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Technique

"'Superstition' didn't merely spread the gospel of funk, it remodeled it," wrote Stevie Wonder biographer Mark Ribowsky (Signed, Sealed, Delivered, 223). Although Stevie Wonder has made all kinds of music spanning jazz, R&B, soul, and blues, "Superstition" was a defining record that became a #1 pop hit just as funk was gaining momentum with mainstream audiences.

"Superstition" follows a relatively typical funk formula. It layers drums, bass, and electronic instruments in a single chord vamp through most of the song—a vamp that builds until it makes you want to get up and dance. A horn section comes in to build the excitement, and a brief bridge at the line "When you believe in things…." moves through a quick chord progression accented by the cheerful horns.

The main thing that makes this song unique is Wonder's surprising use of the clavinet (a type of electrophonic keyboard). To this day, "Superstition" pretty much defines the use of the clavinet in funk music. Wonder lovingly called the clavinet "a funky, dirty, stinky, nasty instrument" (Werner, Higher Ground). After coming in with that unforgettable opening riff, he plays not just one, but several intertwining clavinet parts. Analyzing the song using Protools, this guy counts six clavinet parts in the opening sequence, and a total of eight clavinet parts at the song's climax. The clavinets in the final mix are made even more complex by echos and delays in some of the parts. Wonder is not solely, or even primarily, a funk musician, but the thick, thrilling use of electronics in "Superstition" makes it a classic and inimitable funk track.

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