Tuesday, September 28, 1976

Stevie Wonder released Songs in the Key of Life

Songs in the Key of Life

Stevie Wonder

Released: September 28, 1976

Peak: 114 US, 120 RB, 2 UK, 110 CN, 6 AU

Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, 0.3 UK, 11.0 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: R&B


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Love’s in Need of Love Today [7:05]
  2. Have a Talk with God (Calvin Hardaway, Wonder) [2:42]
  3. Village Ghettoland (Gary Byrd, Wonder) [3:25]
  4. Contusion [3:45]
  5. Sir Duke [3:51] (4/2/77, 1 US, 1 CB, 1 HR, 2 RR, 3 AC, 1 RB, 2 UK, 2 CN)
  6. I Wish [4:13] (11/26/76, 1 US, 1 CB, 1 HR, 4 RR, 23 AC, 23 AC, 1 RB, 5 UK, 1 CN)
  7. Knocks Me Off My Feet [3:36]
  8. Pastime Paradise [3:20]
  9. Summer Soft [4:16]
  10. Ordinary Pain [6:22]

Tracks, Disc 2:

  1. Isn’t She Lovely [6:33] (1/8/77, 23 AC, sales: ½ million)
  2. Joy Inside My Tears [6:29]
  3. Black Man [8:29]
  4. Ngiculela ~ Es Una Historia ~ I Am Singing (translation by Thoko Mdalose, Raymond Maldanado) [3:48]
  5. If It’s Magic [3:12]
  6. As [7:09] (11/5/77, 36 US, 24 AC, 36 RB)
  7. Another Star [8:22] (8/27/77, 32 US, 29 AC, 18 RB, 29 UK, 34 CN)

Bonus EP:

  1. Saturn (Michael Sembello, Wonder) [4:45]
  2. Ebony Eyes [4:10]
  3. All Day Sucker [5:06]
  4. Easy Goin' Evening (My Mama’s Call) [3:58]

Songs by Wonder unless noted otherwise.

Total Running Time: 104:38


4.695 out of 5.00 (average of 22 ratings)

Quotable: “A rare moment when a master was faced with a new level of pressure, and responded by taking his game to new heights.” – Josh Tyrangiel and Alan Light, Time magazine

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

So how do you follow two Album of the Year Grammy Awards (1973’s Innervisions and 1974’s Fullfillingness’ First Finale)? First, you take some time off. Wonder didn’t release any new material in 1975, a fact acknowledged by Paul Simon when he took home the Grammy for Album of the Year. He said, “I’d like to thank Stevie Wonder for not releasing an album this year.” Second, you come back and win Grammy’s 1976 Album of the Year.

Motown had renewed Wonder’s contract for an unprecedented $13 million. He then worked relentlessly, sometimes logging 48-hour sessions. NRR The result is often regarded by fans as Wonder’s best album. It “featured more true classics than even most great artists write in a lifetime.” TL

Originally packaged as a double album plus an EP, Songs in the Key of Life, was “Wonder’s longest, most ambitious collection of songs.” AMG It “is a Grand Artistic Statement, meant to demonstrate Wonder’s ability to entertain just about any audience he chooses.” EK It is “like stumbling into a cave full of treasure” JM and not knowing “which piece of gold to stuff into [one’s] pocket first.” JM

The album showcases “all of Wonder’s most endearing characteristics – intricate and inventive arrangements, the sheer joy of music-making – and all of his most aggravating (mawkishness, a less-than-industrious approach to his lyrics) in one package.” EK “Stevie seems to be vacillating between pure genius and only-slightly-inspired mediocrity – sometimes within the same song.” JM

Always on the cutting edge of modern recording technology, the album is also a tour de force of studio wizardry, yet it’s also a deeply personal and humane work. The album deftly blends the social commentary of his recent work with an exuberance harking back to his earliest records. It “touched on nearly every issue under the sun, and did it all with ambitious (even for him), wide-ranging arrangements and some of the best performances of Wonder’s career.” AMG

