Stevie Wonder – Higher Ground

Stevie Wonder in the 60s and 70s was unbeatable. Not discounting his 80s output but for me, it’s hard to beat his 70s output.

Higher Ground peaked at #4 in the Billboard 100, #29 in the UK, and #9 in Canada. The song was on the album Innervisions ($4) released in 1973. Right after the album was released Stevie was riding in a car when it collided it with a logging truck. Some logs crashed through the windshield and hit Stevie. He was in a coma for 4 days with a  severe brain contusion.

Steve Wonder on the song: I would like to believe in reincarnation. I would like to believe that there is another life. I think that sometimes your consciousness can happen on this earth a second time around. For me, I wrote “Higher Ground” even before the accident. But something must have been telling me that something was going to happen to make me aware of a lot of things and to get myself together. This is like my second chance for life, to do something or to do more, and to value the fact that I am alive.

From Songfacts

The lyrics deal with getting a second chance (“So darn glad he let me try it again”) and making the most of it. Strangely, Wonder recorded it three months before he was almost killed on his way to a benefit concert in Durham, North Carolina. The car he was riding in was behind a truck carrying a load of logs, which stopped suddenly, sending a log through the windshield and hitting Wonder in the head. The accident put Wonder in a coma for four days. His road manager and good friend, Ira Tucker Jr., knew that Stevie liked to listen to music at high volume, so he tried singing this song directly into his ear. At first he got no response, but the next day, he tried again and Wonder’s fingers started moving in time with the song – the first sign that he was going to recover.

Recalling his time in the coma, Wonder 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.”

Innervisions was released on August 3, 1973, just three days before Wonder’s accident.

Guided by a mix of Christian morality and astrological mysticism, Wonder believed he was writing a “special song” whose lyrics suggested a coming day of judgment. “I did the whole thing in three hours” he told Q magazine. It was almost as if I had to get it done. I felt something was going to happen. I didn’t know what or when, but I felt something.”

When he turned 21, Wonder renegotiated his deal with Motown Records, taking control of his recordings by forming his own production and publishing companies. Motown was very regimented in terms of what musicians and producers were used on recordings, but Stevie wanted to do most of this work himself. In 1971, he teamed with the engineers Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil and began a constant cycle of recording in which he played most of the instruments himself. On this track, Wonder is the only credited musician, listed as playing Hohner clavinet, drums, and Moog bass.

In 1993 UB40 included a cover version on their Promises And Lies album that reached #45 in the US and #8 in the UK.

Wonder was a huge influence on The Red Hot Chili Peppers, who remade this with a more uptempo beat on their Mother’s Milk album. They even thank him in the lyrics by adding the phrase “You know what Stevie says.” Their version helped introduce many listeners to Wonder. >>

Wonder sang an a cappella version of this song with Alicia Keys at the Grammy Awards in 2006.

Higher Ground

People keep on learnin’
Soldiers keep on warrin’
World keep on turnin’
‘Cause it won’t be too long

Powers keep on lyin’
While your people keep on dyin’
World keep on turnin’
‘Cause it won’t be too long

I’m so glad that he let me try it again
‘Cause my last time on earth I lived a whole world of sin
I’m so glad that I know more than I knew then
Gonna keep on tryin’
Till I reach my highest ground

Lovers keep on lovin’
Believers keep on believin’
Sleepers just stop sleepin’
‘Cause it won’t be too long
Oh no

I’m so glad that he let me try it again
‘Cause my last time on earth I lived a whole world of sin
I’m so glad that I know more than I knew then
Gonna keep on tryin’
Till I reach my highest ground

Woo!
Till I reach my highest ground
No one’s gonna bring me down
Oh no
Till I reach my highest ground

Don’t let nobody bring you down (they’ll sho ‘nough try)
God is gonna show you higher ground

Author: badfinger20

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

20 thoughts on “Stevie Wonder – Higher Ground”

  1. Stevie was incredible- I have never read any reason why he’s been so inactive in the past three decades- maybe he said all he had to say. The direction his music was going maybe it was a smart decision. His 70’s were perfect save the secret life of plants..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have to think it was the direction of music.

      I have to wonder…no pun intended… if he has a so called vault with songs sitting there from every period. Recording was his passion…

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow, I never knew the background to the song. Great song – the ChiliPeppers do a good cover, but can’t beat Stevie’s version. I agree too – his ’60s catalog had some decent songs and showed a lot of promise, his ’80s was hit or miss, with a few very good songs but the ’70s– excellent start to finish.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As a Motown guy, I love Stevie Wonder. So many great songs – If I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be “Superstition”, but there are so many songs that could top the list, including this one. Great stuff from a legend!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. He is natural… I’ve read where he recorded like Prince did…all of the time…I would love to hear his vault.

        Like

      2. Your comment makes me think on all the books on peak performance and deliberate practice I’ve been reading. We’d naturally put stevie down to a musical prodigy or genius but in fact, he would have sung and recorded for 10s of thousands of hours. certainly more than most musicians — that combined with some interest/talent and taste may be enough

        Liked by 1 person

      3. When you say peak performance….do you mean catching it before it becomes too slick? Too predictible. Smoothing too many of the cool edges out?

        Liked by 1 person

      1. And it’s not the most popular of his…it just stuck with me…I first heard it on an oldies station in the 80s and fell for it then.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t remember what year I heard this song, but I do know when I heard that music and harmonica, I fell head over heals in love with this song. The song lyrics are just spectacular. I love the way he described himself and his girlfriend as well as the reactions of his parents to his relationship to Suzie.

        Liked by 1 person

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