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Stevie Wonder — Living For The City
Album: Innervisions
Avg rating:
7.6

Your rating:
Total ratings: 1015









Released: 1973
Length: 7:24
Plays (last 30 days): 0
A boy is born in hard time Mississippi
Surrounded by four walls that ain't so pretty
His parents give him love and affection
To keep him strong, moving in the right direction
Living just enough, just enough for the city

His father works some days for fourteen hours
And you can bet he barely makes a dollar
His mother goes to scrub the floors for many
And you'd best believe she hardly gets a penny
Living just enough, just enough for the city

Da da da...

His sister's black but she is sho'nuff pretty
Her skirt is short but Lord her legs are sturdy
To walk to school she's got to get up early
Her clothes are old but never are they dirty
Living just enough, just enough for the city

Her brother's smart he's got more sense than many
His patience's long but soon he won't have any
To find a job is like a haystack needle
Cause where he lives they don't use colored people
Living just enough, just enough for the city

Da da da...

Living just enough, for the city, whoa
Living just enough, for the city, whoa

Da da da...

His hair is long, his feet are hard and gritty
He spends his life walking the streets of New York City
He's almost dead from breathing in air pollution
He tried to vote but to him there's no solution
Living just enough, just enough for the city
Yeah, yeah, yeah

I hope you hear inside my voice of sorrow
And that it motivates you to make a better tomorrow
This place is cruel no where could be much colder
If we don't change the world will soon be over
Living just enough, stop giving just enough for the city

Da da da...
Comments (167)add comment
Brilliantly gritty
 calypsus_1 wrote:
 
Good lordy, these two are going to sing together?  Has anyone heard the like!?
Duke Ellington followed by Stevie?!

Way to wash away the Monday blues with two of the most talented artists in existence. Thank you RP! 
His best album, and perhaps its best cut.

(Yeah, yeah, yeah; I also own and cherish Talking Book and Songs in the Key of Life, but they don't come close to Innervisions.)
and still resonates. timeless. 
 BlueHeronDruid wrote:
Bummer it's still entirely relevent today.
 

No kidding and I have The Who,e version only a couple of times
Bummer it's still entirely relevent today.
 MayBaby wrote:
I just now rated it an 8... then bumped it to a 9.
 

:) just put it on 7 after a few seconds to 8. Now i have 6min to think about a 9
I am too young to have heard this when it was new; but wow. Amazing.
Classic!
Holy cats I cannot believe I've never listened to this until today. Can only vaguely recollect hearing something like it long ago and far away, maybe. A 10... in the hopes we do change so the world doesn't soon end.
You now know where the word 'Wonderful" comes from  don't you.
I just now rated it an 8... then bumped it to a 9.
 Zep wrote:
 Sjaaks wrote:
First of all it's way too long.  

It is precisely as long as it needs to be, no longer and no shorter. 

 

And second of all...?

You and the rest of us should write a song so brilliantly right on.
 
 Sjaaks wrote:
First of all it's way too long.  

It is precisely as long as it needs to be, no longer and no shorter. 
Wow! Stevie Wonder! Just like I pictured him!

 spiritintosoul wrote:
how can this be anything less than an 8 or 9?{#Exclaim}
 
For me, it can!!

 spiritintosoul wrote:
how can this be anything less than an 8 or 9?{#Exclaim}
 

{#Yes}Yea, I'm with you.{#Yes}
Lubs!{#Meditate}
 unclehud wrote:

"The Most Dangerous City in America."
 

What, Detroit? ;-)

Glad to hear this get rotation again, been too long since I played my vinyl of this album... Time to bust out the new stylus and give it a spin this weekend I think.
who's not swaying like a muppet to this one?
Love this tune & glad the uncensored version gets airtime. {#Clap}
 spiritintosoul wrote:
how can this be anything less than an 8 or 9?{#Exclaim}
 
I second that...this was Stevie at his peak for sure.

Like so much music, I guess you had to be there, and out on the streets living it.  This was not music made for suburbia.
Overrated
 Sjaaks wrote:
Can't rate it any higher than a 2!

My god this song is so incredibly annoying!

