Stevie Wonder
Producer(s) Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder singles chronology
"You Are the Sunshine of My Life"
"Higher Ground"
"Living for the City"

"Higher Ground" is a funk song written by Stevie Wonder which first appeared on his 1973 album Innervisions. The song reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the US Hot R&B Singles chart.[1] Wonder wrote and recorded the song in a three-hour burst of creativity in May 1973.[2] The album version of the song contains an extra verse and runs 30 seconds longer than the single version. The unique wah-clavinet sound in the song was achieved with a Mu-tron III envelope filter pedal. The bass line is provided by a Moog synthesizer. Via overdubs, Wonder played all instruments on the track, including drums.

The song was also released in the UK "Higher Ground" but achieved only modest success, reaching only #29 in the UK Singles Chart.


The song lyrics address the issue of reincarnation. Wonder commented, when interviewed by The New York Times:

I would like to believe in reincarnation. I would like to believe that there is another life. I think that sometimes your consciousness can happen on this earth a second time around. For me, I wrote Higher Ground even before the accident. But something must have been telling me that something was going to happen to make me aware of a lot of things and to get myself together. This is like my second chance for life, to do something or to do more, and to value the fact that I am alive.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the song #265 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, adding: "'Ground' was recorded just before Wonder was involved in a near-fatal accident in August '73 that left him in a coma. Early in Wonder's recovery, his road manager sang the song's melody into the singer's ear; Wonder responded by moving his fingers with the music."[4]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1973) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[5] 62
Canada (RPM 100 Singles)[6] 9
Canada (RPM Pop Music Playlist)[7] 73
Italy (FIMI)[8] 22
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[9] 33
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[10] 28
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[11] 29
US Billboard Hot 100[12] 4
US Billboard Hot R&B Singles[12] 1

Red Hot Chili Peppers version[edit]

"Higher Ground"
Single by Red Hot Chili Peppers
from the album Mother's Milk
B-side "Millionaires Against Hunger"
Released April 8, 1989
Format CD, cassette, 7", 12"
Genre Funk metal[13]
Length 3:21
Label EMI America
Writer(s) Stevie Wonder
Producer(s) Michael Beinhorn
Red Hot Chili Peppers singles chronology
"Fight Like a Brave"
"Higher Ground"
"Knock Me Down"
Music video
"Higher Ground" on official website

The Red Hot Chili Peppers released a cover as the first single[14] from their fourth studio album Mother's Milk. Their version earned an MTV Video Award nomination.

It was featured in the films Passenger 57 (1992), Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (1995), Center Stage (2000), Walking Tall (2004), The Longest Yard (2005), The Karate Kid (2010), and The Change-Up (2011). This version has also been played in a season one episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1991). It is also featured in the video games Guitar Hero, Rocksmith, and SSX3 (in SSX3, a remixed version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers version done by the X-Ecutioners was used). The music video was featured in an episode of Beavis and Butt-Head. The song was used by FX to promote The Ultimate Fighter: Live and it also serves as the show's theme song.

As part of the "Year of a Million Dreams" Celebration, Space Mountain at Disneyland in Anaheim, California used this song as its soundtrack for 16 weeks, from January 3, 2007 to April 26, 2007.

British magazine Total Guitar named it the second greatest cover ever in 2000.[15]

Fourplay version[edit]

Jazz supergroup, Fourplay, released a cover with vocals by Take 6 on their The Best of Fourplay compilation album in 1997.

