Songs For Sound Minds #14 – Stevie Wonder

Songs for Sound Minds are our picks of the best music that uplifts, inspires and boosts mental health. Songs written as an anthem to overcoming the storms of life. The songs that give hope in those times when we are struggling. A little known story about a classroom and a mouse is the origin for our latest featured track: Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’.

‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’ by Stevie Wonder

The story goes something like this. A teacher in Detroit was looking for help to find the class mouse that had escaped from its cage.  She enlisted the help of one of her pupils, Steven Morris. Morris had remarkable hearing. The teacher knew it would enable him to hear the mouse and catch it before any of the other children could. Young Steven credited this as a turning point in his life; when he received the appreciation and encouragement of his teacher for an innate talent rather than criticism for something that he lacked.  You may of course know him better as Stevie Wonder.

We want to be thriving, not just surviving

During Mental Health Week we are highlighting attitudes and behaviours that will help us thrive in spite of the pressures of modern life.  As part of the theme for this year – surviving or thriving – we think Stevie Wonder is the ultimate Songs For Sound Minds writer.

Blind at birth Wonder has never let his disability affect his positive attitude to life.  Instead he has relied on his incredible hearing and musicianship to become one of the most successful performers and musicians of the 20th century.  Wonder has had 30 top ten hits in the USA, received 25 Grammy awards and has sold over 100 million records worldwide.  His success is not only based on his popularity.  Much of his considerable body of work has been critically acclaimed too.  Four of his 1970s albums are in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Records of All Time.

The life affirming songs of Stevie Wonder

When you listen to Wonder’s tracks it is hard not to be struck by their life-affirming qualities and infectiously upbeat attitude.  We have mentioned ‘Isn’t She Lovely?’ in one of our previous Songs For Sound Minds posts, a song that recounts the unalloyed joy at the birth of his daughter.  ‘Happy Birthday’ was written as a celebration of the life of Martin Luther King Jr who did so much to champion the rights of black people. His sense of humour and ability to laugh at himself was highlighted recently in James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke where he attempted to drive the car despite his visual impairment.

‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’ is one of Wonder’s most well known tracks and undoubtedly cultivates a sound mind. This is an example of good mental health and positive relationships in action. A huge hit in the 1980s it featured in the 1984 film, ‘Lady in Red’ (which Wonder wrote the soundtrack for) as well as the Carpool Karaoke feature with James Corden.  As the song’s lyrics state, the reason for the phone call is not to celebrate any particular occasion.  It is not Christmas or New Year. It is not even Halloween.  The reason he is calling on this ‘ordinary day’ is simply to tell the person this: ‘I love you, I care for you and I mean it.’

The message that comes across is that we all need to value our relationships. Unlike the often superficial tone and meaning of ‘I love you’ in many top 10 hits, ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’ emphasises that happiness can be gained (and given) as part of a loving relationship.

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