Stevie Wonder has provided lyrics, vocals, instruments, and more to many songs over the course of his 60-year career, making him not just one of the greatest composers of all time but also a one-man band, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, songwriter, and producer.
“The Tears of a Clown,” Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (1967)
When Stevie Wonder first played “The Tears of a Clown” for Smokey Robinson at a Motown Christmas party, Smokey Robinson believed it seemed like a carnival song. Eventually, the pair collaborated on the lyrics that Robinson would utilize. The track was first featured on Smokey Robinson & the Miracles’ 1967 album Make It Happen, which was then issued in 1970 as The Tears of a Clown.
“It’s a Shame,” The Spinners (1970)
Wonder, his then-wife Syreeta Wright, and Lee Garrett—who also co-wrote Wonder’s 1969 smash “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours”—wrote “It’s a Shame” for The Spinners. Contributing to The Spinners’ hits such as “Could It Be That I’m Falling in Love?” “It’s a Shame” debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles list, after “Working My Way Back to You.”
“Tell Me Something Good,” Rufus, Chaka Khan (1974)
Stevie admired Chaka Khan’s vocals and had always wanted to write a piece for her. When launched by Rufus, Khan’s early funk group, the track became the group’s breakthrough hit, peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 list. Later, Wonder worked with Khan once more, performing chromatic harmonica on her 1984 hit “I Feel For You,” which was penned by Prince and borrows Wonder’s 1963 classic “Fingertips.”+
“Perfect Angel,” Minnie Riperton (1974)
Minnie Riperton’s second album Perfect Angel, co-produced with her husband Richard Rudolph, is best remembered for her high-octave song “Lovin’ You.” Wonder also wrote the album’s title track for the R&B artist. Wonder, who went by the alias “El Toro Negro,” also provided harmonic, percussion, electric, and acoustic piano to Riperton’s record, which was issued just five years prior her tragic death from cancer in 1979.
“I Can’t Help It,” Michael Jackson (1979)
“I Can’t Help It,” which was featured on Michael Jackson’s fifth solo record Off the Wall, was initially written with The Supremes’ Susaye Greene and was a piece Wonder intended to record solo. Off The Wall was produced by Quincy Jones and included musical compositions for Jackson by Paul McCartney (“Girlfriend”), Rod Temperton—who also penned Jackson’s 1984 mega-hit “Thriller”), David Foster, and others.