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Songs in the Key of Life

Songs in the Key of Life is the eighteenth studio album by American singer, songwriter and musician Stevie Wonder. It was released on September 28, 1976, by Tamla Records, a division of Motown. The double album has been regarded by music journalists as the culmination of Wonder's "classic period" of recording. The album was recorded primarily at Crystal Sound studio in Hollywood, with some sessions recorded at the Record Plant in Hollywood, the Record Plant in Sausalito, and The Hit Factory in New York City; final mixing was conducted at Crystal Sound.

Songs in the Key of Life
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 28, 1976 (1976-09-28)
Recorded1974–1976
StudioCrystal Sound, Hollywood; Record Plant Los Angeles; Record Plant Sausalito; The Hit Factory, New York City
Genre
Length86:23
104:29 (with A Something's Extra)
LabelTamla
ProducerStevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder chronology
Fulfillingness' First Finale
(1974)
Songs in the Key of Life
(1976)
Looking Back – Anthology
(1977)
Singles from Songs in the Key of Life
  1. "I Wish"
    Released: December 1976
  2. "Isn't She Lovely"
    Released: February 1977 (non-US single)
  3. "Sir Duke"
    Released: March 1977
  4. "Another Star"
    Released: August 1977
  5. "As"
    Released: October 1977

By 1974, Wonder was one of the most successful figures in popular music; Wonder's previous albums Talking Book, Innervisions and Fulfillingness' First Finale were all back-to-back critical successes. However, by the end of 1975, Wonder seriously considered quitting the music industry and planned to emigrate to Ghana to work with handicapped children. Plans for a farewell concert had begun, but Wonder subsequently changed his mind and signed a new contract with Motown on August 5, 1975. This outlined a seven-year, seven-album, $37 million deal with full artistic control. At the time, it was the biggest recording deal in history.

Songs in the Key of Life was released as a double LP with a four-song bonus EP. It debuted at number one on the Billboard Pop Albums Chart becoming only the third album to achieve that feat and the first by an American artist at the time. Both the lead single "I Wish" and follow-up single "Sir Duke" reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Songs in the Key of Life spent thirteen consecutive weeks at number one on the Billboard 200, becoming the album with the most weeks at number one during the year. It was the second best-selling album of 1977 in the US. In 2005, Songs in the Key of Life was certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Songs in the Key of Life won Album of the Year at the 19th Grammy Awards. It is the best-selling and most critically acclaimed album of Wonder's career. Widely regarded as Wonder's magnum opus and one of the greatest albums in the history of recorded music, many musicians have remarked on the quality of the album and its influence on their own work. Additionally, notable musicians have cited it as the greatest album of all time. It was voted number 89 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums and ranked number 4 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2002, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2005, Songs in the Key of Life was inducted into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress, which deemed it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Contents

By 1976, Stevie Wonder had become one of the most popular figures in R&B and pop music, not only in the U.S., but worldwide. Within a short space of time, the albums Talking Book, Innervisions and Fulfillingness' First Finale were all back-to-back-to-back top five successes, with the latter two winning Grammy Award for Album of the Year, in 1974 and 1975, respectively. By the end of 1975, Wonder became serious about quitting the music industry and emigrating to Ghana to work with handicapped children. He had expressed his anger with the way that the U.S. government was running the country. A farewell concert was being considered as the best way to bring down the curtain on his career. Wonder changed his decision, when he signed a new contract with Motown on August 5, 1975, thinking he was better off making the most of his career. At the time, rivals such as Arista and Epic were also interested in him. The contract was laid out as a seven-year, seven LP, $37 million deal ($177,952,381 in 2020 dollars) and gave him full artistic control, making this the largest deal made with a recording star up to that point. Almost at the beginning Wonder took a year off from the music market, with a project for a double album to be released in 1976.

There was huge anticipation for the new album which was initially scheduled for release around October 1975. It was delayed on short notice when Wonder felt that further remixing was essential. According to Wonder, the marketing campaign at Motown decided to take advantage of the delay by producing "We're almost finished" T-shirts. Work on the new album continued into early 1976. A name was finally chosen for the album: Songs in the Key of Life. The title would represent the formula of a complex "key of life" and the proposals for indefinite success. The album was released on September 28, 1976, after a two-year wait as a double LP album with a four-track, seven-inch EP titled A Something's Extra ("Saturn", "Ebony Eyes", "All Day Sucker" and "Easy Goin' Evening (My Mama's Call)") and a 24-page lyric and credit booklet.

Wonder used an Electro-Voice RE20 microphone (pictured) to record his voice for upbeat songs such as "I Wish". A variety of microphones were used for other songs.

The working title was Let's See Life the Way It Is. Wonder recorded the great majority of the album at Crystal Sounds in Hollywood, with Gary Olazabal as engineer, and studio owner John Fischbach as engineer. Some material was recorded at the Record Plant in Hollywood and the Record Plant in Sausalito. During a period when Crystal Sounds had a prior obligation to record another artist, Wonder and Fischbach traveled to the Hit Factory in New York City to work for about six weeks but only used one basic track. As a perfectionist, Wonder spent long hours in the studio for almost every track he recorded. He was "not eating or sleeping, while everyone around him struggled to keep up." According to Wonder, "If my flow is goin', I keep on until I peak."

A total of 130 people worked on the album, but Wonder's preeminence during the album was evident. Among the people present during the sessions were legendary figures of R&B, soul and jazz music – Herbie Hancock played Fender Rhodes on "As", George Benson played electric guitar on "Another Star", and Minnie Riperton and Deniece Williams added backing vocals on "Ordinary Pain". Mike Sembello was a prominent personality throughout the album, playing guitar on several tracks and also co-writing "Saturn" with Wonder. Some of the most socially conscious songs of the album were actually written by Wonder with other people – these included "Village Ghetto Land" and "Black Man" (co-written with Gary Byrd) and "Have a Talk with God" (co-written by Calvin Hardaway). Nathan Watts, Wonder's newest bass player at the time, originally recorded a bass track for "Isn't She Lovely" that Wonder replaced with his own keyboard bass for the final version. The same guide-track method was employed for "Knocks Me Off My Feet".