First of all it's way too long.
Second, the ultimate crappy trumpet sample is truely the worst sound i've heard in a very, very long time...

{#Puke}
Note: Take the "is" word as my opinion, didn't know how to put it differently...

 
Sample? There wasn't anything like sampling at this point. Could be a good old analog synth, though.

Too long? Listen to how he condenses a man's trip from home->bus->NYC->arrest->sentencing->jail in the break of the song. What, 30 seconds?

This was Wonder at his peak. This plus songs like Reggae Woman (my fave) are a period of music that we might not see again for a very long time.

...cookie monster voice; love it!..
And after everything that has gone before, he closes the song with that remarkable chorus of angels singing those final notes that are left hanging in your memory . . . and the needle comes off the record.
how can this be anything less than an 8 or 9?{#Exclaim}
Can't rate it any higher than a 2!

My god this song is so incredibly annoying!

First of all it's way too long.
Second, the ultimate crappy trumpet sample is truely the worst sound i've heard in a very, very long time...

{#Puke}
Note: Take the "is" word as my opinion, didn't know how to put it differently...

It just goes on and on, doesn't it?  That synth makes me think of Flash Gordon.  Surreal song.
 jagdriver wrote:

A single line that was permanently etched in my neural network years ago. Every once in awhile out it comes as a total non-sequiter. Of course, few in my present company ever understand the oblique cultural reference. Maybe that's what makes it so much fun to uncork every so often. The last time was a couple of months ago as we were about to take on Satan's Cesspool (The American River) in inflatible watercraft.

Also, this track sounded GREAT when blasted from stageside speakers at outdoor EMU concerts back when (Dave Mason, Santana, Peter Frampton....).

 

My office in NJ has a good view of the skyline.  About once a month, I say something like "just like I pictured it" and only the old fogies get it.
 apd wrote:
What? I love that bit! Whenever I visit NY, I can't help thinking "Skyscrapers! And eveythang..."
It's Stevie's Cookie Monster voice at the end that I find silly.
 
{#Lol} Cookie Monster voice! Damn, you just ruined 36 years of Stevie for me, but at least I got a laugh out of it.


 DaveInVA wrote:

Yep and still....

 

actually, the references to New York City are now terribly dated, unless you refer to a city occupied by laid off investment bankers as "mean streets".
 Zep wrote:

and still.
 
Yep and still....

Trying way too hard.  (And w-a-a-a-y too long!)  1, for me.
Innervisions or Talking Book? Tough call. Godlike.
pretty hard hitting, back in its day.

a great track yet on this very, very fine album it's not even among the top 3.
 apd wrote:
What? I love that bit! Whenever I visit NY, I can't help thinking "Skyscrapers! And eveythang..."
 
"The Most Dangerous City in America."
 DaveInVA wrote:
This was one of my fav SW songs back in the day...
 
and still.


This was one of my fav SW songs back in the day...
9
Can't say anything bad about this song.

Great tune off one of the watershed albums in history. 
Godlike track, godlike album, inspired artist.
I'm thinking Prince could pull off a good interpretation of this track.................

Today, this song went from "Hmm... not my favorite, but I can handle a few minutes" to OMG MY EARS ARE STARTING TO BLEED!!! 

How much do I need to donate to get a track taken out of the rotation, or at least reduced in frequency of play by an order of magnitude? <grin>
 
-Timo
(Listening to Lush on SomaFM until I see the RP now playing ticker change to something else!) 

 philbertr wrote:


I think, actually, that it is "pitured".
 
A single line that was permanently etched in my neural network years ago. Every once in awhile out it comes as a total non-sequiter. Of course, few in my present company ever understand the oblique cultural reference. Maybe that's what makes it so much fun to uncork every so often. The last time was a couple of months ago as we were about to take on Satan's Cesspool (The American River) in inflatible watercraft.

Also, this track sounded GREAT when blasted from stageside speakers at outdoor EMU concerts back when (Dave Mason, Santana, Peter Frampton....).

 DoctorHooey wrote:
This song is so awesome but that bit in the middle is just plain silly.
  If anyone can pull it off, it's Stevie.
 splooge wrote:
His best album.
 
