LAURYN HILL / “Every Ghetto, Every City”

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3 Responses to “LAURYN HILL / “Every Ghetto, Every City””

Jarvis Says:
July 1st, 2008 at 6:09 pm

Mtume/Kalamu, I went to Detroit’s tricentennial celebration in 2001 because and only because Stevie was giving a free concert. Here’s what I wrote for The Times-Picayune…

DETROIT — The young woman to my left was white. She had straight, brown hair that hung down her back. She was dancing, clapping her hands and singing, “Looking back on when I was a little nappy-headed boy . . . ”

Behind her two middle-aged black men danced. I have no reason to believe they were gay, though they were holding hands. One held his hand high above the other’s head allowing his partner to pirouette. They did the bump. Once.


Three times.

Then like 4-year-olds in the throes of a sugar rush, they danced independently. Leaping, squatting, bending, shaking their booties, their dancing was all rhythm and no form, the kind of dancing you’d be doing too if you were camped out on the bank of the Detroit River on a pleasant July night at a free Stevie Wonder concert and Stevie Wonder was at that very moment performing his hit “I Wish.”


I have a colleague at the newspaper who grew up in Montz (small community in St. Charles Parish). She says she and her first-grade classmates made up a dance to “I Wish” and that 30+ years later they still do that same dance every time they hear the song. I haven’t been at a party where they’ve broken it out, but I imagine it’s similar in energy to the guys I saw dancing in Detroit.

Kalamu, what I’ve always liked most about that Donny performance is the anticipation of the crowd. It’s like a rollercoaster that has climbed to its peak. Donny gives the audience a few seconds to tingle, and then that woman yells out, “This is it!!!” And from that point, it’s on. All the way on.

Mtume, like you said, it’s obvious that Lauryn is alluding to Stevie, that there would be no “Every Ghetto, Every City” without “I Wish.” But she still manages to do it in a way that doesn’t sound derivative. Even so, whenever I hear it, I always have a need to hear “I Wish,” too. Thank y’all for pairing them.

Q Says:
July 3rd, 2008 at 10:29 am

Thanks Brothers for this set. In all this reminicing about the past, I have to mention another Stevie Wonder song from Songs in the Key of Life that creates a paradox to this set. That song is Pastime Paradise. The lyrics can be found at the following link:

Compared to I Wish on a lyrical scale, Pastime Paradise easily wins. The social commentary about living in the "past" (in this case the Jim Crow South) explicitly tells us that we all are at fault if we continue to romance the times of inequality and other ills. For those who never heard it, check out the lyrical snippet below:

They’ve been spending most their lives
Living in a pastime paradise
They’ve been spending most their lives
Living in a pastime paradise
They’ve been wasting most their time
Glorifying days long gone behind
They’ve been wasting most their days
In remembrance of ignorance oldest praise

Tell me who of them will come to be
How many of them are you and me

Now on a musical scale, I Wish is obviously a more bouncy and happier song. However, the complexities needed to create Past Time Paradise were recently explained on a PBS special. Not to quote an old adage, but "The only thing good about the Good Ol’ days is that they are gone." 🙂


          Mtume says           

I don’t think there’s a paradox there. I think Stevie was talking about different things. "I Wish" is about personal feelings. About wishing for the days of old in a very individual "I wish I was a kid again way." And kids, almost by definition, know nothing about politics or social ills. Kids are just out there doing there kid thing.

"Pastime Paradise" is different. It’s much more of a political record. As Stevie talks about it in "Pastime," the "days long gone behind" are a collective days long gone. It’s about our leaders, our beliefs, our rights and wrongs. That sort of thing. It’s definitely not about one person’s feelings about their own childhood.

One good point you make though, is about the range of Stevie’s music back then. He could make you laugh or cry. He could piss you off, confuse you or have you nodding in agreement. That string of classic albums during the early and mid seventies is simply unbelievable.

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