Although Stevie Wonder wrote “Superstition,” I don’t know how many people are aware that he actually wrote it for Jeff Beck. How did such a thing come to be? Well, Beck was a Stevie fan and Stevie liked the idea of having guest guitarists.
So plans were made for Beck to be involved in 1972’s Talking Book with “Superstition” to be, one supposes, either a showcase for the guitarist or to feature him as a guest soloist. In fact, Jeff and Stevie worked up the first demo for the song!
And yet, ironically, not only does Beck not play on Stevie’s version there is no guitar on it at all. For whatever reason, Jeff only played on the album’s “Lookin’ for Another Pure Love.” Stevie says, “Do it Jeff!”
The deal was that Beck would release his version first. But his new band – Beck, Bogert and Appice – were delayed in releasing their album. And Berry Gordy, honcho of Tamla/Motown, knew a certain hit when he heard one. So Stevie released his version first in late ’72. The song was Stevie’s first US number one since “Fingertips:”
When I was writing my series on Jimi Hendrix and noting his impact on British blues guitarists, it occurred to me that one big difference between him and them – besides skin color – was that he played blues AND R&B in black bands. The white guitarists in Britain could only learn their blues from American records. Which is fine because they still sounded great.
But it occurred to me that none of them really knew how to play R&B or funk. Except Jeff Beck. Whether or not Beck is the best British guitarist of that generation is certainly debatable. But with his abilities in blues, jazz, rock and funk, I would argue he is one of the most versatile.
Here are Beck, Bogert (bass), and Appice (drums), live in Osaka, 1973. (Questionable video, good audio):
I have no idea why this song is so attractive to guitarists, given that Stevie Wonder did it first using a clavinet and synth. (He’s also playing drums). But it’s not too far a stretch to say Beck’s involvement couldn’t have hurt.
Here’s a version by one of my favorite guitarists of all time, Stevie Ray Vaughn. A commenter on YouTube said, “There are only two motherfuckers in this world that can do this song justice…. and they are both named Stevie.” This was filmed at something called American Caravan, which was (is?) a TV show from Beale Street in Memphis in 1986:
In November 2004, Rolling Stone ranked “Superstition” at No. 74 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.