Jan. 10, 1974: Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City” is the No. 1 R&B song in the US

On this day in 1974, Stevie Wonder‘s “Living for the City” is Billboard’s #1 R&B single. It would also be #8 on the pop charts and ultimately ranked at #105 in Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Songs of all time.

A boy is born in hard time Mississippi
Surrounded by four walls that ain’t so pretty
His parents give him love and affection
To keep him strong movin’ in the right direction
Living just enough, just enough for the city

His father works some days for fourteen hours
And you can bet he barely makes a dollar
His mother goes to scrub the floors for many
And you’d best believe she hardly gets a penny
Living just enough, just enough for the city

His sister’s black but she is sure enough pretty
Her skirt is short but, Lord, her legs are sturdy
To walk to school she’s got to get up early
Her clothes are old but never are they dirty
Living just enough, just enough for the city

Her brother’s smart, he’s got more sense than many
His patience’s long but soon he won’t have any
To find a job is like a haystack needle
‘Cause where he lives they don’t use colored people
Living just enough, just enough for the city

Living just enough for the city
Living just enough for the city
Living just enough for the city

His hair is long, his feet are hard and gritty
He spends his life walkin’ the streets of New York city
He’s almost dead from breathin’ in air pollution
He tried to vote but to him there’s no solution
Living just enough, just enough for the city

I hope you hear inside my voice of sorrow
And that it motivates you to make a better tomorrow
This place is cruel, no where could be much colder
If we don’t change, the world will soon be over
Living just enough, stop giving just enough for the city

LYRICS © EMI MUSIC PUBLISHING

Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman, the author of On this Day: African-American Life in Detroit, is a native Detroiter and former news reporter. He served on the Detroit Charter Revision Commission. He lives in Detroit with his wife, Kim Trent, and their son, Jackson Coleman.

  • queenie1

    LOVE that song! Hey Hey you look slick man…. Skyscrapers and e’rything!