It also resonates with a renewed spiritual dimension which lends the music even greater impact. Taken as a whole, the album tells his life story. “The bumping poem to his childhood, I Wish,” AMG is “one of the most joyous of Stevie’s singles…[which is] really saying something.” EK

Isn’t She Lovely is a “lovely celebration of the love for a newborn child,” AMG although it also shows the problems of a double album, with “three minutes of baby noise.” AMG One can “argue what can get cut to make a lean, mean single album. Songs in the Key of Life could almost be gotten down to fighting weight just by cutting tracks off when they start to drag.” AMG “It’s like one of those giant novelty sundaes that’s free if you can finish it in one sitting. Delicious, but in the end a bit much.” EK How about “the two-part, smooth-and-rough Ordinary PainAMG where “the second half…sounds like a completely different song?” EK

It might be necessary to try “skipping by the schmaltzy, whip-creamed tracks and focusing on the funk and jazz fusion-driven scoops of goodness.” JM However, there are long tracks which hold up. As “builds perfectly over the course of its seven minutes, thanks in large part to one of the most memorable choruses Stevie Wonder ever wrote (which is seriously freakin’ saying something).” EK It “could have/should have been the ‘Hey Jude’ of the 1970s.” EK

Other highlights are “the torrid fusion jam ContusionAMG and Sir Duke, “a big, brassy hit tribute to the recently departed Duke Ellington.” AMG It ”is not only a delight, but it also something of a statement of purpose for Wonder. It’s telling that he name-checks Basie, Miller, Armstrong, Ellington, and Fitzgerald over, say, Mingus or Miles.” EK

While not organized as such, Songs in the Key of Life “contains nearly a full album on love and relationships, along with another full album on issues social and spiritual. Fans of the love album Talking Book can marvel that he sets the bar even higher here, with brilliant material like the tenderly cathartic and gloriously redemptive Joy Inside My Tears, …the bitterly ironic All Day Sucker, or another classic heartbreaker, Summer Soft.” AMG

“Those inclined toward Stevie Wonder the social-issues artist had quite a few songs to focus on as well: Black Man was a Bicentennial school lesson on remembering the vastly different people who helped build America.” AMG This “eight-minute tour of Stevie’s prowess as a musician and a lyricist” JM has been called “the apex of the album,” JM but can also be an example of excess. It “starts out great – positive message, bubbling funk, nice flourishes throughout. But as those teachers go on hectoring those poor students (which, by the way, flies in the face of all known pedagogical theories), [one] can’t help wishing they would just knock it off already.” EK

Pastime Paradise examined the plight of those who live in the past and have little hope for the future.” AMG It became the basis for Coolio’s smash rip hit, “Gangsta’s Paradise,” nearly two decades later. Village Ghetto Land is “a fierce exposé of ghetto neglect set to a satirical baroque synthesizer” AMG while “Saturn found Stevie questioning his kinship with the rest of humanity and amusingly imagining paradise as a residency on a distant planet.” AMG

“If all this sounds overwhelming, it is; Stevie Wonder had talent to spare during the mid-‘70s, and instead of letting the reserve trickle out during the rest of the decade, he let it all go with one massive burst. (His only subsequent record of the ‘70s was the similarly gargantuan but largely instrumental soundtrack Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants).” AMG

Songs in the Key of Life was a powerhouse – a rare moment when a master was faced with a new level of pressure, and responded by taking his game to new heights.” TL

Resources and Related Links:

Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 6/20/2008; last updated 8/3/2021.

Monday, September 20, 1976

AC/DC released Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

First posted 10/9/2008; updated 9/8/2020.

