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Living for the City

"Living for the City" is a 1973 single by Stevie Wonder from his Innervisions album. It reached number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 1 on the R&B chart.[1] Rolling Stone ranked the song number 105 on their list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[2]

"Living for the City"
Single by Stevie Wonder
from the album Innervisions
ReleasedNovember 1973 (1973-11)
Format7-inch 45 rpm
Songwriter(s)Stevie Wonder
Producer(s)Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder singles chronology
"Higher Ground"
"Living for the City"
"Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing"

Wonder played all the instruments on the song and was assisted by Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff for recording engineering and synthesizer programming.[3] It was one of the first soul music songs to deal explicitly with systemic racism and to use everyday sounds of the street like traffic, voices and sirens which were combined with the music recorded in the studio.[4][5][6]

The song has won two Grammy Awards: one at the 1974 Grammy Awards for Best Rhythm & Blues Song, and the second for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance at the 1975 Grammy Awards for Ray Charles' recording on his album Renaissance.[7]


Born into a poor family in Mississippi, a young black man experiences discrimination in looking for work and eventually seeks to escape to New York City (alluding to the Second Great Migration) in hopes of finding a new life. Through a series of background noises and spoken dialogue, the man reaches New York by bus, but is then promptly framed for a crime, arrested, convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison.



Chart performanceEdit


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 635.
  2. ^ "Stevie Wonder, 'Living for the City'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  3. ^ Hogan, Ed. "Stevie Wonder - Living For The City". All Music. Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  4. ^ Williams, Tenley (2002). Stevie Wonder. Philadelphia: Chelsea House publishers. ISBN 9781438122632.
  5. ^ Sullivan, Steve (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings, Volume 2. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810882959.
  6. ^ Owsinski, Bobby. Bobby Owsinski's Deconstructed Hits: Classic Rock, Vol. 1 - Uncover the Stories & Techniques Behind 20 Iconic Songs. ISBN 9780739093894.
  7. ^ "Grammys Awards winners". Recording Academy. Retrieved 18 September 2018.
  8. ^ "Stevie Wonder — Chart history". Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  9. ^ "Stevie Wonder — German charts". Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  10. ^ "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Retrieved 2016-10-08.
  11. ^ "Stevie Wonder — Official UK charts". Retrieved 7 March 2014.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Top Pop Singles" Billboard December 28, 1974: Talent in Action-8