Behind Stevie Wonder’s Classic “Superstition,” Initially Meant for Jeff Beck

Stevie Wonder sings about “Superstition,” yet he actually feels anything but superstitious.

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Wonder was already an established star when “Superstition” came around in 1972 and turned the world of R&B music on its head. Written solely by Wonder and co-produced by the singer, Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff, “Superstition” is connected to another iconic musician and longtime fan of Wonder’s, Jeff Beck. The two were introduced by Cecil and Margouleff during a studio session in New York City when Wonder was working on Talking Book, the album that “Superstition” appears on.

Beck plays electric guitar on one of the album’s deep cuts, “Lookin’ for Another Pure Love,” and in return, Wonder was going to write a song for Beck to record. Though he originally intended to give Beck “Superstition,” plans changed when Berry Gordy, the head of Wonder’s label Tamla under Motown Records, insisted that he cut the song, believing it to be a hit.

Gordy’s instincts were spot on. Wonder released “Superstition” as the lead single off Talking Book. The song is credited for being the first time the Clavinet, or electric piano, had been used in mainstream music. In a 2000 interview with NPR, Wonder revealed that he wrote the lyrics as an antithesis to people who believe in superstitions, as outlined in the lyrics, Very superstitious / Ladders bout’ to fall / Thirteen-month-old baby / Broke the lookin’ glass / Seven years of bad luck / The good things in your past.

“I think that the reason that I talked about being superstitious is because I really didn’t believe in it,” he explained. “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 legendary singer also revealed that the song came to him one night onstage when he was on tour with the Rolling Stones in 1972.

“I was sitting on the drums, and the first thing that I put down were the drums and then after that, I put the Clavinet down, and really, I just starting singing the melody,” he continues. “Probably the first thing, the only thing I can remember that I said that I remember keeping was the line, Wash your face and hands. I think that was from when I was real little, I remember hearing this song [‘Shake, Rattle & Roll’] saying, Get out of that bed / Wash your face and hands.”

“Superstition” is one of Wonder’s many iconic songs and became his first No. 1 hit in a decade. It topped the Billboard Hot 100, his first No. 1 single since “Fingertips – Part 2” in 1963. It also won Best Rhythm & Blues Song and Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male at the 1974 Grammy Awards. Though Wonder made “Superstition” a mega-hit, Beck did get to lend his voice to it with a cover he recorded with his band, Beck, Bogert & Appice, on their self-titled 1973 album.

The two music icons got to perform it together live at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th-anniversary show.

Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

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