Stevie Wonder

Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)

Composed by Stevie Wonder

Song Review by

During spring 1971, Stevie Wonder's contract obligations to Motown had been fulfilled; essentially a free agent, he could sign with another record label. Now 21, Wonder chose to stay with Motown, co-publishing his songs through the label's publishing company and through his own Black Bull publishing company under a new contract that gave him the right to produce himself. Journeying to New York, the singer/songwriter/keyboardist began working with synthesists/audio engineers Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff at Mediasound. All of this culminated in Wonder's 1972 trend-setting album Music of My Mind.

The first single, the dreamy "Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)," was a change of pace for Wonder, who was trying to establish his own identity outside of the Motown sound. Besides its floaty ambience, it featured the singer as a one-man band. Though he had been one, more or less, on previous recordings (most notably on his Where I'm Coming From LP), "Superwoman" was right in the pocket. The artist had experimented with tempo shifts in his tunes (his 1971 Top Ten R&B/pop hit "If You Really Love Me"), but on "Superwoman," the shift was gently jarring, sliding the listener into a spacy realm which may have been the first time for some. His fans didn't mind taking the trip, helping to take "Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)" to number 13 R&B and number 33 pop in spring 1972. Because it wasn't a chart-topper, some have characterized it as one of Wonder's lesser efforts, which would be an incorrect assessment. Without "Superwoman" and Music of My Mind (number six R&B, number 21 pop), there couldn't have been his more celebrated efforts: Talking Book, Fullfillingness First Finale, Songs in the Key of Life, and so on. System lead singer Mic Murphy cops riffs from "Superwoman" during the closing minutes of "Don't Disturb This Groove," which seems an appropriate homage to Wonder's artistic vision since the System consisted only of Murphy and keyboardist David Frank.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Music of My Mind 1972 Motown / Uptown/Universal 8:07
Original Musiquarium I 1982 Motown / Tamla / Universal Japan 7:58
At the Close of a Century 1999 Motown 8:08
K-Tel Presents: Super Bad 2009
Various Artists
Micro Werks / Micro Werks/K-Tel 8:00
The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 12A: 1972 2013
Various Artists
Motown / Universal 3:33
blue highlight denotes editor's pick