Saturday, May 15, 1982

Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder hit #1 with “Ebony and Ivory”

First posted 11/8/2020.

Ebony and Ivory

Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder

Writer(s): Paul McCartney (see lyrics here)

Released: March 29, 1982

Peak: 17 US, 16 CB, 40 HR, 14 RR, 15 AC, 8 RB, 34 AR, 13 UK, 15 CN, 2 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 14.48 video, -- streaming


About the Song:

Paul McCartney explained that he got the idea for “Ebony and Ivory” from English comedian Spike Milligan. He saw him on a TV show playing a piano where the keys were segregated, demonstrating how one couldn’t work without the other. SF Paul wrote the song after a fight with his wife Linda, saying, “Why can’t we get it together – our piano can.” SF It took on the greater message of racial harmony with Paul’s acknowledgment that “you can play using just the black notes, or you can play using just the white notes, but combining them gives you great notes. That, I suppose, is a great analogy.” BR1

While recording the song, Paul thought it would be a good idea to record it as a duet with Stevie Wonder. When Stevie heard the song, he said “I liked it very much…I liked what it was talking about…I felt like it was positive for everyone.” BR1 They got together on the island of Montserrat in the West Indies to record the song together, but were not together to film the video. Through the magic of editing, however, they appeared to be performing side by side on the keys of a giant piano. BR1

“Ebony and Ivory” marked the first time McCartney had released a duet with another major artist. WK It proved to be a good move. The song debuted at an impressive #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached the top five weeks later. The song wasn’t just the biggest chart-topper of McCartney’s solo career, but for any of the ex-Beatles. It was also the biggest #1 for Stevie Wonder.

While the song proved to be a hit of the moment, it didn’t hold up for fans in the long run. It “was often mocked as superficial and maudlin.” SF Critics considered “its message as overly simplistic and sentimental.” WK Blender magazine ranked it as the 10th worst song of all time in 2004. SF In 2007, BBC 6 Music listeners named it the worst duet ever. SF

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Paul McCartney
  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Stevie Wonder
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 555.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

Duran Duran charted with “Hungry Like the Wolf”

First posted 5/15/2012; updated 1/25/2021.

Hungry Like the Wolf

Duran Duran

Writer(s): Nick Rhodes, Simon Le Bon, John Taylor, Roger Taylor, Andy Taylor (see lyrics here)

Released: May 4, 1982

First Charted: May 15, 1982

Peak: 3 US, 4 CB, 5 RR, 13 AR, 5 UK, 11 CN, 5 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.2 UK, 1.2 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 17.5 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

In their native UK, Duran Duran first hit with their 1981 self-titled album, sending four songs to the UK singles chart, including the #5 “Girls on Film.” Their second album was introduced with the first single “Hungry Like the Wolf.” It marked the double D’s first trip to the U.S. singles chart. The song was praised by Pitchfork Media’s Rob Mitchum, who said “singles don’t come much stronger than ‘Hungry Like the Wolf.’” WK The New York Times’ Jon Pareles said the group “kept the choruses clear and catchy, never disguising their pop intentions” but that it was “no less enjoyable for that.” WK

The song owed much of its success to the fledging MTV music video television network. The group’s ready-for-teen-mag looks made them hits with adolescent girls while the video for “Wolf” had the DD crew romping through Sri Lanka with exotic women a la Raiders of the Lost Ark. The video was “more filmic and action-packed than much of the competing material of the time.” TB As lead singer Simon LeBon said, “Video made it possible to create a cult of personality across the globe.” SF “Wolf” earned the group the distinction of taking home the first Grammy for Best Short Form Video.

The song helped establish the band at the forefront of the Second British Invasion. The first, in the 1960s, was driven by rock’s early superstars like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. This time, however, synthesizer-oriented New Wave groups led the pack with a “unique combination of tough rock-guitar licks and frenetic beats, worthy of post-disco dancefloors.” TB

Amusingly, the song was “reportedly inspired by the innocent childhood fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood.” TB There was, however, nothing innocent about the moaning at the end of the song. That, and the laugh that kicks off the song, were provided by keyboardist Nick Rhodes’ girlfriend. The group’s girlfriends also contributed the makeup which helped shape the group’s look. SF

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Duran Duran
  • DMDB page for parent album Rio
  • SF Songfacts
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA.
  • WK Wikipedia