At the time of release, reporters and music critics, and everyone who had worked on the album, traveled to Long View Farm, a recording studio in Massachusetts for a press preview of the album. Everybody received autographed copies of the album and Wonder gave interviews. Critical reception was immediately positive. The album was viewed as a guided tour through a wide range of musical styles and the life and feelings of the artist. It included recollections of childhood, of first love and lost love. It contained songs about faith and love among all peoples and songs about social justice for the poor and downtrodden. Village Voice critic Robert Christgau said, "in themselves the words are much funnier and trickier than the sociospiritual bullshit of Maurice White or Kenny Gamble; as validated by the wit, pace, and variety of the music, they come close to redeeming the whole genre."

On February 19, 1977, Wonder was nominated for seven Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, an award that he had already won twice, in 1974 and 1975, for Innervisions and Fulfillingness’ First Finale. Since 1973, Stevie's presence at the Grammy ceremonies had been consistent – he attended most of the ceremonies and also used to perform on stage. But in 1976, he did not attend as he was not nominated for any awards (as he had not released any new material during the past year). Paul Simon, who received the Grammy for Album of the Year in that occasion (for Still Crazy After All These Years) jokingly thanked Stevie for not releasing an album that year. A year after, Wonder was nominated for Songs in the Key of Life in that same category, and was widely favored by many critics to take the award. The other nominees were Breezin’ by George Benson, Chicago X by Chicago, Silk Degrees by Boz Scaggs, and the other favorite, Peter Frampton’s Frampton Comes Alive!, which was also a huge critical and commercial success.

Wonder was again absent from the ceremony, as he had developed an interest in visiting Africa. In February he traveled to Nigeria for two weeks, primarily to explore his musical heritage, as he put it. A satellite hook-up was arranged so that Stevie could be awarded his Grammys from across the sea. Bette Midler announced the results during the ceremony, and the audience was only able to see Wonder at a phone smiling and giving thanks. The video signal was poor and the audio inaudible. Andy Williams went on to make a public blunder when he asked the blind-since-birth Wonder, “Stevie, can you see us?” In all, Wonder won four out of seven nominations at the Grammys: Album of the Year, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Producer of the Year.

Over time, the album became a standard, and it is considered Wonder's signature album. "Of all the albums," he told Q magazine (April 1995 issue), "Songs in the Key of Life I'm most happy about. Just the time, being alive then. To be a father and then… letting go and letting God give me the energy and strength I needed." Songs in the Key of Life is often cited as one of the greatest albums in popular music history. It was voted as the best album of the year in The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll; in 2001 the TV network VH1 named it the seventh greatest album of all time; in 2003, the album was ranked number 56 on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, re-ranked number 57 in a 2012 revised list, and re-ranked number 4 on the 2020 list.

Many musicians have also remarked on the quality of the album and its influence on their own work. For example, Elton John said, in his notes for Wonder on the 2003 Rolling Stone's list of "The Immortals – The Greatest Artists of All Time" (in which Wonder was ranked number 15): "Let me put it this way: wherever I go in the world, I always take a copy of Songs in the Key of Life. For me, it's the best album ever made, and I'm always left in awe after I listen to it." In an interview with Ebony magazine, Michael Jackson called Songs in the Key of Life his favorite Stevie Wonder album. George Michael cited the album as his favorite of all time and with Mary J. Blige covered "As" for a 1999 hit single. Michael performed "Love's in Need of Love Today" on his Faith tour in 1988, and released it as a B-side to "Father Figure". He also performed "Village Ghetto Land" at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute in 1988. He later covered "Pastime Paradise" and "Knocks Me Off My Feet" in his 1991 Cover to Cover tour.

R&B singers in particular have praised the album – Prince called it the best album ever recorded, Mariah Carey generally names the album as one of her favorites, and Whitney Houston also remarked on the influence of Songs in the Key of Life on her singing. (During the photoshoot for her Whitney: The Greatest Hits, as seen on its respective home video, the album was played throughout the photo sessions, at Houston's request.) The album's importance has also been recognized by heavy metal musicians, with singer Phil Anselmo describing a live performance of Songs in the Key of Life as "a living, breathing miracle".

The album's tracks have provided numerous samples for rap and hip-hop artists; for example, "Pastime Paradise", which itself drew on the first eight notes and four chords of J.S. Bach's Prelude No. 2 in C minor (BWV 847), was reworked by Coolio as "Gangsta's Paradise". In 1995, smooth jazz artist Najee recorded a cover album titled Najee Plays Songs from the Key of Life, which is based entirely on Wonder's album. In 1999, Will Smith used "I Wish" as the base for his US number-one single "Wild Wild West". The song repeated the main melody of "I Wish" as a riff and some lyrics re-formed.

In April 2008, the album was voted the "Top Album of All Time" by the Yahoo! Music Playlist Blog, using a formula that combined four parameters – "Album Staying Power Value + Sales Value + Critical Rating Value + Grammy Award Value".

In December 2013, Wonder did a live concert performance of the entire Songs in the Key of Life album at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. The event was his 18th annual House Full of Toys Benefit Concert, and featured some of the original singers and musicians from the 1976 double-album as well as several from the contemporary scene.

In November 2014, Wonder began performing the entire album in a series of concert dates in the US and Canada. The start of the tour coincided with the 38th anniversary of the release of Songs in the Key of Life.

