Living for the City
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|"Living for the City"|
|Single by Stevie Wonder|
|from the album Innervisions|
|Format||7" 45 RPM|
|Length||7:21 (full-length version)
3:41 (single edit)
|Stevie Wonder singles chronology|
"Living for the City" is a 1973 hit single by Stevie Wonder for the Tamla (Motown) label, from his Innervisions album. Reaching #8 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart and #1 on the R&B chart, the record is driven by a slow bass synth groove (provided by the enormous TONTO modular synthesiser) that manages to exude a certain amount of tension, an appropriate soundscape for the angry social commentary of the song. Rolling Stone ranked the song #105 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
The song begins with Wonder describing the life of a boy born in "hard time Mississippi". His family is poor, but his parents work hard and encourage him, in spite of the dreadful conditions they live in, which include lack of food and money, and racism. As the track progresses, the tension and anger build in Wonder's voice, matching the growing frustrations of the subjects in the song.
A spoken interlude midway through the song has the young boy, now a young man, arriving in New York City for a new beginning. He is tricked into transporting drugs, arrested and sentenced to 10 years in jail. The tension in Wonder's voice boils over at this point into an angry growl, but then subsides again as he ends the song on a positive note. In commercial radio airplay, the spoken dialog is usually edited out, possibly because the word "nigger" is used as he is thrown into a jail cell. Also, the last two verses, following this scenario, are omitted as well.
The spoken interlude can be seen as an electro-acoustic experiment, exploring the composer's main sensory input. Stevie Wonder's growling voice reveals the inner rage that has been building throughout the song, accentuating the social commentary of the lyrics.
|U.S. Billboard Pop Singles||8|
|U.S. Billboard Black Singles||1|
|U.K. Singles Chart||15|
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 635.
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December 29, 1973 - January 5, 1974
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