I’ve always been a big Stevie Wonder fan as anyone within their right mind should be. I knew the hits as a child and as I entered college, I started discovering more of his music (i.e. “Sir Duke”, “Pasttime Paradise”, “Living For The City”, “As”, etc.). I took it upon myself to get all of Stevie’s studio albums once he was able to have total creative control of his material, beginning with 1972’s Music Of My Mind.
Not only does Stevie have one of the greatest discographies of any artist, he also has one of the most diverse. I took my time and digested each album and soon I was outside of his “classic period”, which came to a conclusion with 1976’s Songs In The Key Of Life. I had lowered expectations going into Hotter Than July despite the fact that “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” and “Lately” featured prominently.
If anything, Hotter Than July itself is Stevie’s victory lap for the music he made in the 70s and a defiant clap back at critics who didn’t like his soundtrack to The Secret Life Of Plants in 1979. But I disgress.
I discovered “Rocket Love” with this album. I played “Rocket Love” so much, that not only did I sample it for “This Ain’t About You”, I also would play it constantly without the assistance of the repeat button. Lo and behold, directly behind “Rocket Love” is the star of this show: “I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It”. You know why “I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It” is so dope?
Because it’s a country song.
You know who was singing background vocals on track 2 of Hotter Than July? Michael Jackson. Just found that out. But anyway, let me tell you that “I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It” may be one of the greatest country songs I’ve ever heard. Eric Clapton covered this song 21 years later because this song is so bad ass. There are people out there that consider Clapton a music gawd and he chose the little known second single off Hotter Than July to cover two decades later… and he released it as his first single off his album! I wish Garth Brooks would cover this.
This is a country song for all eras. It went #4 on the Hot Soul (now Hot R&B/Hip-Hop) singles chart as a country song. Granted, Hot Soul singles was where Stevie lived so of course he did well there but this was genre breaking.
You honestly can’t tell it’s Stevie until the hook comes in. While some may say Stevie is poking fun at country music, I see it as Stevie Wonder embracing it. You’re not going to want to tear up the dance floor; you’re gonna want to crack another beer. Although, this is one of the funkiest country songs I can recall too.
By the song’s bridge, Stevie drops all the pretense and let’s his trademark vocals free, which is the icing on the cake before a nasty bass guitar solo blows your mind before the song’s conclusion.
It’s easy to point to any of the other great songs in Stevie Wonder’s catalog as reasons he’s an all-time great. It’s more difficult to find places where he was predicted to fail, only to still come out on top. Keep killing em Stevland.