The 20 greatest Stevie Wonder songs, ranked
2 October 2023, 11:50 | Updated: 6 October 2023, 15:10
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There are few artists as influential and enduring as Stevie Wonder.
Throughout his long and illustrious career in music, Stevie has traversed Motown, soul, funk, reggae, pop balladry, and even ushered in a new age of R&B.
So his influence and ambition have spread far wider than anyone could ever have expected, when he burst into the charts as a 13-year-old boy.
From his Motown beginnings as a child prodigy, to his most critically prolific period throughout the 1970s, to his commercial peak during the MTV era the following decade, Stevie Wonder's body of work is as extensive as it is exemplary.
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Though he hasn't released a solo studio album since 2005, Stevie has already contributed a comprehensive amount of classic songs, most of which have established the one-man band as one of the greatest artists of the past sixty years.
And Stevie has the accolades, the endless love of his adoring fans, and the admiration from his many peers to prove it.
To remind you of what a timeless talent he was and still is, we've ranked his 20 greatest songs from top to bottom:
'I Was Made To Love Her'
Stevie Wonder - I Was Made to Love Her — (Official Video)
In 1968, an 18-year-old Stevie was asked which of his songs was his favourite.
He answered: "'I Was Made to Love Her' because it's a true song," with the soulful upstart even ad-libbing lyrics as there was clearly some personal sentiment behind it.
The song was a success for Stevie also, and was only kept off the top of the US Billboard charts in 1967 by The Doors' 'Light My Fire'.
Stevie Wonder - Skeletons
Stevie brought out his famous key-tar once again for funky 1987 hit 'Skeletons', the first single from his album Characters which also came out that year.
The song about a myriad of secrets coming back to haunt oneself was in fact his final ever top 40 entry on the US Billboard charts.
After the release of video game Grand Theft Auto V in 2013, 'Skeletons' helped new fans discover Stevie who underwent a resurgence with a new generation.
'Isn't She Lovely'
Isn't She Lovely
Wonder's daughter Aisha provided the inspiration for his 1976 song 'Isn't She Lovely' which appeared on his seminal album, Songs In The Key Of Life.
He even mentions Aisha's mother Yolanda Simmons in the song, saying: "Londi it could have not been done, without you who conceived the one."
The song, which has since become a jazz-pop standard, wasn't even released as a single in the US.
Its continuous airplay as a fan favourite made it enter the charts however, with Stevie then sanctioning a radio edit to be released in the UK where it reached number four.
'Too High' is a rare Stevie song where he addresses the detriment of drug abuse.
Appearing on Innervisions, the track deviates from the largely soul-funk offerings from his lauded 1973 album, proving the former wunderkind could dabble in jazz fusion.
As the intro to the ambitious Innervisions, 'Too High' indicated Stevie was paving a new path for soul musicianship, setting out his stall for the influential album from the get-go.
I Wish (Live/1995)
Funk-pop bop 'I Wish' is one of the most infectiously fun songs Stevie has ever written.
But the subject matter behind the lyrics is much more sorrowful than it initially comes across.
Stevie addresses the fact he wished he could go back to his youth and relive it, perhaps being regretful that his career in music overshadowed the experiences he had being a child and teenager.
'I Wish' went on to top the US Billboard charts and bagged Stevie the Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male for this song.
'I Just Called To Say I Love You'
Stevie Wonder - I Just Called To Say I Love You (Live in London, 1995)
When Stevie entered his commercial, more saccharine period during the 1980s, he also achieved more global success.
His gentle ballad 'I Just Called To Say I Love You' was a major international hit, topping charts in nineteen different countries, and going on to become his best-ever selling single.
The song - which was written for 1984 romantic comedy The Woman In Red - also gave Stevie his only solo UK number-one success, staying at the top for six weeks.
Little Stevie Wonder - Fingertips - Ed Sullivan Show 1963
'Fingertips' was not only the first live recording to ever top the US charts, but also made Stevie the youngest star to achieve such an accolade.
Recorded during the Motown tour called "The Motortown Revue", "Little" Stevie Wonder wowed audiences so much that Berry Gordy began marketing the twelve-year-old as a "genius" and the next Ray Charles.
It became Motown's first number-one record since The Marvelletes' 'Please Mr. Postman', and introduced the world to a generational talent.
