Stevie Wonder – “Uptight (Everything Is Alright),” Pop #3, R&B #1
By Joel Francis
Nearly two years after success of “Fingertips,” Little Stevie finally found a follow-up hit – just in the nick of time. Motown had just about given up on him. Never mind that Wonder hadn’t been given much to work with: an album of Ray Charles covers, the “Fingertips” knock-off “Workout Stevie” and corny kids songs like “Happy Street” and “Hey Harmonica Man.” His dry spell was compounded by the fact that his voice was starting to change. Motown producers were wary of working with the onetime boy wonder, but Clarence Paul, who had acted as a mentor and father figure to the boy since his 1961 signing, liked his protégé’s newfound tenor.
The only thing uptight about this number is its title. The melody is fun, free and fresh. From the signature horn fanfare to the delight in Wonder’s voice, there are smiles all around. Every week Berry Gordy used to run each prospective single through a quality assurance committee who would vote on which numbers were released. The idea was a holdover from Gordy’s days on the assembly line. It’s hard to picture anyone not voting for this upbeat tune. I like to imagine that a spontaneous dance session broke out when it was played.
Once the song broke, everything was alright in Wonder’s world. Success may have been an early struggle, but it flowed effortlessly after this. With three exceptions, Wonder had at least one Top 10 hit per year from 1965 to 1985.