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Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder song)

"Higher Ground"
Single by Stevie Wonder
from the album Innervisions
B-side "Too High"
Released July 1973
Format 7" 45 RPM
Genre Funk
Length 3:42 (Album version)
3:10 (Single version)
Label Tamla
Writer(s) Stevie Wonder
Producer(s) Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder singles chronology
"You Are the Sunshine of My Life"
"Higher Ground"
"Living for the City"

"Higher Ground" is a funk song written by Stevie Wonder which first appeared on his 1973 album Innervisions. The song reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the US Hot R&B Singles chart.[1] Wonder wrote and recorded the song in a three-hour burst of creativity in May 1973.[2] The album version of the song contains an extra verse and runs 30 seconds longer than the single version. The unique wah-clavinet sound in the song was achieved with a Mu-tron III envelope filter pedal. The bass line is provided by a Moog synthesizer. Via overdubs, Wonder played all instruments on the track, including drums.

The song was also released in the UK "Higher Ground" but achieved only modest success, reaching only #29 in the UK Singles Chart.


  • Subject 1
  • Critical reception 2
  • Chart performance 3
  • Ellen McIllwaine version 4
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers version 5
  • Track listing 6
    • Chart performance 6.1
  • References 7


The song lyrics address the issue of reincarnation. Wonder commented, when interviewed by The New York Times:

I would like to believe in reincarnation. I would like to believe that there is another life. I think that sometimes your consciousness can happen on this earth a second time around. For me, I wrote Higher Ground even before the accident. But something must have been telling me that something was going to happen to make me aware of a lot of things and to get myself together. This is like my second chance for life, to do something or to do more, and to value the fact that I am alive.[3]

Critical reception

In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the song #265 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, adding: "'Ground' was recorded just before Wonder was involved in a near-fatal accident in August '73 that left him in a coma. Early in Wonder's recovery, his road manager sang the song's melody into the singer's ear; Wonder responded by moving his fingers with the music."[4]

Chart performance

Chart (1973) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[5] 62
Canada (RPM 100 Singles)[6] 9
Canada (RPM Pop Music Playlist)[7] 73
France (IFOP)[8] 16
Italy (FIMI)[9] 22
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[10] 33
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[11] 28
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[12] 29
US Billboard Hot 100[13] 4
US Billboard Hot R&B Singles[13] 1

Ellen McIllwaine version

The song was covered by Ellen McIlwaine on her 1975 album 'The Real Ellen McIlwaine'. It featured her trademark slide guitar. It was later included on the compilation album The David Holmes Essential Mix 1997.

Red Hot Chili Peppers version

"Higher Ground"
Single by Red Hot Chili Peppers
from the album Mother's Milk
B-side "Millionaires Against Hunger"
Released April 8, 1989
Format CD, cassette, 7", 12"
Genre Funk metal[14]
Length 3:21
Label EMI America
Writer(s) Stevie Wonder
Producer(s) Michael Beinhorn
Red Hot Chili Peppers singles chronology
"Fight Like a Brave"
"Higher Ground"
"Knock Me Down"
Music video
"Higher Ground" on official website

The Red Hot Chili Peppers released a cover as the first single[15] from their fourth studio album Mother's Milk.

It was featured in numerous films, tv shows and video games including Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie,[16] Beavis and Butthead,[17] Center Stage,[18] The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,[19] Walking Tall,[20] The Longest Yard,[21] The Karate Kid,[22] The Change-Up,[23] Rocksmith[24] and Guitar Hero Live.[25]

A remixed version by the X-Ecutioners was featured in the video game SSX 3[26] while a cover version appeared in Guitar Hero.[27]

FX used the song to promote The Ultimate Fighter: Live and it also serves as the show's theme song.[28][29]

As part of the "Year of a Million Dreams" Celebration, Space Mountain at Disneyland in Anaheim, California used this song as its soundtrack for 16 weeks, from January 3, 2007 to April 26, 2007.[30]

British magazine Total Guitar named it the second greatest cover ever in 2000.[31]

Red Hot Chili Peppers performed the song with other musicians as part of the all-star jam during the band's induction into the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.[32]

