You’re not going to get many statements of purpose more fervent than Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground”. It’s a song of faith that stands tall even amongst Stevie’s many excellent declarations of faith. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not an especially religious person. Not an unbeliever, just a skeptic. However, if there’s one person that is capable of making me lean into the “I believe!” direction, it’s Stevie. If he’s not absolutely sincere in his faith, then he’s a better actor than his Saturday Night Live hosting gig back in ’83 (which might’ve been the first SNL I ever watched) would indicate.
Faith aside, “Higher Ground” is one of the funkiest songs of all time. Hard to believe that Stevie played every single instrument on this song by himself. And if you’re not a believer, “Higher Ground” is just as good a song when used as a motivational anthem. Keep on trying till you are your best self. I can dig that, for sure.
As if that wasn’t enough; legend has it that “Higher Ground” was the song that lifted Stevie out of a coma. Shortly after the song’s release on my favorite album of all time (that would be Innervisions, y’all), Stevie was involved in a crazy car wreck. He was in the passenger seat when his ride collided with a log truck. A log smashed through the window and into Stevie’s head. Things looked dicey, but then Stevie’s road manager sang “Higher Ground” in his ear and Stevie responded by moving his fingers in time with the song. Healer and healed. How about that?
Now, prepare to get your wig blown back by this live performance, featuring Stevie along with a supergroup that includes Ollie Brown (later of Raydio and Ollie & Jerry, most famous for “Breakin…There’s No Stoppin’ Us”) on drums, Michael “Maniac” Sembello on guitar, and Deniece “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” Williams on background vocals.