Fun fact: a young Marvin Gaye played the drums for both 'Fingertips' and 'Please Mr. Postman' before being offered a record deal as a singer.
'Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours'
Stevie Wonder - Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours
Wonder wrote this 1970 soul song with Motown songwriters Lee Garrett and Syreeta Wright, the latter of whom would later become his wife before divorcing in 1972.
He and Garrett both being blind, they'd first met at the Michigan School for the Blind and both became enormous key figures in Motown Records' success.
Stevie even cited his mother Lula Mae Hardaway as a creative source behind the song's creation.
In 1970 he revealed: "On 'Signed, Sealed, Delivered,' for example, I came up with the music and Syreeta came up with the lyric. And my mother came up with some ideas on that one, too."
Stevie Wonder - Part Time Lover Official Video
This finger-clicking synth-inspired number became a resounding hit for Stevie after its 1985 release.
'Part-Time Lover' tells the story of a cheating couple keeping their affair secret, only for the narrator to find out his spouse is doing the same as him.
Wonder became a pioneer of recording with electronics and computers, using the LinnDrum for the drum beat. "He bought the second drum machine I ever made," The drum machine/sampler creator Roger Linn said in a recent interview. "I think he used my drum machine very well on 'Part-Time Lover.'"
The huge hit also featured Luther Vandross on backing vocals alongside ex-wife Syreeta Wright and Earth, Wind, and Fire's Philip Bailey.
'For Once In My Life'
Stevie Wonder - For Once In My Life (Live)
Written by the Motown songwriters Ron Miller and Orlando Murden, 'For Once In My Life' had a storied history before Stevie got his hands on the song.
Traditionally recorded as a ballad, the label's acts like Barbara McNair and The Temptations released their versions, even Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett covered it too.
But rejuvenating the song with his youthful exuberance and upbeat tempo, Stevie's rendition became the definitive version.
In 1968, 'For Once In My Life' became a top three hit in both the UK and US for Wonder.
'My Cherie Amour'
Stevie Wonder - My Cherie Amour (Live)
'My Cherie Amour' (or 'My Dearest Love' in English) was originally called 'Oh My Marcia', as Stevie wrote the song for his high-school sweetheart.
By the time he got around to recording it for Motown, Marcia was long gone, but the song's sentiment catapulted it to the top five of the UK and US charts.
To improve the song's success, Wonder also released Spanish and Italian-language versions called 'Mi Querido Amor' and 'My Cherie Amor', respectively, though they were quickly forgotten about.
'Master Blaster (Jammin)'
𝐒𝐭𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞 𝐖𝐨𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫 - 𝐌𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐁𝐥𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐫 (𝐉𝐚𝐦𝐦𝐢𝐧') - 𝐋𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝟏𝟗𝟖𝟏 - 𝟒𝐊 𝐑𝐞𝐦𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐝
With the reggae-leaning nature of the song, 'Master Blaster (Jammin)' was greatly inspired by the iconic Bob Marley who Stevie toured with before he recorded it.
The lyrics depict the world coming together in peace, a vision he shared with good friend Marley, and one they tried to achieve.
Talks over organising a major benefit concert were put on hold after Marley was diagnosed with toe cancer, and eventually died before they could enact their plans.
Released as the first single from his 1980 album Hotter Than July, Stevie frequently performs the song as a tribute to his influential friend.
'I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)'
I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)
Released on his 1972 album, Talking Book, 'I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)' is one of Stevie's most simple and earnest, yet beautiful compositions.
The album marked a major shift in Stevie's career, predominantly as he began to become far more independent in his creative output.
He was a veteran of the music industry at the age of just 22, releasing a total of fifteen albums by that time.
Whilst the gorgeously soulful song was never released as a single, it underwent a resurgence after featuring in the 2000 film High Fidelity and again when the film was remade into a series in 2022.
'We Can Work It Out'
Stevie Wonder - We Can Work It Out (Tribute to The Beatles, 2014), 720p, HQ audio
It was Elton John's favourite song by The Beatles, and seemingly it was Stevie's too.
'We Can Work It Out' became a major hit for Wonder and earned him his fifth Grammy nomination.
He performed the song in 2014 for The Beatles: The Night That Changed America, a show that aired fifty years after the Fab Four famously appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Introducing the song, he recalled: "It had a nice thing to it, but I said, 'Someday I'm going to do it again, with a little more funky thing with it'," after first hearing it as a fifteen year old.
