How could you listen to this song, knowing that Stevie Wonder played it all himself, and not recognise him as a musical genius?
In fairness, he wrote the song in conjunction with Gary Byrd. That shouldn’t detract from the magic he wrings from just him and his synthesiser…
It’s an intensely powerful ballad, documenting the darkest sides of America’s poorest neighbourhoods – and the way rich people sometimes shrug off the deprivation in their society. The lyrics really don’t hold back at all.
There’s no drum or bass. There’s only a densely layered orchestra of synth strings, played on Stevie’s keyboard. Stevie Wonder’s singing rings out clear over the top, relaying the tragic fate of his community.
“Village Ghetto Land” came out on the legendary Songs In The Key Of Life album in 1976, which is widely recognised as one of the greatest albums ever made.