Songs You May Have Missed #188

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Stevie Wonder: “Saturn” (1976)

On the heels of top five smash albums like Talking Book, Innervisions and Fulfillingness’ First Finale (and their accompanying Grammy awards) Stevie Wonder was actually thinking of retiring from the music business in 1975. (I know!) Disenchanted with the U.S. government’s running of the country, he’d nearly decided to emigrate to Ghana to work with handicapped children, and had even planned a farewell concert.

Fortunately for us (if not the children of Ghana) he changed his mind, signed a new contract with Motown that gave him complete artistic control, and set to work on his masterwork, Songs in the Key of Life. Songs… was number 1 for fourteen weeks–a stupendous feat for a double album. Not only did it spawn the number 1 hits “I Wish” and Sir Duke” and the classic track “Isn’t She Lovely”, which became a radio staple despite never never having been released as a single; but the double album included a bonus  7-inch, 4-song EP inside its jacket, a fact lost on many who’ve bought the record for the first time in CD format or as a digital download.

And these “extra” songs weren’t throw aways either. One was “All Day Sucker”, which probably could have been a top twenty single. And another was “Saturn”, which can only be described as Sci-Fi soul. After four album sides of songs about inner city life’s loves, trials and tribulations, “Saturn” serves as denouement, closing argument and counterpoint all at once. It’s one of his best articulations of his frustrations with government wrapped in a fantasy about life in a more idyllic setting:

Packing my bags, going away/To a place where the air is clean/On Saturn There’s no sense to sit and watch people die

We don’t fight our wars the way you do/We put back all the things  we use/On Saturn There’s no sense to keep on doing such crimes
There’s no principles in what you say/No direction in the things you do/For your world is soon to come to a close

Through the ages all great men have taught/Truth and happiness just can’t be bought or sold/Tell me, why are you people so cold?
I’m going back to Saturn where the  rings all glow/Rainbow, moonbeams  and orange snow/On SaturnPeople live to be two hundred and five

Going back to Saturn where the people smile/Don’t need cars ’cause we’ve learned to fly/On Saturn Just to live to us is our natural  high
We have come here many times before/To find your strategy to peace is war/Killing helpless men, women and children That don’t even know what they’re dying for

We can’t trust you when you take a stand/With a gun and Bible in your hand/And the cold expression on your face Saying, “Give us what we want or we’ll destroy”
I’m going back to Saturn where the rings all glow/Rainbow moonbeams  and orange snow/On SaturnPeople  live to be two hundred and five

Going back to Saturn where the people smile/Don’t need cars ’cause we’ve learned to fly/On Saturn Just to live to us is our natural  high

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