Stevie Wonder - Higher Ground (1974)
The instantly recognisable funky Moog synths and spiritual theme behind 'Higher Ground' made it an instant classic after its 1973 release.
Though only days after Innervisions hit record shelves, Wonder was involved in a car accident which saw him induced in a coma for ten days.
'Higher Ground' had a prescient quality to it, as Stevie sings about reincarnation and religious mysticism, even though it was recorded before his accident.
Recalling his experience in a coma, Stevie said: "For a few days I was definitely in a much better spiritual place that made me aware of a lot of things that concern my life and my future and what I have to do to reach another higher ground. This is like my second chance for life, to do something or to do more and to face the fact that I am alive."
'Uptight (Everything's Alright)'
Stevie Wonder - Uptight — (Official Video)
One of Stevie's most positive bops, 'Uptight (Everything's Alright)' is about a guy who's dirt poor but doesn't care because he's found the girl of his dreams.
The song was Stevie's first credited work as a songwriter, who was a child prodigy as a singer, though Motown struggled to help him find his place in the earlier years.
After the release of 'Uptight (Everything's Alright)' however, the 1966 track reached the top three on the US charts with Stevie remained a chart-topping superstar from then onwards.
Stevie Wonder - Sir Duke (Glastonbury 2010)
Featuring on the 1976 album Songs In The Key Of Life, 'Sir Duke' is one of the most optimistic offerings about everyone uniting in celebration.
The song started as a tribute to one of Stevie's most beloved artists: Duke Ellington.
In 1974, the influential jazz bandleader passed away and Wonder wanted to honour the gift he gave the world.
"I knew the title from the beginning but wanted it to be about the musicians who did something for us," Stevie said.
"So soon they are forgotten. I wanted to show my appreciation. They gave us something that is supposed to be forever. That's the basic idea of what we do and how we hook it up."
'Living For The City'
Living For The City
'Living For The City' was the first major instance where Stevie stepped into socio-political commentary with his music.
A statement about inner-city poverty and how communities are left to rot, the song depicts a character who moves from community-minded Mississippi to New York City where they're taken advantage of and eventually punished with imprisonment.
Talking about the song, Stevie said: "I was able to show the hurt and the anger. You still have that same mother that scrubs the floors for many, she's still doing it. Now what is that about? And that father who works some days for fourteen hours. That's still happening."
His passionate song earned him the Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Song, and Innervisions won Album Of The Year that same year.
The likes of Ray Charles, Ike & Tina Turner, and Michael McDonald all covered 'Living For The City' in the years since given its impactful message.
Stevie Wonder - As - Live In The Studio 1976
A gorgeous song about someone's love for their soul mate never diminishing, 'As' has gone on to become one of Stevie's most enduring numbers.
The lyrics are considered a metaphor for Stevie's own relationship with music and his career.
Ahead of writing Songs In The Key Of Life, he very nearly turned his back on music altogether in 1975, briefly quitting to help underprivileged children in Ghana having reconsidered his life after coming out of a coma.
His U-turn was justified however, as Stevie continued his streak of classic albums with arguably his opus.
'As', using natural imagery and impossibilities like "rainbows burning the stars out in the sky" and "dreaming of life and life becoming a dream" imply Stevie's love of life and his path as much as it suggests an everlasting romantic love.
It was also later a hit as a duet by George Michael and Mary J Blige.
Stevie Wonder - Superstition (1974)
'Superstition', the timelessly infectious guitar-funk track signified a cornerstone of Stevie's career, and remains his signature song to this day.
No longer was he the cutesy 'boy wonder' overshadowed by the rest of Motown's roster - he was now a serious, individual artist.
He blurred the lines between rock, blues, and what Stevie was mould modern R&B into.
'Superstition' was meaner, muscly, and had much of the swagger of The Rolling Stones, who he'd toured with prior to writing the song.
The track was influenced by none other than Jeff Beck, who joined Stevie in the studio during the sessions for Talking Book. Accounts differ, but apparently Stevie offered it to Beck before his manager insisted Stevie keep it for himself.
No doubt he's glad he did - 'Superstition' set a new standard for what R&B artists could achieve, and significantly, he was just 22 years old at the time. The rest, as they say, is history.