I love this album, but all of Stevie's 70's stuff is beyond belief. He's had more excellent songs than most artists can ever dream of. A true maestro! {#Yes}
A 10, as is the whole album.

 DoctorHooey wrote:
This song is so awesome but that bit in the middle is just plain silly.
 
What? I love that bit! Whenever I visit NY, I can't help thinking "Skyscrapers! And eveythang..."
It's Stevie's Cookie Monster voice at the end that I find silly.

effin brilliant...even today!
DoctorHooey wrote:
This song is so awesome but that bit in the middle is just plain silly.
Today it's called racial profiling.
His best album. :yes:
cc_rider wrote:
I saw Malford Milligan, then with Stick People, sing this at Fitzgerald's in Houston. With some of Stevie's best writing, and Malford's angelic voice, it was probably the best performance of this song EVER. Spare, simple, and stunning. Wish it'd been recorded. Outstanding.
Wow--wish I'd been there. Malford is amazing!
ManchesterUK wrote:
my most favorite Stevie track. :bananajam: :bananapiano: :bananasplit: :dancingbanana_2:
This is a good one - I think Sir Duke is may number one fave - I had the 45 when I was about 4 (I actually had a record collection then and knew every word to every song)
Funny, I like that part..It creates a visual that most songs can't do as well. skyscrapers and everythin..hey slik wanna make yoself 5 bucks ? He wa framed..Rickvee wrote:
Agreed. I wish that weren't in there.
philbertr wrote:
I think, actually, that it is "pitured".
Yup, you are right. Just heard it again, and wait for it, every time.
DoctorHooey wrote:
This song is so awesome but that bit in the middle is just plain silly.
It made sense 35 years ago.
DoctorHooey wrote:
This song is so awesome but that bit in the middle is just plain silly.
Agreed. I wish that weren't in there.
Sweet memories! My wife and I were given a cassette while in Venezuela back in the early seventies. Side A was Innervisions. Side B, you ask? Viva Terlingua by Jerry Jeff Walker! We wore that tape out quickly.
I saw Malford Milligan, then with Stick People, sing this at Fitzgerald's in Houston. With some of Stevie's best writing, and Malford's angelic voice, it was probably the best performance of this song EVER. Spare, simple, and stunning. Wish it'd been recorded. Outstanding.
This song is so awesome but that bit in the middle is just plain silly.
"Oh No! What I Do?"
ronniegirl wrote:
Me too! I thought it was "pictured it," that's what I say. My kids don't get it tho.
I think, actually, that it is "pitured".
Geecheeboy wrote:
Never fails: whenever we hit The City, we always say "New York! Just like I 'magined it! Skyscrapers and everything!"
Me too! I thought it was "pictured it," that's what I say. My kids don't get it tho.
Ian Gillan, from Deep Purple, does a cover of this on his Magic album from 1982. Just some geek trivia for you...
lmic wrote:
God I love this song, even though I weirdly associate it with Good Times :eh: Dynomite, Stevie
Good Times? No, no, that was Chic. Oh, THAT Good Times!
God I love this song, even though I weirdly associate it with Good Times :eh: Dynomite, Stevie
Jacksonstat wrote:
Ditto!
What? Not Ebony and Ivory? :roflol:
Stevie Wonder as the Balladeer of the Inner City. Only Stevie could do it so well.
Saw a TV documentary earlier, had footage from the sessions recording this with TONTO... Can't believe it hasn't been played since last April!
I give this entire album a 10… classic!
Agree This is soooo bad sub-arctic wrote:
When will it EVER stop?!
sub-arctic wrote:
When will it EVER stop?!
. Now !
Never fails: whenever we hit The City, we always say "New York! Just like I 'magined it! Skyscrapers and everything!"
When will it EVER stop?!
ManchesterUK wrote:
my most favorite Stevie track. :bananajam: :bananapiano: :bananasplit: :dancingbanana_2:
Ditto!
my most favorite Stevie track. :bananajam: :bananapiano: :bananasplit: :dancingbanana_2:
Aud wrote:
What has always ruined it for me is during "the spoken drama" a young black male voice is suppose to be the "judge" giving the sentence. It really sounds so phony and breaks whatever spell there was over me.
:ask: I always thought it sounded "New York Jewish"! :eh:
What I do? What I do? Hard to go wrong with lyrics like that. :wink: Actually, this is great. Fond memories of FM radio when this first came out.
Bodhisattva wrote:
