Superstition (song)

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"Superstition"
Stevie wonder-superstition single.jpg
Single by Stevie Wonder
from the album Talking Book
B-side"You've Got It Bad Girl"
ReleasedOctober 24, 1972
Format7"
Recorded1972 in New York City
Genre
Length
  • 4:26 (album version)
  • 4:07 (7" version)
LabelTamla
Songwriter(s)Stevie Wonder
Producer(s)
Stevie Wonder singles chronology
"Keep on Running"
(1972)
"Superstition"
(1972)
"You Are the Sunshine of My Life"
(1973)
Audio sample

"Superstition" is a song by American singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder. It was released on October 24, 1972, as the lead single from his fifteenth studio album, Talking Book (1972), by Tamla.[2] The lyrics describes popular superstitions[3] and their negative effects.

"Superstition" reached number one in the U.S.[3] and number one on the soul singles chart.[4] It was Wonder's first number-one single since "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours", and topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973.[5] It peaked at number eleven in the UK Singles Chart in February 1973. In November 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the song number 74 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Writing and recording[edit]

Jeff Beck was an admirer of Wonder's music, and Wonder was informed of this prior to the Talking Book album sessions. Though at this point he was virtually playing all of the instruments on his songs by himself, Wonder preferred to let other guitarists play on his records, and he liked the idea of a collaboration with Beck. An agreement was quickly made for Beck to become involved in the sessions that became the Talking Book album, in return for Wonder writing him a song.

Between the album sessions, Beck came up with the opening drum beat. Wonder told Beck to keep playing while he improvised over the top of it. He improvised most of the song, including the riff, on the spot. Beck and Wonder created a rough demo for the song that day.[6][7]

After finishing the song, Wonder decided that he would allow Beck to record "Superstition" as part of their agreement. Originally, the plan was for Beck to release his version of the song first, with his newly formed power trio Beck, Bogert & Appice. However, due to the combination of the trio's debut album getting delayed and Motown CEO Berry Gordy's prediction that "Superstition" would be a huge hit and greatly increase the sales of Talking Book, Wonder released the song as the Talking Book lead single months ahead of Beck's version.[8]

On Wonder's recording, the song's opening drum beat was performed by Wonder on the kit that Scott Mathews provided at the Record Plant in Hollywood. The funky clavinet riff played on a Hohner Clavinet model C, the Moog synthesizer bass, and the vocals were also performed by Wonder. In addition, the song features trumpet and tenor saxophone, played respectively by Steve Madaio and Trevor Laurence.[9]

Chart performance[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Italy (FIMI)[11] Platinum 50,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[12] Platinum 600,000double-dagger

double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Other recorded versions[edit]

The Jackson 5 performed the song during a concert in Japan in 1973. It was released on their album, The Jackson 5 in Japan.

Wonder performed a live-in-the-studio version of "Superstition" on Sesame Street in 1973, episode 514. This version later appeared on the collection Songs from the Street: 35 Years in Music.[13][14]

Jeff Beck recorded his own version of the song with Beck, Bogert & Appice. This was released on their eponymous debut album. It contained only two verses of lyrics, the latter of which differs from any in the Stevie Wonder version, as does its refrain.

Stevie Ray Vaughan recorded a live version in 1986, which was released as a single from his album Live Alive. The accompanying music video features Vaughan and a stage crew setting up for a concert he planned to do on Friday the 13th. Many superstitious acts are featured, most notably a black cat that ultimately gets its revenge on Double Trouble, and Wonder (holding said cat) appears at the end. This version is still played on classic rock radio to this day,[7] and is included on two of Vaughan's greatest hits compilations.[15]

Wonder and Vaughan performed the song together in 1989 on the MTV special Stevie Wonder: Characters.[16]

British reggae band UB40 covered the song for the 1995 Eddie Murphy comedy horror film, Vampire In Brooklyn.

Raven-Symoné covered "Superstition" for The Haunted Mansion soundtrack in 2003.[17]

In popular culture[edit]

Wonder's recording is heard prominently near the beginning of John Carpenter's 1982 horror film The Thing. It is also featured in one of the opening scenes in the 2004 film I, Robot, starring Will Smith and directed by Alex Proyas.[18] In addition, the song has been used in a variety of other films, including Vampire in Brooklyn, Stealing Beauty, My Fellow Americans, The 6th Man, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and the 2013 film I Am Atheist.[19] Episodes of the television shows Angel and Scandal have also featured the song.[20]

Wonder appeared in Bud Light commercials that debuted during the Super Bowl in 2013. As part of the "It's only weird if it doesn't work" campaign, which showed superstitious fans acting compulsively in an effort to guide their teams to victory, Wonder appeared as a witch doctor in New Orleans (where the 2013 Super Bowl took place). These fans would perform numerous superstitious acts in order to receive good luck charms from him. The song "Superstition," specifically the beginning instrumental portion before Wonder's vocals kick in, plays throughout these commercials.[7]

Wonder's version appears in a 2018 TV commercial for McDonald's that promotes a Trick! Treat! Win! game.[21]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ John McFerrin. "Stevie Wonder- Talking Book". Retrieved 2018-09-22.
  2. ^ "Superstition: Stevie Wonder". Rolling Stone. December 9, 2004. Archived from the original on October 23, 2007. Retrieved January 16, 2008.
  3. ^ a b Dean, Maury (2003). Rock N' Roll Gold Rush. Algora. p. 276. ISBN 0-87586-207-1.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 635.
  5. ^ "Stevie Wonder Top Songs". MusicVF.com. Music VF, US & UK hits charts. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
  6. ^ "Jeff Beck's 'Happenings Ten Years Time Ago,' 'People Get Ready,' others". Something Else! Reviews. June 24, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c "Superstition by Stevie Wonder". Songfacts.com.
  8. ^ "The History of 'Superstition,' the No. 1 Song Stevie Wonder Stole From Jeff Beck". Ultimate Classic Rock. January 27, 2016.
  9. ^ "AllMusic page on Superstition". AllMusic.
  10. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1973/Top 100 Songs of 1973". Music Outfitters.
  11. ^ "Italian single certifications – Stevie Wonder – Superstition" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  12. ^ "British single certifications – Stevie Wonder – Superstition". British Phonographic Industry. Select singles in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type Superstition in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  13. ^ "Stevie Wonder Visits Sesame Street In 1973". JamBase. August 4, 2013. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
  14. ^ Hornbach, Jean-Pierre (February 11, 2012). Whitney Houston: We Love You Forever. p. 427. ISBN 9781471631795.
  15. ^ "Stevie Ray Vaughan/Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble Superstition". AllMusic.
  16. ^ "Stevie Wonder and Stevie Ray Vaughan - Superstition (1989)". YouTube.
  17. ^ Hedgpeth, Steve (June 6, 2004). "Kid's TV". The Star-Ledger. p. 4. If that's not enough, she's [Raven Symone] a singer, too. Recently, the Disney Channel had her latest music video, a version of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," in heavy rotation.
  18. ^ "I robot - beginning scene". YouTube. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  19. ^ "Stevie Wonder At the Movies". Steviewonder.org. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  20. ^ "Stevie Wonder". What-song.com. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  21. ^ "McDonald's Trick! Treat! Win! Game TV COmmercial, 'No Luck Needed'". ispot.tv. Retrieved September 30, 2018.

External links[edit]

  • Lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
  • Tim Hughes, "Superstition", Groove and Flow: Six Analytical Essays on the Music of Stevie Wonder, University of Washington PhD dissertation (2003), pp. 140–177