“Part-Time Lover” by Stevie Wonder

In “Part-Time Lover”, Stevie takes on the role of an unfaithful romantic partner. And the titular character is a “lover”, though not his official one, whom he sees on a “part-time” basis. So we can safely say he is sneaking around with her. Thus if they happen to cross paths in the daytime, they’ll behave as though they don’t even know each other. But they have their own secret codes which they use to communicate and set up convenient times. And these convenient times are moments when the singer’s true partner is away, so they can hook up.

You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Stevie Wonder's Part-Time Lover at Lyrics.org.

The twist emerges in the last verse where Stevie comes to realize that he’s not the only one who’s been living this type of lifestyle. Or otherwise stated, he analyzes clues pointing to the idea that his official lady also has a “part-time lover”. 

So the song concludes along the lines of him learning a lesson, as in “two can play the game”. Or another way of looking at the conclusive sentiment is as it being akin to ‘what goes around comes around’. So basically Stevie is falling victim to the same questionable practice that he was engaged in.

Lyrics of “Part-Time Lover”

Facts about “Part-Time Lover”

“Part-Time Lover” was written and produced by Stevie Wonder. 

Motown Records released it on 24 August 1985 at the lead single from Stevie’s album “In Square Circle”.

When composing the tune he was inspired by a couple of 1966 tracks, “My World Is Empty Without You” and “You Can’t Hurry Love”, by The Supremes. He also stated that he went through a real-life experience similar to “Part-Time Lover”, with himself being the victim.

Stevie employed an all-star cast to sing backup vocals on this tune. This includes the one-and-only Michael Jackson (1958-2009), Stevie Wonder’s ex-wife, Syreeta (1946-2004) and one of the lead singers of Earth, Wind & Fire, Philip Bailey. And Luther Vandross (1951-2005) himself provided additional vocals, particularly in the song’s scatting sections.

And the investment paid off, as “Part-Time Lover” topped the Billboard Hot 100, RPM 100 Singles in Canada and music charts in 5 other nations.

And overall, it charted in almost 20 nations, including peaking at number 3 on the UK Singles Chart.

Also interesting to note is that in addition to the Hot 100, “Part-Time Lover” secured the top spot on three of Billboard’s other charts. And in doing so it became the first song ever to score a number one on four Billboard charts simultaneously.

Accordingly the track was nominated for a Grammy in 1986, specifically in the category of Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

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