Highly anticipated, the album surpassed all commercial expectations. It debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Pop Albums Chart on October 8, 1976, becoming only the third album in history to achieve that feat and the first by an American artist (after British singer/composer Elton John's albums Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy and Rock of the Westies, both in 1975). In Canada, the album achieved the same feat, entering at number one on the RPM national albums chart on October 16. Songs in the Key of Life spent thirteen consecutive weeks at number one in the US, and 11 during 1976. It was the album with the most weeks at number one during the year. In those eleven weeks, Songs in the Key of Life managed to block four other albums from reaching the top – in order, Boz Scaggs’s Silk Degrees, Earth, Wind & Fire's Spirit, Led Zeppelin's soundtrack for The Song Remains the Same and Rod Stewart's A Night on the Town. On January 15, 1977, the album finally dropped to number two behind Eagles' Hotel California and the following week it fell to number four. On January 29 it returned to the top for a fourteenth and final week. The album then began its final fall. It spent a total of 35 weeks inside the top ten and 80 weeks on the Billboard albums chart. Songs in the Key of Life also saw longevity at number one on the Billboard R&B/Black Albums chart, spending 20 non-consecutive weeks there.

In all, Songs in the Key of Life became the second best-selling album of 1977 in the US, only behind Fleetwood Mac's blockbuster Rumours, and was certified as a diamond album by the RIAA, for sales of 10 million units in the US alone (each individual record or disc included with an album counts towards RIAA certifications). It was the highest selling R&B/Soul album on the Billboard Year-End chart that same year.

Songs in the Key of Life was also the most successful Wonder project in terms of singles. The lead-off, the upbeat "I Wish" was released in November 1976, over a month after the album was released. On January 15, 1977, it reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart, where it spent five weeks at the top. Seven days after, it also reached the summit of the Billboard Hot 100, although it spent only one week at number one. The track became an international top 10 single, and also reached number five in the UK. "I Wish" became one of Wonder's standards and remained one of his most sampled songs. The follow-up, the jazzy "Sir Duke", surpassed the commercial success of "I Wish". It was released in March 1977 and also reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 (spending three weeks at the top starting on May 21) and the R&B chart (for one week, starting on May 28). It also reached number two in the UK, where it was kept off the top spot by the song "Free" by Deniece Williams, who had provided backing vocals on the album.

As sales for the album began to decline during the second half of 1977, the two other singles from Songs in the Key of Life failed to achieve the commercial success of "I Wish" and "Sir Duke". "Another Star" was released in August and reached only number 32 on the Hot 100 (number 18 on the R&B chart, and number 29 in the UK) and "As" came out two months later, peaking at number 36 on both the Pop and R&B charts. Though not released as a single, "Isn't She Lovely" received wide airplay and became one of Wonder's most popular songs. It was soon released by David Parton as a single in 1977 and became a top 10 hit in the UK.

All tracks are written by Stevie Wonder, unless otherwise noted.

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Love's in Need of Love Today" 7:06
2."Have a Talk With God"Wonder, Calvin Hardaway2:42
3."Village Ghetto Land"Wonder, Gary Byrd3:25
4."Contusion" 3:46
5."Sir Duke" 3:52
Total length:20:51
Side two
No.TitleLength
6."I Wish"4:12
7."Knocks Me Off My Feet"3:36
8."Pastime Paradise"3:27
9."Summer Soft"4:14
10."Ordinary Pain"6:16
Total length:21:45
Side three
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
11."Isn't She Lovely" 6:34
12."Joy Inside My Tears" 6:30
13."Black Man"Wonder, Byrd8:27
Total length:21:31
Side four
No.TitleLength
14."Ngiculela – Es Una Historia – I Am Singing"(translation by Thoko Mdalose, Raymond Maldonado)3:48
15."If It's Magic"3:12
16."As"7:08
17."Another Star"8:08
Total length:22:16

A Something's Extra EP

Original LP editions included a bonus 7" EP, titled "A Something's Extra", containing four bonus tracks.

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
18."Saturn"Wonder, Michael Sembello4:54
19."Ebony Eyes" 4:11
Total length:9:05
Side two
No.TitleLength
20."All Day Sucker"5:06
21."Easy Goin' Evening (My Mama's Call)"3:55
Total length:9:01

Credits adapted from Songs in the Key of Life liner notes.

Year Name US US

R&B

US

Club Play

US AC UK
1976 I Wish 1 1 - 23 5
1977 Sir Duke 1 1 - 3 2
Another Star 32 18 29 - 29
As 36 36 - 24 -

Weekly charts

Year-end charts

Chart (1976) Position
Australian Albums Chart 49
Canadian Albums Chart 3
Dutch Albums Chart 14
French Albums Chart 11
UK Albums Chart 21
Chart (1977) Position
Australian Albums Chart 39
Canadian Albums Chart 5
Dutch Albums Chart 7
UK Albums Chart 18
US Billboard 200 2

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada) 2× Platinum 200,000^
France (SNEP) Gold 100,000*
United Kingdom (BPI) Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA) Diamond 5,000,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

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Songs in the Key of Life
Songs in the Key of Life Language Watch Edit Songs in the Key of Life is the eighteenth studio album by American singer songwriter and musician Stevie Wonder It was released on September 28 1976 by Tamla Records a division of Motown The double album has been regarded by music journalists as the culmination of Wonder s classic period of recording 4 The album was recorded primarily at Crystal Sound studio in Hollywood with some sessions recorded at the Record Plant in Hollywood the Record Plant in Sausalito and The Hit Factory in New York City final mixing was conducted at Crystal Sound 5 Songs in the Key of LifeStudio album by Stevie WonderReleasedSeptember 28 1976 1976 09 28 Recorded1974 1976StudioCrystal Sound Hollywood Record Plant Los Angeles Record Plant Sausalito The Hit Factory New York CityGenreR amp B 1 progressive soul 2 avant pop 3 Length86 23 104 29 with A Something s Extra LabelTamlaProducerStevie WonderStevie Wonder chronologyFulfillingness First Finale 1974 Songs in the Key of Life 1976 Looking Back Anthology 1977 Singles from Songs in the Key of Life I Wish Released December 1976 Isn t She Lovely Released February 1977 non US single Sir Duke Released March 1977 Another Star Released August 1977 As Released October 1977 By 1974 Wonder was one of the most successful figures in popular music Wonder s previous albums Talking Book Innervisions and Fulfillingness First Finale were all back to back critical successes However by the end of 1975 Wonder seriously considered quitting the music industry and planned to emigrate to Ghana to work with handicapped children Plans for a farewell concert had begun but Wonder subsequently changed his mind and signed a new contract with Motown on August 5 1975 This outlined a seven year seven album 37 million deal with full artistic control At the time it was the biggest recording deal in history 6 Songs in the Key of Life was released as a double LP with a four song bonus EP It debuted at number one on the Billboard Pop Albums Chart becoming only the third album to achieve that feat and the first by an American artist at the time 7 Both the lead single I Wish and follow up single Sir Duke reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Songs in the Key of Life spent thirteen consecutive weeks at number one on the Billboard 200 becoming the album with the most weeks at number one during the year It was the second best selling album of 1977 in the US In 2005 Songs in the Key of Life was certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America RIAA Songs in the Key of Life won Album of the Year at the 19th Grammy Awards It is the best selling and most critically acclaimed album of Wonder s career Widely regarded as Wonder s magnum opus and one of the greatest albums in the history of recorded music many musicians have remarked on the quality of the album and its influence on their own work Additionally notable musicians have cited it as the greatest album of all time It was voted number 89 in Colin Larkin s All Time Top 1000 Albums 8 and ranked number 4 on Rolling Stone s list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 9 In 2002 it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame 10 In 2005 Songs in the Key of Life was inducted into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress which deemed it culturally historically or aesthetically significant Contents 1 Background 2 Recording 3 Critical reception 4 Legacy and influence 5 Commercial performance 6 Track listing 7 Personnel 8 Singles 9 Charts 9 1 Weekly charts 9 2 Year end charts 10 Certifications 11 See also 12 Notes 13 References 14 Further reading 15 External linksBackground EditBy 1976 Stevie Wonder had become one of the most popular figures in R amp B and pop music not only in the U S but worldwide Within a short space of time the albums Talking Book Innervisions and Fulfillingness First Finale were all back to back to back top five successes with the latter two winning Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1974 and 1975 respectively By the end of 1975 Wonder became serious about quitting the music industry and emigrating to Ghana to work with handicapped children He had expressed his anger with the way that the U S government was running the country 6 11 A farewell concert was being considered as the best way to bring down the curtain on his career Wonder changed his decision when he signed a new contract with Motown on August 5 1975 thinking he was better off making the most of his career At the time rivals such as Arista and Epic were also interested in him The contract was laid out as a seven year seven LP 37 million deal 177 952 381 in 2020 dollars 12 and gave him full artistic control making this the largest deal made with a recording star up to that point 6 Almost at the beginning Wonder took a year off from the music market with a project for a double album to be released in 1976 13 There was huge anticipation for the new album which was initially scheduled for release around October 1975 It was delayed on short notice when Wonder felt that further remixing was essential According to Wonder the marketing campaign at Motown decided to take advantage of the delay by producing We re almost finished T shirts 14 Work on the new album continued into early 1976 A name was finally chosen for the album Songs in the Key of Life The title would represent the formula of a complex key of life and the proposals for indefinite success 15 The album was released on September 28 1976 after a two year wait as a double LP album with a four track seven inch EP titled A Something s Extra Saturn Ebony Eyes All Day Sucker and Easy Goin Evening My Mama s Call and a 24 page lyric and credit booklet 14 16 Recording Edit Wonder used an Electro Voice RE20 microphone pictured to record his voice for upbeat songs such as I Wish A variety of microphones were used for other songs 5 The working title was Let s See Life the Way It Is 17 Wonder recorded the great majority of the album at Crystal Sounds in Hollywood with Gary Olazabal as engineer and studio owner John Fischbach as engineer 5 Some material was recorded at the