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap


Released: September 20, 1976

Peak: 3 US, -- UK, -- CN, 5 AU

Sales (in millions): 6.0 US, 0.06 UK, 10.8 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: hard rock

Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (6/28/80, #4 AR, #47 UK)
  2. Love at First Feel
  3. Big Balls (4/18/81, #26 AR)
  4. Rocker
  5. Problem Child
  6. There’s Gonna Be Some Rockin’
  7. Ain’t No Fun (Waiting Round to Be a Millionaire)
  8. Ride On
  9. Squealer

Total Running Time: 42:24

The Players:

  • Bon Scott (vocals)
  • Angus Young (guitar)
  • Malcolm Young (rhythm guitar, backing vocals)
  • Mark Evans (bass)
  • Phil Rudd (drums)


3.952 out of 5.00 (average of 18 ratings)

About the Album:

“There’s a real sense of menace to Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, the title song of AC/DC's third album. More than most of their songs to date, it captured the seething malevolence of Bon Scott, the sense that he reveled in doing bad things, encouraged by the maniacal riffs of Angus and Malcolm Young who provided him with their most brutish rock & roll yet.” STE

“But for as glorious as the title track was, the entire album served as a call to arms from a group that wanted nothing more than to celebrate the dirtiest, nastiest instincts humans could have, right down to the insurgent anti-authority vibe that runs throughout the record.” STE Take Big Balls – sure, it’s a dirty joke, but it’s a dirty joke with class overthrow in mind. There’s a sense on Dirty Deeds that AC/DC is storming the gates – they’re problem children sick of waiting around to be a millionaire, so they’re gonna make their own money, even if they take down others as they go.” STE

“That’s what gives Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap its supercharged, nervy pulse; there’s a real sense of danger to this record, something that can’t be hidden beneath the jokes. Maybe that’s why the album wasn’t released in the US until 1981, after Bon’s death, after AC/DC had become millionaires – if it arrived any earlier, it would have been too insurrectionist for the common good.” STE

Resources and Related Links:

Saturday, September 18, 1976

Wild Cherry “Play That Funky Music” hit #1

Play That Funky Music

Wild Cherry

Writer(s): Robert Parissi (see lyrics here)

Released: April 1976

First Charted: June 19, 1976

Peak: 13 US, 12 CB, 12 HR, 2 RR, 12 RB, 1 CL, 7 UK, 2 CN, 5 AU, 3 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.6 UK, 3.68 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 77.41 video, 222.27 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“Play That Funky Music” has been interpreted “as some kind of statement of racial solidarity” SG in which Wild Cherry’s frontman Rob Parissi had a white boy epiphany and discovered black music. Of course, it was the disco era and the two songs that topped the Billboard Hot 100 right before this were also by white boys – the Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancing” and KC & The Sunshine Band’s “(Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty.”

Parissi formed Wild Cherry (named after cough drops) in Ohio in 1970 as a rock band. They played regional working-class towns and put out a few records but hadn’t made a dent nationally. It wasn’t until they broke up, reformed, and reshaped their rock sound to disco that they found success. One story suggests the sound – and the band’s hit song – grew out of a show in Pittsburgh when the crowd demanded “Play that funky music, white boy.” The drummer wrote down the phrase and Parissi wrote a song about it. FB That makes it sound like the song “owed its existence to a moment of lightning-bolt inspiration. It didn’t.” SG

Parissi was already trying to adapt to sound like the Ohio Players’ “Fire,” “from the monster bassline to the cartoonishly nasal Snagglepuss growl that Parissi adapts.” SG Originally “Play That Funky Music” was intended to be a B-side to the band’s cover of “I Feel Sanctified” by the Commodores. Parissi told Billboard when the song hit that Wild Cherry were “an electric funk people’s band…We’re trying to do a white thing to R&B music, adding some heaviness to it.” SG While it was “an exceptional piece of heavy R&B” SG it was in the same ballpark as stuff like Funkadelic and Ohio Players.

The entire song is built around the bassline – “the downstroke guitars, the merciless cowbell, the horn stabs.” SG “Even on the hook, Parissi is practically just singing along to that riff.” SG “He throws ad-libs everywhere he can, and he vamps like a pro.” SG


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Wild Cherry
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 443.
  • SG Stereogum (9/13/2019). “The Number Ones” by Tom Breihan
  • WK Wikipedia

First posted 10/23/2022.