Canonbury Primary School Brass Ensemble: exploring the tune by Stevie Wonder
This is the tune on which we were working when the pandemic closed us down. We will be back! For now here is music and the backing so you can join in and relive our excellent rehearsals or do your own thing. It isn't really finished: we were going to have more parts (2nd cornet, 2nd horn), and sort out some tricky corners. But this is how far we had got with it.
Living for the City is a fantastic tune by Stevie Wonder, a musical genius who is one of the world's most famous and successful singer/songwriters. There is more information to follow about this song.
It's a really brilliant song but it is also quite disturbing, dealing with racism and an African American family's fight to survive in a hostile environment. The full-length (album) version is particularly upsetting and for that reason, amongst others, I more usually listen to the single edit. You might want adult advice on this song. I will write more about this.
This is just a computer playing from the score, but it is all there.
Are they wrong? Nope. They are right, but there are some quite extreme crunches – some notes which are really close to each other and/or unexpected – which add to the tension and make it more interesting to play.
Here is Stevie Wonder's original, incredibly powerful version. This is the single edition – the album version is much longer and has a lot more story: please see above for more. Maybe you remember singing along with Living For The City in rehearsals? Well, it is this version that we were singing with. It's on YouTube so it is an external link, where you need to be cautious. If in doubt please seek adult help. It is here: ❗Living For The City. There's no video as such – it is just a still of an album cover. But you will enjoy the listening anyway.
The song came out in 1973. Stevie Wonder has performed it many, many times since then, sometimes in different versions or with different guest artists.
Besides that, it has been covered by lots of other artists as well. These are all external links to YouTube, so common sense and/or adult help please. If in doubt please read up on ❗external links here.
To get us started, here is Stevie Wonder performing his song live on a German TV programme, Musikladen (Music Shop), in 1974. Here we go: ❗Living For The City live on Musikladen. Some things may have dated a bit since 1974 but the energy just zaps through.
Here also from 1974 is a very very committed and exciting cover version from Ike and Tina Turner. Good brass parts too! Here we are: ❗Living For The City – Ike and Tina Turner. It's the audio track plus some stills, not an actual video.
Well clearly 1974 was a good year for covering this 1973 song. Here you can listen to ❗Living For The City played by Maynard Ferguson, an amazing and very famous Canadian trumpet player who was noted for his high notes and general showmanship. I was a huge fan of his in the 1970s, had all his albums, and went to a couple of his concerts: so this cover version was very important to me before I got to grips with the original. What does it do to the song and its meaning that this is a purely instrumental track – does No Lyrics mean No Message? What do you think? Also, I am very sorry about the album art. I can only assume that in 1974 he looked pretty cool? Hmmm. I seem to recall that some time around then he was doing concerts dressed in some kind of orange jumpsuit, so maybe we got off lightly here. I would show you a nice picture of a bunny rabbit instead, though, if I could.
So, four performances are now here with maybe others on the way. Also coming soon is some help with the tricky counting before the DS – remember that? Want to hear a brass teacher shouting ONE TWO THREE a lot? This could be for you.