Record Plant in Hollywood and the Record Plant in Sausalito During a period when Crystal Sounds had a prior obligation to record another artist Wonder and Fischbach traveled to the Hit Factory in New York City to work for about six weeks but only used one basic track 5 18 As a perfectionist Wonder spent long hours in the studio for almost every track he recorded He was not eating or sleeping while everyone around him struggled to keep up 13 According to Wonder If my flow is goin I keep on until I peak A total of 130 people worked on the album but Wonder s preeminence during the album was evident Among the people present during the sessions were legendary figures of R amp B soul and jazz music Herbie Hancock played Fender Rhodes on As George Benson played electric guitar on Another Star and Minnie Riperton and Deniece Williams added backing vocals on Ordinary Pain Mike Sembello was a prominent personality throughout the album playing guitar on several tracks and also co writing Saturn with Wonder Some of the most socially conscious songs of the album were actually written by Wonder with other people these included Village Ghetto Land and Black Man co written with Gary Byrd and Have a Talk with God co written by Calvin Hardaway Nathan Watts Wonder s newest bass player at the time originally recorded a bass track for Isn t She Lovely that Wonder replaced with his own keyboard bass for the final version The same guide track method was employed for Knocks Me Off My Feet Critical reception EditProfessional ratingsReview scoresSourceRatingAllMusic 19 Christgau s Record GuideA 20 Encyclopedia of Popular Music 21 The Great Rock Discography8 10 21 MusicHound R amp B 21 Pitchfork10 10 22 Rolling Stone 23 The Rolling Stone Album Guide 24 Sputnikmusic4 5 5 25 At the time of release reporters and music critics and everyone who had worked on the album traveled to Long View Farm a recording studio in Massachusetts for a press preview of the album Everybody received autographed copies of the album and Wonder gave interviews Critical reception was immediately positive The album was viewed as a guided tour through a wide range of musical styles and the life and feelings of the artist It included recollections of childhood of first love and lost love It contained songs about faith and love among all peoples and songs about social justice for the poor and downtrodden 26 Village Voice critic Robert Christgau said in themselves the words are much funnier and trickier than the sociospiritual bullshit of Maurice White or Kenny Gamble as validated by the wit pace and variety of the music they come close to redeeming the whole genre 20 On February 19 1977 Wonder was nominated for seven Grammy Awards including Album of the Year an award that he had already won twice in 1974 and 1975 for Innervisions and Fulfillingness First Finale 16 Since 1973 Stevie s presence at the Grammy ceremonies had been consistent he attended most of the ceremonies and also used to perform on stage But in 1976 he did not attend as he was not nominated for any awards as he had not released any new material during the past year Paul Simon who received the Grammy for Album of the Year in that occasion for Still Crazy After All These Years jokingly thanked Stevie for not releasing an album that year 27 A year after Wonder was nominated for Songs in the Key of Life in that same category and was widely favored by many critics to take the award The other nominees were Breezin by George Benson Chicago X by Chicago Silk Degrees by Boz Scaggs and the other favorite Peter Frampton s Frampton Comes Alive which was also a huge critical and commercial success Wonder was again absent from the ceremony as he had developed an interest in visiting Africa In February he traveled to Nigeria for two weeks primarily to explore his musical heritage as he put it A satellite hook up was arranged so that Stevie could be awarded his Grammys from across the sea Bette Midler announced the results during the ceremony and the audience was only able to see Wonder at a phone smiling and giving thanks 28 The video signal was poor and the audio inaudible Andy Williams went on to make a public blunder when he asked the blind since birth Wonder Stevie can you see us 26 In all Wonder won four out of seven nominations at the Grammys Album of the Year Best Male Pop Vocal Performance Best Male R amp B Vocal Performance and Producer of the Year Legacy and influence EditOver time the album became a standard and it is considered Wonder s signature album Of all the albums he told Q magazine April 1995 issue Songs in the Key of Life I m most happy about Just the time being alive then To be a father and then letting go and letting God give me the energy and strength I needed Songs in the Key of Life is often cited as one of the greatest albums in popular music history 29 It was voted as the best album of the year in The Village Voice s annual Pazz amp Jop critics poll in 2001 the TV network VH1 named it the seventh greatest album of all time in 2003 the album was ranked number 56 on Rolling Stone Magazine s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time re ranked number 57 in a 2012 revised list 30 and re ranked number 4 on the 2020 list 9 Many musicians have also remarked on the quality of the album and its influence on their own work For example Elton John said in his notes for Wonder on the 2003 Rolling Stone s list of The Immortals The Greatest Artists of All Time in which Wonder was ranked number 15 Let me put it this way wherever I go in the world I always take a copy of Songs in the Key of Life For me it s the best album ever made and I m always left in awe after I listen to it 31 In an interview with Ebony magazine Michael Jackson called Songs in the Key of Life his favorite Stevie Wonder album George Michael cited the album as his favorite of all time 32 and with Mary J Blige covered As for a 1999 hit single Michael performed Love s in Need of Love Today on his Faith tour in 1988 and released it as a B side to Father Figure He also performed Village Ghetto Land at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute in 1988 He later covered Pastime Paradise and Knocks Me Off My Feet in his 1991 Cover