ess than four months after Talking Book yielded a number one single, "Superstition," Stevie Wonder was back on top of the Billboard Hot 100 with another chart-topper, "You Are the Sunshine of My Life." Where the first single addressed the pettiness and destructiveness of superstitious beliefs, the second one concentrated on pure love and admiration.
Syreeta was a secretary at Motown when she first met Wonder. She was also an aspiring singer. Motown producer Clarence Paul suggested Stevie write a song for her, but finished the tune was never released. The collaboration did lead, however, to love and marriage. Syreeta was instrumental in speeding up Stevie's spiritual growth. Although he had always believed in a higher power, Syreeta, who teaches transcendental meditation, brought a centeredness to Stevie's life. Although the marriage only lasted 18 months, their friendship continues.
(Stevie later marred his secretary, Yolanda. Their firstborn, daughter Aisha Zakia [the names mean "strength" and "intelligence" in an African language], provided the inspiration for the song "Isn't She Lovely" on Songs in the Key of Life. They also have a son, Keita).
"You Are the Sunshine of My Life," featuring Stevie on most of the instruments, became an anthem to love and further broadened Stevie's appeal to the public. The song has not only been covered by artists like Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, Andy Williams, Johnny Mathis and Liza Minelli, but has become standard Muzak elevator fare.
The song begins in a unique fashion for a Stevie Wonder song; two other singers are heard on the introduction before Wonder's voice comes in. Jim Gilstrap ("Sing Your Daddy") is the male voice, followed by a female vocalist, Gloria Barley.
"You Are the Sunshine of My Life" made its debut on the Hot 100 at number 76 on March 17, 1973. Nine weeks later it became Stevie Wonder's third number one single. When it won a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance -- Male, Stevie accepted it by saying, "I would like to thank all of you for making this night the sunshine of my life."
A second award for the song was turned down. The National Association of Record Merchandisers named "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" Best Soul Song. At a UCLA symposium sponsored by Billboard, Stevie explained, "The song wasn't one that should be played for a special kind of people. All of us can feel love. When music is categorized, yet all of us can relate to it, I wouldn't be thankful for accepting it."
- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.
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