Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” Lyrics Meaning
Reaching a “higher ground”, as determined within the context of this song, is tantamount to a more-fulfilling life which is achieved by forsaking “sin”. