Natalie Merchant – Wonder

Natalie has a unique voice and a style of her own. I saw her in the 80s with 10,000 Maniacs and they were great.

When she was a teenager, Natalie Merchant worked at a day camp for special needs children, many of whom had been institutionalized since infancy and abandoned by their parents. This song was inspired by that experience.

The song peaked at #20 in the Billboard 100 and #10 in Canada in1996. Wonder was on the album Tigerlily that peaked at #13 in Billboard album charts  in1995.

From Songfacts

She explained on a VH1 Storytellers appearance: “When I was 13 years old, we’re talking 1976, I spent my summer working as a volunteer for a bunch of hippies, basically, that got a seed grant from the Carter administration, which had a lot of really wonderful programs for the arts. These people started a day camp for handicapped children, and I worked for them the whole summer. A lot of these children were institutionalized – their parents had left the scene a long time ago. They didn’t function so well in a conventional sense, but it seems that a lot of the children had developed like a private language or new senses so they could navigate through the world, especially the blind and the deaf children that we worked with.

From an early age, I had that contact with children who had special needs. I had lost my fear of intimacy with them – especially with Down syndrome kids, they could be really unpredictable and up to that point I had been a little frightened of them. I maintained some of the friendships with those kids and I was always open to meeting children with special needs. So when I wrote the song ‘Wonder,’ I wrote the song about a woman who was born with handicaps that seemed insurmountable, but she did overcome them, greatly because she had a loving family, especially her adoptive mother – she had been given up to an institution at birth.”

This is a very meaningful song to many people who grew up with special needs and their caretakers. The song views these people as “wonders,” with doctors having no explanation for their condition, but seeing the work of God in the creation.

“I’ve met a lot of people through this song, and they’ve told me that they’ve taken it on as their song, that it describes them,” Merchant said. “It describes their strengths in spite of what others would see as deficiencies.”

Natalie Merchant performed this song, along with “Carnival,” on an episode of Saturday Night Live hosted by David Schwimmer in 1995.

Wonder

Doctors have come from distant cities, just to see me
Stand over my bed, disbelieving what they’re seeing

They say I must be one of the wonders 
Of God’s own creation
And as far as they see, they can offer
No explanation

Newspapers ask intimate questions, want confessions
They reach into my head to steal, the glory of my story

They say I must be one of the wonders 
Of God’s own creation
And as far as they see, they can offer
No explanation

Ooo, I believe, fate, fate smiled 
And destiny laughed as she came to my cradle 
Know this child will be able
Laughed as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted
With love, with patience, and with faith
She’ll make her way, she’ll make her way

People see me I’m a challenge to your balance
I’m over your heads how I confound you 
And astound you
To know I must be one of the wonders

They say I must be one of the wonders 
Of God’s own creation
And as far as they see, they can offer
No explanation

Ooo, I believe, fate, fate smiled 
And destiny laughed as she came to my cradle 
Know this child will be able
Laughed as she came to my mother
Know this child will not suffer
Laughed as my body she lifted
Know this child will be gifted
With love, with patience and with faith
She’ll make her way, she’ll make her way