500 Greatest Songs of All Time

Rolling Stone's definitive list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

Load Previous
Stevie Wonder, 'Living for the City'

105. Stevie Wonder, 'Living for the City'

Writer: Wonder
Producer: Wonder
Released: August '73, Tamla
17 weeks; No. 8

Wonder went epic with "Living for the City," a bleak seven-minute narrative about the broken dreams of black America that was so powerful, Richard Pryor later recorded the lyrics delivered as a church sermon. Wonder sings about a boy growing up in the mythical town of Hard Times, Mississippi, surrounded by poverty and racism. When he takes the bus to New York in search of a better life, he gets set up for a drug bust and goes to jail. Wonder filled the song with cinematic dialogue, even recruiting one of the janitors at the recording studio to play the white prison guard who mutters, "Get into that cell, nigger." Public Enemy sampled the line years later on It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.

Appears on: Innervisions (Motown) 


The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time: Stevie Wonder

The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time: Stevie Wonder

The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Innervisions

Back to Top