Track listing[edit]

U.S. Cassette Single (1989)[16]
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Nobody Weird Like Me"
7" Single (1989)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Fight Like a Brave"
UK CD Single
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Higher Ground" (Munchkin Mix)
  3. "Millionaires Against Hunger"
  4. "Mommy Where's Daddy?"
12" Single/Germany CD Single (1989)
  1. "Politician (Mini Rap)"
  2. "Higher Ground" (Munchkin Mix)"
  3. "Higher Ground (Dub Mix)"
  4. "Mommy Where's Daddy?"
12" UK Promo (1989)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Higher Ground" (Munchkin Mix)"
  3. "Higher Ground (Bert Bevans Remix)"
12" U.S. Promo (1989)
  1. "Higher Ground (Edit)"
  2. "Higher Ground"
12" U.S. Promo (1989)
  1. "Higher Ground (12" Vocal)"
  2. "Higher Ground (Politician Mix)"
  3. "Higher Ground (Dub Mix)"
U.S. Test Pressing 12" Single (1989)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Higher Ground" (Munchkin Mix)
  3. "Millionaires Against Hunger"
  4. "Mommy Where's Daddy?"
Australian 7" Single (1989)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Punk Rock Classic"
UK 7" Single (1989)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Millionaires Against Hunger"
U.S. CD Promo Single (1989)
  1. "Higher Ground (CHR Edit)"
  2. "Higher Ground"
UK 12" 3D Punch Out Pepper Single (1990)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Higher Ground (Munchkin Mix)"
  3. "Politician (Mini Rap)"
  4. "Higher Ground (Bert Bevans Mix)"
UK 12" Gatefold sleeve pop up Single (1990)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Fight Like a Brave"
  3. "Out in L.A."
UK 12" Limited edition picture disc Single (1990)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Higher Ground (Daddy-O Mix)"
  3. "Fight Like a Brave"
UK CD Maxi-Single (1990)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Fight Like a Brave"
  3. "Behind the Sun"
  4. "Out in L.A."
Spain CD Promo Single (1992)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Higher Ground"
France CD Promo Single (1992)
  1. "Higher Ground (Daddy-O Mix)"
  2. "Millionaires Against Hunger"
  3. "Castles (Live)"
Europe CD Promo Single (1992)
  1. "Higher Ground (Ben's Mix)"
  2. "Higher Ground"

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1989-1990) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[17] 45
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[18] 38
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[19] 15
UK (Official Charts Company)[20] 54
US Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks[12] 26
US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks[12] 11


  1. ^ Joel Whitburn (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 635. 
  2. ^ "Power in the Darkness". Micasamm.com. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Big American Night - Holy Roller". /bigamericannight.com. Retrieved January 7, 2015. 
  4. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time - 265 - Stevie Wonder, 'Higher Ground'". Rolling Stone. Jann S. Wenner. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  5. ^ bulion. "Forum - ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts - CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989". ARIA. Australian-charts.com. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 20, No. 11, October 27, 1973". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Adult Contemporary - Volume 20, No. 9, October 13, 1973". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  8. ^ "I singoli più venduti del 1973". HitParadeItalia (in Italian). Creative Commons. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
    100. Higher ground - Stevie Wonder [#22]
  9. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Stevie Wonder - Higher Ground search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  10. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Stevie Wonder – Higher Ground" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  11. ^ "Archive Chart: 1973-10-27" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  12. ^ a b c d "Innervisions awards at Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  13. ^ Christopher Knowles (2010). Viva Editions, ed. The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll. ISBN 978-1573445641.  "Milk gave the band much-needed hits with “Knock Me Down” and a cover of Stevie Wonder's “Higher Ground,” both of which worked the funk-metal vein."
  14. ^ "RHCP Timeline". Retrieved January 7, 2015. 
  15. ^ "The Best Cover Versions Ever". Total Guitar (Future Publishing). August 2000. 
  16. ^ http://www.discogs.com/Red-Hot-Chili-Peppers-Higher-Ground/master/42507
  17. ^ "Australian-charts.com – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Higher Ground". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  18. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Higher Ground" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  19. ^ "Charts.org.nz – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Higher Ground". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  20. ^ "Red Hot Chili Peppers". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 1, 2013. 
Preceded by
"Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye
Hot R&B Singles number one single
September 29, 1973
Succeeded by
"Keep On Truckin'" (Part 1) by Eddie Kendricks