Stevie Wonder

Living for the City

Composed by Stevie Wonder

Song Review by

Stevie Wonder joined his Motown labelmates the Temptations in making "cinematic" hits that reflected the popularity of the blaxploitation craze of the '70s (Shaft, Superfly, The Mack). The veteran vocal group made their mark in the trend with the aptly titled Norman Whitfield-produced cut "Masterpiece," which topped the R&B charts and went to number seven pop. Wonder's contribution, "Living for the City," took the cinematic concept further. Along with his frequent creative partners, the engineering/synth programming duo of Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff, Wonder crafted a tantalizing track that is enthralling, vividly drawn, and deeply poignant. Cecil's film business experience played a big part in the "wide screen" feel of "Living for the City," which tells a story in a way that few songs do. Margouleff's father was the mayor of Great Neck, NY, while some of the song's "scenes" were shot (actually recorded by a portable Nagra tape recorder). Though Wonder plays all of the instruments, "Living for the City" wasn't a one man show. The singer recruited his brother Calvin, road manager Ira Tucker Jr., a New York police officer, and attorney Jonathan Vigoda. Cecil and Margouleff acted in a role as semi-directors who were trained in "the method." They purposely did things to tick Wonder off (stopping the tape in the middle of recording, making insulting comments about the track). Wonder's angry raspy vocals during the latter of the song was the result, as was the song's huge chart success. Written and produced by Wonder, "Living for the City" held the R&B top spot for two weeks and made it to number eight pop in late 1973. It was the follow-up to the number one R&B/Top Four pop smash "Higher Ground." Ramsey Lewis did a smokin' cover of "Living for the City" on his Sun Goddess LP.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Innervisions 1973 Island/Def Jam / Motown / Universal Music 7:23
Original Musiquarium I 1982 Motown 7:26
No Image 1986
Various Artists
No Image 1995
Various Artists
Motown Year By Year: The Sound of Young America, 1973 1995
Various Artists
Motown 3:40
Natural Wonder 1995 Motown 4:27
Song Review: A Greatest Hits Collection 1996 Motown 3:41
At the Movies 1997 Motown
Classic Funk, Vol. 3 1997
Various Artists
MVP Records 7:26
The Ultimate Rock Collection Gold and Platinum, Vol. 2: 1971-1973 1997
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:42
At the Close of a Century 1999 Motown 7:23
Motown Chartbusters, Vols. 7-12 [Box Set] 1999
Various Artists
Polygram 3:38
Motown Chartbusters, Vol. 9 2001
Various Artists
Polygram 3:38
The Definitive Collection 2002 Motown 7:25
Legends: Do It Again 2003
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:42
The Complete Stevie Wonder 2005 Motown 7:23
Legends Informercial Set 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 3:42
Number 1's 2007 Motown 3:41
Christmas & Hits Duos 2008 Motown 3:42
Motown: The Complete No. 1's 2008
Various Artists
Motown 7:24
Live at Last: A Wonder Summer's Night 2009 Motown
No Image
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