Lost Gem: Stevie Wonder is pensive in hidden song from "Jungle Fever"

Photo courtesy of Motown Records

Stevie Wonder has lived virtually his entire life onstage, with a career in a series of stages. And as prolific as he was during his Imperial Period in the 1970s, he created many, many more songs that never saw the light of day. Today's SoulTracks Lost Gem is one of them.

"Feeding Off The Love Of The Land" was written by Wonder during his Fulfillingness First Finale writing sessions, but was shelved, with a number of other songs, by the Motown brass. The song was a sonically beautiful lament about both the state of the world and about our stewardship of the planet.

Seems the wisdom of man hasn't got much wiser
Than the very beginning of our time
Agree or war has been our way of compromising
Let live and love has become our biggest lie.

Stevie Wonder has lived virtually his entire life onstage, with a career in a series of stages. And as prolific as he was during his Imperial Period in the 1970s, he created many, many more songs that never saw the light of day. Today's SoulTracks Lost Gem is one of them.

"Feeding Off The Love Of The Land" was written by Wonder during his Fulfillingness First Finale writing sessions, but was shelved, with a number of other songs, by the Motown brass. The song was a sonically beautiful lament about both the state of the world and about our stewardship of the planet.

Seems the wisdom of man hasn't got much wiser
Than the very beginning of our time
Agree or war has been our way of compromising
Let live and love has become our biggest lie.

The original, sparsely arranged version of the song remained in the vault for a decade and a half, before appearing on the charity album Nobody's Child: Romanian Angel Appeal, organized by Olivia Harrison (George’s wife) in 1990 to benefit Romanian orphans. But movie director Spike Lee was attracted to the song, but wanted it reworked, with Lee's father shepherding a string arrangement addition for a fuller sound, to accompany the closing moments of Lee’s movie Jungle Fever. And that was how many folks knew the song. Though it served as the B-Side to the maxi-single of the song "Gotta Have You," it wasn't included on the movie's soundtrack album.

Having an aural feel somewhere between “You And I” and “Village Ghetto Land,” the stunningly languid song was vintage Wonder but more melancholy than most of his material, with Stevie expressing a tired resignation for the situation of the world:

Yes we are feeding off the love of the land
Never hearing what He's saying
Living off the love of the Lord
Never feeling what you're praying
Never praising Him for beauty
Only praying God please give me
Stealing all the love and the beauty from the land

The cut has largely languished since then, appearing some occasional collections, but never included on a true Stevie Wonder studio disc. Consequently, it has remained a collector’s piece, revered but not largely available.

This is a Lost Gem that is worth finding. It again reminds us that even on his most buried songs, Stevie has been a one-of-a-kind Wonder. Check it out below.

 

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