Saturday, October 13, 1984

Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” hit #1

First posted 11/14/2019; updated 4/21/2020.

I Just Called to Say I Love You

Stevie Wonder

Writer(s): Stevie Wonder (see lyrics here)


Released: August 1, 1984


First Charted: August 18, 1984


Peak: 13 US, 14 CB, 12 RR, 13 AC, 13 RB, 16 UK, 13 CN, 18 (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 1.91 UK, 4.54 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 160.3 video, -- streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

Singer Dionne Warwick was the song coordinator for the movie The Woman in Red. She suggested Stevie Wonder for the score to the Gene Wilder film. Despite Wonder being blind, he “watched” the film and, according to Warwick, “He saw the film. There’s no way in the world that you can write the pieces of music that he wrote, for the sequences he wrote for, so directly.” BR1

Jay Lasker, who was then the president of Motown Records, wasn’t too excited. He discouraged Wonder from doing the soundtrack because it had already been four years since his last album and he wasn’t sold on the first three songs Wonder had written for the movie. Wonder responded with “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” Lasker’s response was that it “is probably going to be the biggest single in the history of Stevie Wonder. This is the record I picked and said I wanted out as a single.” BR1

Lasker’s hunch was right. The song topped a record 19 charts and remains Wonder’s best-selling single. WK It was his eighth chart-topper on the Billboard Hot 100 and tenth on the R&B chart. It was his only solo trip to the top in the UK, where it also became Motown’s biggest-selling single ever. WK

Songwriters Lloyd Chiate and Lee Garrett, a former writing partner with Wonder, sued him in October 1985. They claimed he stole the title and chorus idea for the song from a song they wrote in September 1976 called “Hello It’s Me/I Just Called to Say.” During the testimony, Wonder said he wrote the chorus on July 16, 1976 when coming home from visiting his mother. He also said he had John Lennon in mind when he worked on the song, imagining the Beatles singing with him. SF Chiate dropped the lawsuit in 1986, but Chiate continued it. In 1990, a jury ruled in favor of Wonder. SF

The fact that Wonder said he’d written much of the song in 1976 put its Oscar win for Best Song in doubt since songs were only eligible in the category which had been written specifically for film. However, no action was taken and Wonder kept the award. SF


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Saturday, October 6, 1984

Dennis DeYoung released Desert Moon, first solo album

Desert Moon

Dennis DeYoung


Charted: October 6, 1994


Peak: 29 US


Sales (in millions): --


Genre: rock


Tracks:

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

  1. Don’t Wait for Heroes [4:46] (12/8/84, 83 US, 81 CB)
  2. Please (with Rosemary Butler) [4:20]
  3. Boys Will Be Boys [5:41]
  4. Fire (Jimi Hendrix) [3:46]
  5. Desert Moon [6:09] (9/8/84, 10 US, 10 CB, 7 RR, 4 AC, 31 AR, 7 CN)
  6. Suspicious [4:57]
  7. Gravity [4:51]
  8. Dear Darling (I’ll Be There) [4:27]

All songs by Dennis DeYoung except where noted.


Total Running Time: 38:57

Rating:

3.348 out of 5.00 (average of 10 ratings)


Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Styx’s Kilroy Was Here album released in 1983 followed the same trajectory as its four predecessors – it hit the top 10 on the Billboard album chart and sold more than a million copies. It was only the second Styx album, after 1981’s Paradise Theater, to produce two top-10 hits – “Mr Roboto” and “Don’t Let It End.” The latter was a Dennis DeYoung ballad not too far from the template that gave the band their only #1 hit with “Babe” in 1979.

“Mr. Roboto,” however, proved divisive even though it was a #3 hit. Some fans and even members of the band considered the song goofy and even the band’s “jump the shark” moment. The video gave a taste of the rock opera storyline DeYoung envisioned with the album, but it also tested the patience of guitarist Tommy Shaw who wasn’t enamored with DeYoung’s theatrical leanings. Shaw ended up leaving the band the following year.

After a live album, 1984’s Caught in the Act, Styx disappeared from the scene for six years with DeYoung, Shaw, and guitarist James Young all releasing solo albums to varying degrees of success. DeYoung was the only one of the three to find himself back in the top 10 of the pop charts without his bandmates. Desert Moon, “a glorious power ballad in the vein of ‘Don’t Let It End’…showcases every aspect of DeYoung’s wide range…and…did deservedly crack Billboard’s Top 10.” AMG It was also a top 10 hit in Canada and a top-5 adult contemporary hit.

“Nothing [else on the album] is as glorious as ‘Desert Moon,’ but that’s a song that justifies an entire album.” AMG The second single, Don’t Wait for Heroes, didn’t fare nearly as well, stalling at #83 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Desert Moon” proved to be DeYoung’s only solo hit to scratch the top 40. “Heroes” demonstrates how DeYoung “loves to put on a show, to rouse a crowd and strut on the stage.” AMG In the upbeat anthem, he proclaims, “Don’t wait for heroes / Do it yourself / You’ve got the power / Winners are losers / Who got up and gave it one more try.” AMG

Elsewhere the album features Boys Will Be Boys, which All Music Guide’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine calls “a horrific fusion of new wave, arena rock, and doo wop.” AMG Please, “a song that makes Meat Loaf seem subtle,” AMG is a duet with Rosemary Butler, who was a backup singer with Jackson Browne, Rosanne Cash, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Warren Zevon, and Neil Young. She even had some success as a solo artist in Japan in the early ‘80s.

The album, produced by DeYoung, is “very, very ‘80s – all all thundering drums, clanking synths, glassy electric pianos and overdriven guitars.” AMG “The first side contains the rockers, the second the ballads and pop tunes and, although it can get sticky on sentiment and often rides a bouncy, dorky beat, overall, the B-side is the better of the two because it showcases DeYoung the pop singer.” AMG

In addition to singing and writing all the songs, with the exception of his cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Fire, DeYoung plays keyboards, piano, and percussion. He also did arranging and mixing on the album. He brought in a slew of musicians to help, including his wife Suzanne on backing vocals, and Tom Dziallo for guitar, bass, percussion, drum programming, arranging, and mixing.

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First posted 6/5/2021.