“I Just Called to Say I Love You” by Stevie Wonder
As the title implies, the sentiment expressed in this song is meant to be terse and straightforward. And that is the singer giving a shoutout to the addressee simply for the purpose of letting this person know that he loves him or her. Thus many of the lyrics are dedicated to enlightening this individual to the idea that he is not ‘calling’ for any extra purpose, i.e. in acknowledgement of some type of special occurrence like a holiday. Rather the intended point is simply to relay that his love is true, with no strings attached.
An alternate way of looking at the scenario is that the singer is stating that he himself cannot enjoy life without the company of the addressee. Thus when he says for instance “no first of Spring, no song to sing”, such statements can be symbolic of the melancholy he would experience if he were devoid of this individual, i.e. not having the opportunity to send this person his love.
But either way a listener may interpret the supporting lyrics, the thesis sentiment itself is loud and clear. This song is symbolic of a true, simple and selfless love – so much so that it probably encapsulates this sentiment more so than any other track in American music history.
Facts about “I Just Called to Say I Love You”
This song is actually derived from the soundtrack for a movie starring Gene Wilder entitled “Woman in Red” (1984). However, Stevie Wonder was in charge of producing the entire album.
And this track, being released on 1 August 1984, served as the lead single from that effort. The album (and song) itself was published by Motown Records. And ultimately “I Just Called to Say I Love” proved to be even more popular than even the movie it was created for.
“I Just Called to Say I Love You” is considered to be the biggest hit and signature song of Stevie Wonder’s illustrious career. It scored straight number ones, including on the Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart, in the almost 20 countries in which it charted. Moreover the track has been certified triple-Platinum in Canada. And in topping the UK Singles Chart, it set a record for being Motown’s best seller across the pond.
Stevie famously performed (part of) “I Just Called to Say I Love You” on a 1986 episode of “The Cosby Show”.
A little-known fact is that Stevie Wonder was actually sued by one Lloyd Chiate over “I Just Called to Say I Love You”. Mr. Chiate claimed that he (and Lee Garrett, a former co-worker of Stevie’s) actually originated the tune back in 1976 and that basically Stevie jacked it. And whereas the jury did eventually side with Mr. Wonder, going through the entire process caused him considerable emotional turmoil.
“I Just Called to Say I Love You” was written in produced by Stevie Wonder, in addition to the multi-faceted musician also laying down all the instrumentals and vocals on the tune.
Awards & Accolades
“I Just Called to Say I Love You” was nominated for three 1985 Grammys in the following categories:
- “Best Male Pop Vocal Performance”
- “Best Pop Instrumental Performance”
- “Song of the Year”
But more telling is that fact that it did take home an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1984 and Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song – Motion Picture in 1985.
South Africa bans “I Just Called to Say I Love You”
Stevie famously gave a shoutout to Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), who was imprisoned at the time, when he accepted the Academy Award for this song. The negative affect of such was that it led to his music being banned in South Africa. But that incident is also recognized as an impetus which led to other prominent musicians acting out against the apartheid regime. For instance, Stevie performed this tune, to great applause, at the star-studded Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute in London in 1988.