Songs You Didn’t Know Stevie Wonder Wrote


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Stevie Wonder is a musical genius, and even people who don’t necessarily care for all of his music would probably agree with that. Blind almost since birth, he has always had a nearly superhuman ability to play and write music, consistently doing both at the highest levels of craftsmanship imaginable.

His songwriting, in particular, has served him well, and artists who have recorded songs written or co-written by him have often ended up with the biggest hits of their careers. We’re highlighting these examples of Wonder-penned songs performed by other artists that became so strongly identified with them that you may not know Stevie was the man behind the curtain.

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‘Tears of a Clown’ by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles (1967)

Written by Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, and Henry Cosby

When Stevie Wonder first played the music to “Tears of a Clown” for Smokey Robinson at a Motown Records Christmas party, Robinson thought its opening motif sounded like circus music. The pair took that idea and ran with it, crafting clown-centric lyrics to sing over the bittersweet backing. While Smokey Robinson and the Miracles had many hits of their own that remain popular today, such as “Ooo Baby Baby” and “The Tracks of My Tears,” “Tears of a Clown” remains their only number-one hit.

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‘It’s a Shame’ by The Spinners (1970)

Written by Stevie Wonder, Syreeta Wright, and Lee Garrett

Stevie Wonder wrote “It’s a Shame” with his first wife, Syreeta Wright, and Lee Garrett, who had co-written Wonder’s 1969 hit “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.” Just like Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Spinners had chalked up hits of their own too, like “Working My Way Back to You,” but “It’s a Shame,” which peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart, remains an essential part of the group’s catalog.

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‘Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)’ by Aretha Franklin (1973)

Written by Stevie Wonder, Morris Broadnax, and Clarence Paul

Stevie Wonder recorded this song in 1967, but it remained unreleased for a decade, so no less a performer than the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, was the first to release it, doing so in 1973. The song topped the R&B chart and reached number three on the Hot 100 chart, eventually achieving Gold certification. And don’t feel bad for her only reaching number three with this song – when she did, she became the first recording artist in the history of the Hot 100 chart to peak ten separate times at all ten slots at the top.

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‘Bad Weather’ by The Supremes (1973)

Written by Stevie Wonder and Ira Tucker Jr.

In 1973, the Supremes were declining in popularity since their glory days in the bouffant-coiffed 1960s. Diana Ross had left the group already and had been replaced by Jean Terrell, a great singer in her own right who sadly didn’t have the star power of her predecessor. Stevie Wonder wrote and produced “Bad Weather” for the beleaguered group, giving it some pre-disco funk to suit changing tastes. The song only peaked at number 74 on the R&B Singles chart, and Terrell left the group shortly afterward, but it’s a great song that’s more than worthy of both the man who co-wrote it and the group that recorded it.

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‘Tell Me Something Good’ by Rufus (1974)

Written by Stevie Wonder

Chaka Khan is no stranger to the Billboard charts, but her first trip to its most dizzying heights came in 1974 when she was a member of the funk group Rufus. Wonder loved her singing and wrote “Tell Me Something Good” specifically to suit her voice, and doing that gave the band their first hit, reaching number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It remains their best-known song, and it laid the foundation for Wonder and Khan to collaborate again when he played harmonica on her 1984 hit “I Feel For You,” which incidentally was written by Prince and also samples Wonder’s 1963 song “Fingertips.”

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‘Perfect Angel’ by Minnie Riperton (1974)

Written by Stevie Wonder

The world lost a massive talent in 1979 when singer Minnie Riperton succumbed to cancer at the much-too-young age of 31. However, we can take a little comfort in the great work that she left behind, such as “Lovin’ You” and “Perfect Angel,” the title track to her 1974 album. Stevie Wonder wrote the latter song and also played on it, crediting himself under the pseudonym “El Toro Negro” and contributing harmonica, drums, and piano. Yes, the guy can play drums alongside his other talents, while the rest of us struggle mightily just to be good at one thing.

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‘Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers’ by Jeff Beck (1975)

Written by Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder had intended to give a song he had written called “Superstition” to rock guitarist Jeff Beck, but Wonder’s label, Motown Records, would not hear of it and insisted he record it himself. Wonder complied but still wanted to write something for the guitar virtuoso, and ended up giving him the instrumental “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers.” It was produced by George Martin, former producer of the Beatles, and it ended up on Beck’s 1975 album “Blow by Blow,” which many of his fans believe to be among his best.

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‘I Can See the Sun in Late December’ by Roberta Flack (1975)

Written by Stevie Wonder

Roberta Flack followed up 1973’s massively successful “Killing Me Softly” album two years later with “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” which she produced herself under the pseudonym “Rubina Flake.” Upon its release, many critics characterized it as a snooze, but they saved their most potent venom for the Wonder-penned “I Can See The Sun In Late December,” which at almost 13 minutes was characterized as self-indulgent and interminable. Today, when you listen to the song, you might agree that it gets a little long in the tooth, but you might also feel like it’s a dreamy piece of music that shows both Wonder and Flack wanting to experiment and go beyond the limits of the pop charts.

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‘I Can’t Help It’ by Michael Jackson (1979)

Written by Stevie Wonder and Susaye Green

Michael Jackson’s biggest album is and always will be 1982’s “Thriller,” but a not-insignificant number of his fans swear by his 1979 album “Off the Wall” instead. In addition to containing such hits as “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” “Rock with You,” and “She’s Out of My Life,” the album also features “I Can’t Help It,” which Stevie Wonder co-wrote with the Supremes’ Susaye Greene. Since it’s a laid-back song in the middle of side two, it didn’t get as much attention as it might have deserved, but that takes nothing away from the song, which some have called a precursor to “Neo Soul,” a style of R&B that would turn up in later decades thanks to such artists as Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill.

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‘Let’s Get Serious’ by Jermaine Jackson (1980)

Written by Stevie Wonder and Lee Garrett

“Let’s Get Serious” is the title track to Jermaine Jackson’s 1980 album, and upon its release, it became his first song to top the R&B chart. Stevie Wonder co-wrote and produced it and sang backing vocals for the track. The song was so popular that it knocked Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You” down to the number two spot on Billboard’s Soul chart for 1980, occupying the top spot. This makes Jermaine Jackson one of the few people in the history of recorded music to dethrone the Gloved One, however temporarily it might have been.

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