Track listing

U.S. Cassette Single (1989)[33]
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Nobody Weird Like Me"
7" Single (1989)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Fight Like a Brave"
UK CD Single
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Higher Ground" (Munchkin Mix)
  3. "Millionaires Against Hunger"
  4. "Mommy Where's Daddy?"
12" Single/Germany CD Single (1989)
  1. "Politician (Mini Rap)"
  2. "Higher Ground" (Munchkin Mix)"
  3. "Higher Ground (Dub Mix)"
  4. "Mommy Where's Daddy?"
12" UK Promo (1989)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Higher Ground" (Munchkin Mix)"
  3. "Higher Ground (Bert Bevans Remix)"
12" U.S. Promo (1989)
  1. "Higher Ground (Edit)"
  2. "Higher Ground"
12" U.S. Promo (1989)
  1. "Higher Ground (12" Vocal)"
  2. "Higher Ground (Politician Mix)"
  3. "Higher Ground (Dub Mix)"
U.S. Test Pressing 12" Single (1989)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Higher Ground" (Munchkin Mix)
  3. "Millionaires Against Hunger"
  4. "Mommy Where's Daddy?"
Australian 7" Single (1989)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Punk Rock Classic"
UK 7" Single (1989)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Millionaires Against Hunger"
U.S. CD Promo Single (1989)
  1. "Higher Ground (CHR Edit)"
  2. "Higher Ground"
UK 12" 3D Punch Out Pepper Single (1990)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Higher Ground (Munchkin Mix)"
  3. "Politician (Mini Rap)"
  4. "Higher Ground (Bert Bevans Mix)"
UK 12" Gatefold sleeve pop up Single (1990)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Fight Like a Brave"
  3. "Out in L.A."
UK 12" Limited edition picture disc Single (1990)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Higher Ground (Daddy-O Mix)"
  3. "Fight Like a Brave"
UK CD Maxi-Single (1990)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Fight Like a Brave"
  3. "Behind the Sun"
  4. "Out in L.A."
Spain CD Promo Single (1992)
  1. "Higher Ground"
  2. "Higher Ground"
France CD Promo Single (1992)
  1. "Higher Ground (Daddy-O Mix)"
  2. "Millionaires Against Hunger"
  3. "Castles (Live)"
Europe CD Promo Single (1992)
  1. "Higher Ground (Ben's Mix)"
  2. "Higher Ground"

Chart performance

Chart (1989-1990) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[34] 45
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[35] 38
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[36] 15
UK (Official Charts Company)[37] 54
US Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks[13] 26
US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks[13] 11


  1. ^  
  2. ^ "Power in the Darkness". Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Big American Night - Holy Roller". / Retrieved January 7, 2015. 
  4. ^ "'"500 Greatest Songs of All Time - 265 - Stevie Wonder, 'Higher Ground.  
  5. ^ bulion. "Forum - ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts - CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989". ARIA. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 20, No. 11, October 27, 1973". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Adult Contemporary - Volume 20, No. 9, October 13, 1973". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "I singoli più venduti del 1973". HitParadeItalia (in Italian). Creative Commons. Retrieved July 30, 2013. 
    100. Higher ground - Stevie Wonder [#22]
  10. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Stevie Wonder - Higher Ground search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  11. ^ " – Stevie Wonder – Higher Ground" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  12. ^ "Archive Chart: 1973-10-27" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  13. ^ a b c d "Innervisions awards at Allmusic".  
  14. ^ Christopher Knowles (2010). Viva Editions, ed. The Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll.   "Milk gave the band much-needed hits with “Knock Me Down” and a cover of Stevie Wonder's “Higher Ground,” both of which worked the funk-metal vein."
  15. ^ "RHCP Timeline". Retrieved January 7, 2015. 
  16. ^ William Ruhlmann. "The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Original Soundtrack". Allmusic. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  17. ^ Octopus (October 2, 2008). "S1 - Ep4 - Beavis and Butthead - Balloon". Beavis and Butt-Head. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  18. ^ Caitlin Gallagher (2015). "Breaking Down 'Center Stage's "Higher Ground" Dance In Choreography — Because Even Though Cooper Nielson Was A Jerk, Dude Knew How To Move". Bustle. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  19. ^ "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Episode Nice Lady Music & List of Songs". Tunes.Zone. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  20. ^ "Walking Tall (2004) - Soundtracks". IMDb. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  21. ^ "The Longest Yard (2005) - Soundtracks - IMDb". IMDb. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  22. ^ "Music from The Karate Kid". Music From Film. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  23. ^ "The Change-Up (2011) - Soundtracks". IMDb. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  24. ^ Jeff Atwood (October 11, 2011). "Rocksmith Full Track List Revealed". Fake Plastic Rock. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  25. ^ Mark Labbe (May 20, 2015). "Activision Reveals 10 New Heavy Metal and Hard Rock Songs for Guitar Hero Live". PlayStation LifeStyle. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  26. ^ The Dinner King (July 4, 2010). "Red Hot Chilli Peppers - Higher Ground [X-Ecutioners Remix]". YouTube. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  27. ^ Chris Roper (October 26, 2005). "GUITAR HERO SONG LIST UNVEILED". IGN. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  28. ^ Dana White (March 23, 2012). "@flea333 Thanks to you guys for helping us with The Higher Ground for TUF on FX". Twitter. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  29. ^ Dana White (March 23, 2012). "I want to thank Anthony Kiedis and the rest of the RHCP's for TUF live open tonight on FX!!! Appreciate u bro". Twitter. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  30. ^ Matthew Walker (March 6, 2007). "Rockin' Space Mountain". Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  31. ^ "The Best Cover Versions Ever". Total Guitar (Future Publishing). August 2000. 
  32. ^ John Soeder (May 4, 2012). "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction special premieres Saturday night on HBO". Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  33. ^
  34. ^ " – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Higher Ground". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  35. ^ " – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Higher Ground" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  36. ^ " – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Higher Ground". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  37. ^ "Red Hot Chili Peppers".  
Preceded by
"Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye
Hot R&B Singles number one single
September 29, 1973
Succeeded by
"Keep On Truckin'" (Part 1) by Eddie Kendricks
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