On Jan. 27, 1973, the top single on the Billboard Hot 100 was “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder.
It was Wonder’s first #1 song since 1963’s “Fingertips (Pt. 2),” when the 12-year-old known as Little Stevie Wonder reigned the singles charts for three weeks.
By 1966, Steve Wonder was no longer little. His voice had matured and so had his songwriting. He crafted and recorded numerous songs that broke into the Top 40, some into the Top 10: 1966’s “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” to #3, 1967’s “I Was Made to Love Her” to #2, 1968’s “For Once in My Life” to #2, 1969’s “My Cherie Amour” to #4, 1970’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” to #3, and 1971’s “If You Really Love Me” to #8).
When he turned 21, Wonder had access to the trust fund the label had set up with his recording profits. He was stunned to learn that the (more than) $30 million he had earned for the label only translated to $1 million for him. In 1971, Wonder and his lawyer negotiated a deal with Motown to allow Stevie to have control of his productions, own his publishing company, and have the ability to hire his own people to staff his business and artistic needs.
With $250,000 of his own money, the 21-year-old produced and released Music of My Mind, his 14th studio album, in March of 1972. It was a turning point for Wonder. He was experimenting with the T.O.N.T.O. synthesizer and the Moog bass, recording all of the instruments himself. The album went to #23 on the US album charts (#6 on the R&B charts).
Eight months later, Wonder released an even more complex recording, Talking Book. On this LP, Wonder played ARP and Moog synthesizers, but he also hired other musicians for the recording sessions, including British guitarist Jeff Beck. While working on “Superstition,” Beck contributed the song’s drum beat. Wonder told Beck that he could record the song, too.
Wonder had every intention of not releasing “Superstition” as a single until Beck had recorded his version. Wonder’s choice for the first single was “Big Brother,” a song he was putting finishing touches on in October of ’72. But the label wanted something released in conjunction with the November release date of Talking Book. So “Superstition” was sent for pressing and released as the single in November. The record entered the Hot 100 at #82 and in 10 weeks moved its way to #1.