The Songs of Summer #29: ‘Sir Duke’ by Stevie Wonder
I have another playlist rule I’d like to share with you: A little Motown never hurts any playlist. And when it comes to summer music, Motown is a must. Here’s the first of several classic Motown tracks I’ll be adding to the Songs of Summer List, ‘Sir Duke‘ by Stevie Wonder.
The string of albums Stevie Wonder put together in the 1970’s is an amazing achievement few artists ever reach. And this song, from the stone cold classic ‘Songs in the Key of Life‘ in 1976, is another one of those summer songs that could just as easily be labeled the sound of my childhood summer.
Growing up, I was lucky enough to live in a close-knit suburban neighborhood that had a community pool. We spent endless summer days (and quite a few nights) at the pool, hanging out and swimming with friends and family. And there was always music blasting from the loudspeakers. I think I can say with confidence that the songs that played during these perfect summer days at the pool got blasted right into my DNA…and ‘Sir Duke‘ is right near the top of the list.
The lifeguards at the pool were older teenagers and college students from the neighborhood, and one of their lifeguard duties was to be the pool DJ. That meant we got to hear the latest pop and rock hits from the local radio stations, back at a time when radio was worth listening to. These songs just plain sound like summer. Do you know what I mean? I’m sure you’ve got a handful of tunes rolling around in your noggin that you heard as a kid that instantly bring you back to that time when the days seemed endless, and the cares of the world were something only adults had to deal with.
There’s no need really to elaborate too much on ‘Sir Duke.’ You know it. Everybody knows it. It was a #1 single in 1977, written by Stevie Wonder in tribute to the great Duke Ellington, who passed away in 1974. The song also references some other musical giants from the big band and jazz eras, such as Glenn Miller, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Count Basie, all idols of Stevie’s.
I don’t know a lot of things, but I do know this: In the summertime, Stevie Wonder makes everything better. He had so many classic singles in the 60’s and 70’s, but I suggest digging deeper into the albums those hits came from. Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, Fullfillingness’ First Finale, Songs in the Key of Life…all stand testament to the musical genius of Saginaw Michigan’s favorite son Stevie Wonder.