to Cover tour R amp B singers in particular have praised the album Prince called it the best album ever recorded Mariah Carey generally names the album as one of her favorites and Whitney Houston also remarked on the influence of Songs in the Key of Life on her singing During the photoshoot for her Whitney The Greatest Hits as seen on its respective home video the album was played throughout the photo sessions at Houston s request The album s importance has also been recognized by heavy metal musicians with singer Phil Anselmo describing a live performance of Songs in the Key of Life as a living breathing miracle 33 The album s tracks have provided numerous samples for rap and hip hop artists for example Pastime Paradise which itself drew on the first eight notes and four chords of J S Bach s Prelude No 2 in C minor BWV 847 34 was reworked by Coolio as Gangsta s Paradise In 1995 smooth jazz artist Najee recorded a cover album titled Najee Plays Songs from the Key of Life which is based entirely on Wonder s album In 1999 Will Smith used I Wish as the base for his US number one single Wild Wild West The song repeated the main melody of I Wish as a riff and some lyrics re formed In April 2008 the album was voted the Top Album of All Time by the Yahoo Music Playlist Blog using a formula that combined four parameters Album Staying Power Value Sales Value Critical Rating Value Grammy Award Value 35 In December 2013 Wonder did a live concert performance of the entire Songs in the Key of Life album at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles The event was his 18th annual House Full of Toys Benefit Concert and featured some of the original singers and musicians from the 1976 double album as well as several from the contemporary scene 36 In November 2014 Wonder began performing the entire album in a series of concert dates in the US and Canada The start of the tour coincided with the 38th anniversary of the release of Songs in the Key of Life 37 38 Commercial performance EditHighly anticipated the album surpassed all commercial expectations It debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Pop Albums Chart on October 8 1976 becoming only the third album in history to achieve that feat and the first by an American artist after British singer composer Elton John s albums Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy and Rock of the Westies both in 1975 In Canada the album achieved the same feat entering at number one on the RPM national albums chart on October 16 39 Songs in the Key of Life spent thirteen consecutive weeks at number one in the US and 11 during 1976 It was the album with the most weeks at number one during the year In those eleven weeks Songs in the Key of Life managed to block four other albums from reaching the top in order Boz Scaggs s Silk Degrees Earth Wind amp Fire s Spirit Led Zeppelin s soundtrack for The Song Remains the Same and Rod Stewart s A Night on the Town 40 On January 15 1977 the album finally dropped to number two behind Eagles Hotel California and the following week it fell to number four On January 29 it returned to the top for a fourteenth and final week The album then began its final fall It spent a total of 35 weeks inside the top ten and 80 weeks on the Billboard albums chart Songs in the Key of Life also saw longevity at number one on the Billboard R amp B Black Albums chart spending 20 non consecutive weeks there In all Songs in the Key of Life became the second best selling album of 1977 in the US only behind Fleetwood Mac s blockbuster Rumours and was certified as a diamond album by the RIAA for sales of 10 million units in the US alone each individual record or disc included with an album counts towards RIAA certifications 41 It was the highest selling R amp B Soul album on the Billboard Year End chart that same year 42 Songs in the Key of Life was also the most successful Wonder project in terms of singles The lead off the upbeat I Wish was released in November 1976 over a month after the album was released On January 15 1977 it reached number one on the Billboard R amp B chart where it spent five weeks at the top Seven days after it also reached the summit of the Billboard Hot 100 although it spent only one week at number one The track became an international top 10 single and also reached number five in the UK I Wish became one of Wonder s standards and remained one of his most sampled songs The follow up the jazzy Sir Duke surpassed the commercial success of I Wish It was released in March 1977 and also reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 spending three weeks at the top starting on May 21 and the R amp B chart for one week starting on May 28 It also reached number two in the UK where it was kept off the top spot by the song Free by Deniece Williams who had provided backing vocals on the album As sales for the album began to decline during the second half of 1977 the two other singles from Songs in the Key of Life failed to achieve the commercial success of I Wish and Sir Duke Another Star was released in August and reached only number 32 on the Hot 100 number 18 on the R amp B chart and number 29 in the UK and As came out two months later peaking at number 36 on both the Pop and R amp B charts Though not released as a single Isn t She Lovely received wide airplay and became one of Wonder s most popular songs It was soon released by David Parton as a single in 1977 and became a top 10 hit in the UK Track listing EditAll tracks are written by Stevie Wonder unless otherwise noted Side oneNo TitleWriter s Length1 Love s in Need of Love Today 7 062 Have a Talk With God Wonder Calvin Hardaway2 423 Village Ghetto Land Wonder Gary Byrd3 254 Contusion 3 465 Sir Duke 3 52Total length 20 51Side twoNo TitleLength6 I Wish 4 127 Knocks Me Off My Feet 3 368 Pastime Paradise 3 279 Summer Soft 4 1410 Ordinary Pain 6 16Total length 21 45Side threeNo TitleWriter s Length11 Isn t She Lovely 6 3412 Joy Inside My Tears 6 3013 Black Man Wonder Byrd8 27Total length 21 31Side fourNo TitleLength14 Ngiculela Es Una Historia I Am Singing translation by Thoko Mdalose Raymond Maldonado 3 4815 If It s Magic 3 1216 As 7 0817 Another Star 8 08Total length 22 16 A Something