Living for the City

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"Living for the City"
Livingforthecity45.jpg
Single by Stevie Wonder
from the album Innervisions
B-side"Visions"
ReleasedNovember 1973 (1973-11)
GenreSoul
Length
LabelTamla
Songwriter(s)Stevie Wonder
Producer(s)Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder singles chronology
"Higher Ground"
(1973)
"Living for the City"
(1973)
"Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing"
(1974)

"Living for the City" is a 1973 single by Stevie Wonder from his Innervisions album. It reached number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 1 on the R&B chart.[1] Rolling Stone ranked the song number 105 on their list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[2]

The song has won two Grammy Awards: one at the 1974 Grammy Awards for Best Rhythm & Blues Song, and the second for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance at the 1975 Grammy Awards for Ray Charles' recording on his album Renaissance.[3]

Production[edit]

Wonder played all the instruments on the song and was assisted by Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff for recording engineering and synthesizer programming.[4] Tenley Williams, writing in Stevie Wonder (2002), feels it was "one of the first soul hits to include both a political message and ... sampling ... of the sounds of the streets - voices, buses, traffic, and sirens - mixed with the music recorded in the studio."[5]

Lyrics[edit]

Born into a poor family in Mississippi, a young black man experiences discrimination in looking for work and eventually seeks to escape to New York City (alluding to the Second Great Migration) in hopes of finding a new life. Through a series of background noises and spoken dialogue, the man reaches New York by bus, but is then promptly framed for a crime, arrested, convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison.[6][7]

Reception[edit]

Billboard described "Living for the City" as a "spectacular production of a country boy whose parents sacrifice themselves for him," and also praised the vocals and horn playing.[8]

The song has won two Grammy Awards: one at the 1974 Grammy Awards for Best Rhythm & Blues Song, and the second for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance at the 1975 Grammy Awards for Ray Charles' recording on his album Renaissance.[3]

It reached number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 1 on the R&B chart.[1] Rolling Stone ranked the song number 105 on their list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[2]

Personnel[edit]

Influence[edit]

Public Enemy sampled the 'get in that cell nigger' in their song 'Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos.'

Chart performance[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Joel Whitburn (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 635.
  2. ^ a b "Stevie Wonder, 'Living for the City'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Grammys Awards winners". Grammys.com. Recording Academy. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  4. ^ Ed Hogan. "Stevie Wonder - Living For The City". All Music. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  5. ^ Tenley Williams (2002). Stevie Wonder. Philadelphia: Chelsea House publishers. p. 44. ISBN 9781438122632.
  6. ^ Sullivan, Steve (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings, Volume 2. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810882959.
  7. ^ Bobby Owsinski (20 December 2013). Bobby 's Deconstructed Hits: Classic Rock, Vol. 1 - Uncover the Stories & Techniques Behind 20 Iconic Songs. ISBN 9780739093894.
  8. ^ "Top Single Picks" (PDF). Billboard. November 3, 1973. p. 59. Retrieved 2020-07-25.
  9. ^ "Stevie Wonder — Chart history". www.billboard.com. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  10. ^ "Stevie Wonder — German charts". www.charts.de. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  11. ^ "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Flavourofnz.co.nz. Retrieved 2016-10-08.
  12. ^ "Stevie Wonder — Official UK charts". www.officialcharts.com. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  13. ^ http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/films-videos-sound-recordings/rpm/Pages/image.aspx?Image=nlc008388.3893b&URLjpg=http%3a%2f%2fwww.collectionscanada.gc.ca%2fobj%2f028020%2ff4%2fnlc008388.3893b.gif&Ecopy=nlc008388.3893b
  14. ^ "Top Pop Singles" Billboard December 28, 1974: Talent in Action-8