Stevie Wonder‘s ’76 magnum opus Songs In The Key Of Life commences with some of the most iconic vocal arrangements in the history of recorded music; the dulcet, gospel flecked doo-doo’s of the album’s opening number “Love’s In Need Of Love Today.” But despite its perfect placement, there was a time when SITKOL was still on the cutting room floor without its hallmark lead-off. Luckily for us all, Mr. Wonderlove has sat with the good folks of The Wall Street Journal to discuss the conception of that poignant and warm plea that jumpstarts what is perhaps his most successful record to date. Below you will find a few quick excerpts from the piece that take us through those very early stages, from the song’s birth in a NYC hotel room ca. ’74 to the moment he knew it would open what came to be known as a generation-defining record.
Stevie on the very beginnings of “Love’s In Need Of Love Today”:
“I wrote the song’s basic idea in late 1974 in my hotel room in New York, when Yolanda [Simmons] was pregnant with our daughter Aisha. I remember it was so cold outside that day. The concept I had in mind was that for love to be effective, it has to be fed. Love by itself is hollow. I recorded the song’s demo in my hotel room on a Fender Rhodes using a portable Nakamichi cassette recorder. I used to take that recorder with me everywhere, like a notebook.”
When the song took full form:
“Love’s in Need” really began to take shape when I took the cassette demo into Crystal Sound in Hollywood, in 1975, and began recording. At Crystal Sound, I was playing chords and humming along, adding lyrics and phrases as I heard the music evolve. I wanted to feel the song and move with the music rather than try to control it. The cadence and melody came first, and then by humming harmony up high like this [illustrates], I was inspired to add lyrics. Though I had recorded the demo on a Fender Rhodes in the key of D, I decided to record the song at Crystal Sound in E-flat. The slightly higher key was better for my voice and felt better, spiritually.”