s Extra EP Original LP editions included a bonus 7 EP titled A Something s Extra containing four bonus tracks Side oneNo TitleWriter s Length18 Saturn Wonder Michael Sembello4 5419 Ebony Eyes 4 11Total length 9 05Side twoNo TitleLength20 All Day Sucker 5 0621 Easy Goin Evening My Mama s Call 3 55Total length 9 01Personnel EditCredits adapted from Songs in the Key of Life liner notes Stevie Wonder lead vocals musician arrangement composer producer Nathan Watts bass guitar 4 6 16 17 19 21 percussion 14 handclaps 16 Raymond Pounds drums 4 6 Greg Phillinganes keyboards 4 11 12 18 Michael Sembello lead guitar 4 5 10 18 20 Ben Bridges rhythm guitar 4 5 9 18 20 Eddie Bongo Brown collinga 1 Shirley Brewer backing vocals 4 14 Ordinary Pain reply vocals 10 handclaps 11 Josie James backing vocals 4 17 Michael Gray backing vocals 4 Artece May backing vocals 4 handclaps 11 Hank Redd alto saxophone 5 6 10 13 17 Trevor Lawrence tenor saxophone 5 6 17 Raymond Maldonado trumpet 5 6 17 percussion 8 Steve Madaio trumpet 5 6 13 17 Renee Hardaway backing vocals 6 14 Bobbye Hall percussion 8 West Angeles Church of God Choir backing vocals 8 Hare Krishna backing vocals 8 Ronnie Foster organ 9 Nastee Latimer percussion 9 Minnie Riperton backing vocals 10 Mary Lee Whitney backing vocals 10 16 Deniece Williams backing vocals 10 Syreeta Wright backing vocals 10 Linda Lawrence Ordinary Pain reply backing vocals 10 Terry Hendricks Ordinary Pain reply backing vocals 10 Sundray Tucker Ordinary Pain reply backing vocals 10 Charity McCrary Ordinary Pain reply backing vocals 10 Linda McCrary Ordinary Pain reply backing vocals 10 Madelaine Gypsie Jones Ordinary Pain reply backing vocals 10 Josette Valentino handclaps 11 16 percussion 14 Dave Henson handclaps 11 16 Brenda Barrett handclaps 11 Colleen Carleton handclaps 11 Carole Cole handclaps 11 Nelson Hayes handclaps 11 Edna Orso handclaps 11 Tucker handclaps 11 Susaye Greene backing vocals 12 George Bohanon trombone 13 Glenn Ferris trombone 13 Al Fann Theatrical Ensemble verbal replies 13 Amale Mathews percussion 14 Charles Brewer percussion 14 John Fischbach percussion 14 Marietta Waters percussion 14 Nelson Hayes percussion 14 Dorothy Ashby harp 15 Greg Brown drums 16 Herbie Hancock keyboards 16 handclaps 16 Dean Parks guitar 16 Yolanda Simmons handclaps 16 Bobbi Humphrey flute 17 George Benson guitar backing vocals 17 Nathan Alford Jr percussion 17 Carmello Hungria Garcia timbales 17 Jim Horn saxophone 19 Peter Sneaky Pete Kleinow steel guitar 19 W G Snuffy Walden lead guitar 20 Carolyn Dennis backing vocals 20 Singles EditYear Name US US R amp B US Club Play US AC UK1976 I Wish 1 1 23 51977 Sir Duke 1 1 3 2Another Star 32 18 29 29As 36 36 24 Charts EditWeekly charts Edit Chart 1976 77 PositionAustralian Kent Music Report 43 6Austrian Albums Chart 44 15Canadian RPM Albums Chart 45 1Dutch Albums Chart 46 1French SNEP Albums Chart 47 1Japanese Oricon Albums Chart 48 40New Zealand Albums Chart 49 5Norwegian VG lista Albums Chart 50 6Swedish Albums Chart 51 9UK Albums Chart 52 2US Billboard 200 53 1West German Media Control Albums Chart 54 23 Year end charts Edit Chart 1976 PositionAustralian Albums Chart 43 49Canadian Albums Chart 55 3Dutch Albums Chart 56 14French Albums Chart 57 11UK Albums Chart 58 21Chart 1977 PositionAustralian Albums Chart 43 39Canadian Albums Chart 59 5Dutch Albums Chart 60 7UK Albums Chart 58 18US Billboard 200 61 2Certifications EditRegion Certification Certified units salesCanada Music Canada 62 2 Platinum 200 000 France SNEP 63 Gold 100 000 United Kingdom BPI 64 Platinum 300 000 United States RIAA 65 Diamond 5 000 000 Sales figures based on certification alone Shipments figures based on certification alone See also EditList of number one albums of 1976 U S List of number one albums of 1977 U S List of number one R amp B albums of 1976 U S List of number one R amp B albums of 1977 U S Notes Edit Stevie Wonder s Songs in the Key of Life Ranking the songs Entertainment Weekly 28 September 2016 Martin Bill 1998 Listening to the Future The Time of Progressive Rock Chicago Open Court p 41 ISBN 0 8126 9368 X Grimstad Paul 2007 09 04 What is Avant Pop Brooklyn Rail Retrieved 1 October 2016 Bogdanov Vladimir Woodstra Chris Erlewine Stephen Thomas 2001 All Music Guide The Definitive Guide to Popular Music 4 ed Hal Leonard Corporation pp 447 448 ISBN 0 87930 627 0 Cramer Alfred William 2009 Musicians and Composers of the 20th Century 5 Salem Press p 1645 ISBN 978 1 58765 517 3 Brown Jeremy K 2010 Stevie Wonder Musician Black Americans of Achievement Infobase Publishing p 57 ISBN 978 1 60413 685 2 a b c d Buskin Richard December 2007 Classic Tracks Stevie Wonder Pastime Paradise Sound on Sound a b c Lundy Zeth 331 3 Songs in the Key of Life pp 14 15 Lundy Zeth Playing God Songs in the Key of Life Stylus Magazine January 17 2007 Retrieved August 1 2009 Colin Larkin 2000 All Time Top 1000 Albums 3rd ed Virgin Books p 71 ISBN 0 7535 0493 6 a b Songs In The Key Of Life ranked 4th greatest album by Rolling Stone magazine Rolling Stone Retrieved 10 October 2020 GRAMMY Hall Of Fame GRAMMY com 2010 10 18 Retrieved 2019 12 29 Lundy 331 3 Songs in the Key of Life p 119 1634 1699 McCusker J J 1997 How Much Is That in Real Money A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States Addenda et Corrigenda PDF American Antiquarian Society 1700 1799 McCusker J J 1992 How Much Is That in Real Money A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States PDF American Antiquarian Society 1800 present Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Consumer Price Index estimate 1800 Retrieved January 1 2020 a b Songs in the Key of Life Rolling Stone Magazine Archived from the original on February 7 2006 a b Davis Sharon Stevie Wonder Rhythms of Wonder p 112 Lundy 331 3 Songs in the Key of Life pp 8 9 a b Lundy 331 3 Songs in the Key of Life p 16 Lundy 331 3 Songs in the Key of Life p 8 Kirby Terry February 7 2005 Manhattan s Hit Factory ends production after three decades of legendary music making The Independent Retrieved June 21 2016 Bush John Songs in the Key of Life at AllMusic Retrieved October 22 2018 a b Christgau Robert 1981 Consumer Guide 70s W Christgau s Record Guide Rock Albums