Stevie Wonder – Superstition | Lyrics Meaning & Song Explained
A 22-year-old Stevie Wonder wrote, played instruments for, and produced one of the most revered songs in the history of music. The song “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder has become iconic for its lyrics, what it stands for, and Wonder’s amazing skill set in handling multiple instruments. In this article, we take a dive into this classic hit from 50 years ago.
“Superstition” was released as the lead single from Stevie Wonder’s fifteenth studio album ‘Talking Book’ in 1972. The song became an instant hit climbing to the #1 spot on the US Billboard Hot 100 Chart, #6 in Canada, and #11 in the UK. The song has also sold over 3 million copies worldwide.
“Superstition” won Stevie Wonder two Grammy awards for ”Best Rhythm & Blues Song’ and ‘Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male’ categories. The song is also ranked at #74 on Rolling Stone’s list of ‘The 500 Greatest Song of All Time.’
What instruments do Stevie Wonder play in “Superstition”?
“Superstition” packs up several different instruments to produce its iconic sound. Stevie Wonder plays instruments such as Clavinet, Moog bass, and drums, while Steve Madaio plays the trumpet, and Trevor Laurence adds the saxophone.
Listen to “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder
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Stevie Wonder “Superstition” Lyrics Meaning and Song Review
In an interview with NPR magazine, Stevie Wonder explained what the song means; “I think that the reason that I talked about being superstitious is because I really didn’t believe in it. I didn’t believe in the different things that people say about breaking glasses or the number 13 is bad luck, and all those various things. And to those, I said, ‘When you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer.'”
The song is, indeed, about different superstitions people choose to believe. Fans and critics have debated about the song’s applicability to religion as religion is the biggest belief in societies then and now. Although the song is not directly talking about religion, we feel like the song is specifically highlighting ‘bad’ or ‘negative’ beliefs. So, religion doesn’t really fall into this space. However, if someone has blind faith in religion and spreads hatred and crime by the name of religion, it would still count as superstition.
According to Oxford Dictionary, a superstition is “a widely held but unjustified belief in supernatural causation leading to certain consequences of an action or event, or a practice based on such a belief.”
In the first verse of the song, Stevie Wonder lists down some of the most famous superstitions that exist; walking underneath a ladder erected against a wall is a sin, number 13 is considered to be extremely unlucky, and breaking a mirror is believed to bring seven years of bad luck to the person who broke it.
Ladder’s about to fall
Thirteen month old baby
Broke the looking glass
Seven years of bad luck
If you want to read into more of these superstitions, you can find articles on the unlucky number 13, how walking under a ladder is defamation of God himself, and breaking a mirror.
All of these are superstitions by the definition of the word and should be left as such. Making decisions and acting on these irrational beliefs could set your life back and could even cause pain to others.
In the hook of the song, Stevie Wonder sings how when you blindly succumb to these superstitions, your life will be so much less meaningful. If you cannot elaborate something through logic and rational thinking, it is most likely a superstition.
If a superstition you believe in does good to the society, by all means, do abide them. But if they pull you back from living the best life, do harm to yourself, or do harm to others, you should really evaluate these choices.
In the second verse of the song, Stevie Wonder brings in one more superstition; washing one’s face and hands to wash away their sins. Some old religions do believe in washing away sins through holy water. Stevie might be suggesting that instead of washing away our sins, we could try to not sin at all.
In the third verse, Stevie goes as far as to say that the devil’s in the works behind these superstitions. Sometimes, this is true. Events such as ‘Friday the 13th’ are almost always associated with death and torture and hauntings.
Historically, there are some instances where these superstitions have caused blind believers to plunder, rape, and murder other human beings. This is the true devil in the works. For example, in some periods of the ancient Roman empire, if a child was born deformed, the families would leave the child to die, believing that these deformed children were bringers of bad omens. Dating further back, female newborns were left to die over male newborns, believing that male kids bring fortune, luck, and prosperity to the family.
With education being accessible for more and more people now than ever, and with all the scientific advances being made, superstitions are drawing their final breaths in the 21st Century. However, as we said, not all superstitions are bad.
Let us hear what you think about this song in the comments below. Do you believe in any superstitions?
Check out the complete lyrics of the song on Genius.