I always felt that the "country boy goes to prison" spoken mini-drama was gratuitous and spoiled what otherwise is a brilliant song. The lyrics paint an artist's transcedent vision of innercity life, whereas the spoken story seems phoned-in and gimmicky. :rolleyes:
What has always ruined it for me is during "the spoken drama" a young black male voice is suppose to be the "judge" giving the sentence. It really sounds so phony and breaks whatever spell there was over me.
Pyro wrote:
The word is "MONEY". Even Stevie stooped to making a buck when his career was faltering. Too bad. He is a genius in my book.
Hopefully, you don't remember "Don't Drive Drunk." Did someone really think that a song like that would change people's behavior? :ask:
:clap: :arrowl: Only problem is you can't synchronise clap with the music.
bump /me dances to the music dmax wrote:
It always bugs me that he says "His sister's black, but she is sho nuff purty." It would have been just as easy to say "and she is..." but he makes it sound like the two (black, purty) are somehow incompatible. Man, I don't expect that of him at all. I wonder what's up with that... And isn't that brilliant how he comes in, after the protagonist is in jail, and sings in a different, gruffer, voice? What a guy, really.
Another classic from a classic. Stevie should be declared World Heritage by the UN. Crank it, then.
Never really cared for this too much in my youth. Now, hearing it over a good system, I must say I look forward to hearing it again!
Mari wrote:
... :clap: ...
You like the music here! Me too!
Bodhisattva wrote:
I always felt that the "country boy goes to prison" spoken mini-drama was gratuitous and spoiled what otherwise is a brilliant song. The lyrics paint an artist's transcedent vision of innercity life, whereas the spoken story seems phoned-in and gimmicky.
Yes, it's gimmicky, and probably the track's weakest part (if not that electric keyboard). But I still enjoy the "mini-drama" and don't think it sounds phoned-in at all. Pre-MTV audiences -- with more of an appreciation (or need) for radio drama, and the mental imagery that it requires -- might agree. At times, it's preferable over a plain-language storyline served up via video.
Bodhisattva wrote:
I always felt that the "country boy goes to prison" spoken mini-drama was gratuitous and spoiled what otherwise is a brilliant song. The lyrics paint an artist's transcedent vision of innercity life, whereas the spoken story seems phoned-in and gimmicky. :rolleyes:
At the time this was released, it was pretty effective drama. It made a lot of people realise that this sort of thing really happened, And it works on the 'What if that were me?' level. :think:
What a voice, what a guy! Brilliant.
I always felt that the "country boy goes to prison" spoken mini-drama was gratuitous and spoiled what otherwise is a brilliant song. The lyrics paint an artist's transcedent vision of innercity life, whereas the spoken story seems phoned-in and gimmicky. :rolleyes:
You know, I know Stevie's a genius and all. But this would be better in proportion to whatever measure it were shorter.
matt832 wrote:
Damn, what a bad set, and it just keeps getting more annoying. Led Zeppelin, Ben Harper, now this, I come here to hear stuff I can't hear on every radio station in the area not the same old crap.
I suggest you also want to try out the LRC link above. Though I rarely find myself at wits end with the standard feed, I find that Bill puts on a lot of stuff that I have never heard and sometimes I go for hours on the LRC feed alone. Good luck matt832.
ScottFromWyoming wrote:
:lol:
You would have had to been there; but being a physics genius, my guess is your life is the lab...
Yea, one of the most important thematic songs to come out of the 60's is certainly crap. And by a genius performer/songwriter no less! About as mainstream as The Archies, isn't it...
physicsgenius wrote:
Oh man, the voice at the end--awesome kitsch. Who is that, Grover?
:lol:
I always thought Stevie Wonder was over-rated (never got the whole "musical genius" bestowment...), but this song kicks ass...
matt832 wrote:
Damn, what a bad set, and it just keeps getting more annoying. Led Zeppelin, Ben Harper, now this, I come here to hear stuff I can't hear on every radio station in the area not the same old crap.