of the Seventies Ticknor amp Fields ISBN 089919026X Retrieved March 9 2019 via robertchristgau com a b c Songs in the Key of Life Acclaimed Music Retrieved September 26 2015 Review Songs in the Key of Life Retrieved 2016 21 08 Walters Barry June 2 2005 Rolling Stone New York CS1 maint untitled periodical link Considine J D 2004 Stevie Wonder In Brackett Nathan Hoard Christian eds The New Rolling Stone Album Guide Simon amp Schuster pp 885 87 ISBN 0743201698 Retrieved September 25 2015 Arp Louis Review Songs in the Key of Life Sputnikmusic Retrieved 2009 08 01 a b Steviewonder org uk Paul Simon Wins Album Of The Year The Recording Academy Grammy Awards 2010 01 05 Retrieved 14 April 2019 Stevie Wonder Wins Album Of The Year The Grammys Retrieved June 21 2016 Acclaimed Music Songs in the Key of Life Acclaimed Music Retrieved November 11 2007 500 Greatest Albums of All Time Rolling Stone s definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time Rolling Stone 2012 Retrieved September 23 2019 News Rolling Stone Archived from the original on February 28 2008 Retrieved November 11 2011 BBC music reviews Bbc co uk Retrieved November 11 2011 Fred Pessaro 2016 Phil Anselmo on Superjoint Trump and Making Things Right CLRVYNT com accessed 21 December 2017 Runtagh Jordan September 2016 Inside Stevie Wonder s Epic Magnum Opus Songs in the Key of Life Rolling Stone The Top 20 Albums of All Time For Real music yahoo com Archived from the original on October 21 2013 Retrieved October 16 2013 Mitchell Gail October 29 2013 Stevie Wonder to Perform Entire Songs In The Key Of Life at Holiday Benefit Billboard com Grow Kory September 10 2014 Stevie Wonder to Take Songs in the Key of Life on the Road Rolling Stone Grow Kory January 15 2015 Stevie Wonder Adds More Songs in the Key of Life Tour Dates Rolling Stone Retrieved February 10 2015 Top Albums CDs Archived 2014 04 13 at the Wayback Machine RPM Volume 26 No 3 October 16 1976 Library and Archives Canada Freespace virgin net Archived 2009 04 17 at WebCite Welcome Back Wonder RIAA Archived from the original on December 31 2007 Retrieved November 11 2007 November 17 2007 https web archive org web 20071117085629 http www billboard com bbcom charts yearend chart display jsp f Top 2BR amp B 2FHip Hop 2BAlbums amp g Year end 2BAlbums amp year 1977 Archived from the original on November 17 2007 Retrieved November 11 2011 Missing or empty title help a b c Kent David 1993 Australian Chart Book 1970 1992 St Ives NSW Australian Chart Book ISBN 0 646 11917 6 austriancharts at Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life ASP Hung Medien in German Retrieved April 27 2014 Top Albums CDs Volume 26 No 20 PHP RPM 1976 02 12 Retrieved April 29 2014 dutchcharts nl Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life ASP Hung Medien dutchcharts nl Retrieved April 27 2014 InfoDisc Tous les Albums classes par Artiste gt Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste in French infodisc fr Archived from the original on May 7 2013 Retrieved April 27 2014 Oricon Album Chart Book Complete Edition 1970 2005 Roppongi Tokyo Oricon Entertainment 2006 ISBN 4 87131 077 9 charts nz Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life ASP Hung Medien Recording Industry Association of New Zealand Retrieved April 27 2014 norwegiancharts com Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life ASP Hung Medien VG lista Retrieved April 27 2014 swedishcharts com Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life ASP in Swedish Retrieved April 27 2014 Stevie Wonder gt Artists gt Official Charts UK Albums Chart Retrieved April 28 2014 Allmusic Songs in the Key of Life Charts amp Awards gt Billboard Albums AllMusic Retrieved April 27 2014 Album Search Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life in German Media Control Retrieved April 27 2014 RPM Top 100 Albums of 1976 RPM Archived from the original on February 24 2014 Retrieved April 29 2014 Dutch charts jaaroverzichten 1976 Dutchcharts nl Archived from the original on May 12 2014 Retrieved April 29 2014 Les Albums CD de 1976 par InfoDisc in French infodisc fr Archived from the original PHP on May 21 2012 Retrieved April 23 2014 a b Complete UK Year End Album Charts February 2016 Archived from the original on January 11 2012 Retrieved April 29 2014 RPM Top 100 Albums of 1977 RPM 1977 12 31 Archived from the original on April 5 2014 Retrieved April 29 2014 Dutch charts jaaroverzichten 1977 Dutchcharts nl Archived from the original on May 12 2014 Retrieved April 29 2014 Top Pop Albums of 1977 billboard biz February 2016 Archived from the original on January 15 2013 Retrieved April 29 2014 Canadian album certifications Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life Music Canada Les Albums Or infodisc fr in French SNEP Archived from the original on April 29 2014 Retrieved March 25 2014 British album certifications Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life British Phonographic Industry Selectalbumsin the Format field SelectPlatinumin the Certification field TypeSongs in the Key of Lifein the Search BPI Awards field and then press Enter American album certifications Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life Recording Industry Association of America References EditDavis Sharon Stevie Wonder Rhythms of Wonder Lundy Zeth 2007 Songs in the Key of Life ISBN 9781441170125 Nathan Brackett Christian Hoard 2004 The New Rolling Stone Album Guide Completely revised and updated 4th ed Simon and Schuster ISBN 0 7432 0169 8 Colin Larkin 2002 Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4th ed Virgin Books ISBN 1 85227 923 0 Further reading EditChristgau Robert November 8 1976 Stevie Wonder Is a Masterpiece The Village Voice Jumping Jamboree at Time Album Review at BBC Music Reviews at SuperSeventies Accolades Songs in the Keys of Life at Acclaimed Music Audio streams WBEZ program Extensions broadcast a 3 hour special commemorating the album s 30th anniversaryExternal links EditSongs in the Key of Life at Discogs list of releases Retrieved from https en wikipedia org w index php title Songs in the Key of Life amp oldid 1051305143, wikipedia, wiki, book,

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