Jeff Beck and Stevie Wonder
An Unintentional Cover: Jeff Beck’s Superstition

It’s still Stevie Wonder’s song, but Jeff Beck finally made it his for one night.

Stevie Wonder’s 1972 single, ”Superstition,” the lead single from his masterpiece Talking Book, is one of the greatest pop songs ever. It’s a standout among Wonder’s vast catalog of timeless hits and shows a genius fully emerging as an adult ready to conquer the world. And it wasn’t entirely his song at first.

The late great British blues guitarist Jeff Beck was a fan of Wonder’s and wanted to collaborate with him on something. Wonder liked the idea, as he typically didn’t feature much guitar and liked to use session players for his records. He agreed to give Beck a song in return for his session work, and Beck contributed lead guitar on “Lookin’ For Another Pure Love.” During the sessions, Beck and Wonder started noodling around and eventually came up with the song that would become “Superstition.” The plan was that Beck and one of his various groups would record the song and release it, followed a few months later by Wonder’s take on the same tune. Some delays on Beck’s end and Motown president Berry Gordy’s insistence that “Superstition” would be a massive hit for Wonder led to him releasing his version of the song first. Gordy was right; It was a huge hit. It’s one of Wonder’s best-known songs, a chart-topping hit worldwide, ubiquitous and unassailable. 

Beck eventually got around to releasing his version a few months later with his short-lived supergroup Beck, Bogert & Appice. This version is still pretty funky, but also bluesier and with a pretty gnarly guitar solo, but no one paid much attention because Wonder’s version is so damn good. Also, the rest of the record was pretty unremarkable, and the band petered out after a tour and a live album. “Superstition” was the first and only single from this record and sank without a trace. 

Plenty of musicians have written songs for others, but it’s rare to see a song given away and then taken back. Given the situation, though, it’s hard to blame Wonder. Beck might have been a little salty that the song that was given to him by Wonder was never truly his, but any bad blood that might have existed had dissipated by 2009 when Beck joined Wonder onstage at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th Anniversary Concert at Madison Square Garden to play “Superstition” together. Wonder’s studio cut is still the definitive one, but this performance blended Wonder’s keyboards and horns with Beck’s distinctively guttural solos and tone to create an alternate-world crossover version that combined both artists’ strengths. It’s still Stevie Wonder’s song, but Jeff Beck finally made it his for one night.

Photo Credits:
Jeff Beck: Mandy Hall, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Stevie Wonder: Kingkongphoto & from Laurel Maryland, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Adam is just a dude based in Brooklyn who enjoys thinking about music in all forms. He enjoys cooking, board games, baseball, and arranging songs for ukulele that shouldn't be played on ukulele in an extremely amateurish way. Adam is shown here at age 13 on his way to a bar mitzvah.

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