I keep reading these kinds of comments. I keep wondering how I, too, can tune in to radio stations that play so much "crap." I wonder whether I should be listening to these oft-referenced radio stations. I also wonder what RP would sound like if popular music were excluded. How about just getting rid of Stevie Wonder hits? Then I wonder whether such posters live in the wrong places or just listen to the wrong radio stations. Or do I? Just wondering.
Damn, what a bad set, and it just keeps getting more annoying. Led Zeppelin, Ben Harper, now this, I come here to hear stuff I can't hear on every radio station in the area not the same old crap.
Badassed.
Amazing song. Funny to hear him say (to sounds of him getting off the bus) "Wow! New York City! Just like I pictured it!" Maybe that was during the blackout of '77? OK, that was bad... ;-)
mojoman wrote:
Ironic listening to this in light of what's happenin in New Orleans as I write.
I was thinking the same thing....
Ironic listening to this in light of what's happenin in New Orleans as I write.
whats with all the hubpub at the end.. oh the city i get it. ha! clevererer. hotcha-cha-cha! :fight.gif:
Very, Very Excellent !!! Nothing more to say.
So very dated. Love it as a classic, as it cannot be loved on the merits. Oh man, the voice at the end--awesome kitsch. Who is that, Grover?
Beastie wrote:
Absolute classic. It's amazing how hearing it again can remind us of his genius. Specially around this time frame.
I'm too lazy to repeat in different words what I said about "Superstition" elsewhere on this site, so I'll just cut and paste: heyho wrote: "When Stevie is funky, he rates godlike. However, when he goes sappy..." "I must heartily concur. Stevie in the Sixties, and especially the early Seventies, couldn't be touched so far as bringing the funk to a wide audience. As James Brown's listenership shrank and young white people (to their great loss) turned away from Motown and Memphis to hearken to "progressive" rock crap from home and abroad, Stevie Wonder brought it all home unambiguously to everyone, it seems. "Superstition" is such an across-the-board stone cold classic. That funky clavinet hooked the urban black core constituency, whilst the rock leads flabbergasted the pasty white boys who thought they didn't like black music. He was SO much more a crossover genius then, even more than (the rather more calculating and calculated) Prince a decade later. In his prime--and THIS is his prime--Stevie couldn't be touched. Which of course makes it sad and puzzling to consider the question: what happened to him and his talent after the 1970s?? I understand his latest thing is supposed to be a bit of a return to form; still, too little, too late." Same thing with "Living for the City" (from my favorite Stevie album, too). I was then and am now so delighted with Stevie then, and was so sad when his later work failed to work up to any approach to this level of brilliance.
sici wrote:
Can't believe this is the same guy that put out "I just called to say I love you." :puke:
The 80's led to a very widespread lapse of judgment.
Ahh ... yes. I am self-actualized.
:music:
Frawg wrote:
Of course this is from when Stevie was at the top of his game.
This is from sometime in the mid-70's and when I bought this album at the time on vinyl I had no idea how great it was -- and still is. Almost all of the songs stand on their own as masterpieces, with this one probably the best. I used to think the dialog part towards the end was a bit cheesy but my public defender girlfriend says it happens. "Wow - New York! Just like a pictured it!"
Will we hear the cool spoken-word segment? "Skyscrapers ... an' everythin'!"
Always up for Stevie Wonder! :highfive.gif:
matan wrote:
they are not on the same record! as is from "songs in the key of life" living for the city is from "innervisions"
That just might explain it... :oops:
Oustanding. A masterpiece from a prodigy.
radiojunkie wrote:
Another incredible cut from this album that's played far too little is "As."
they are not on the same record! as is from "songs in the key of life" living for the city is from "innervisions"
Absolute classic. It's amazing how hearing it again can remind us of his genius. Specially around this time frame.
MisterVErb wrote:
how do i express how much I'm loving this playlist without being profane? :twisted:
Give it a try!!! 8)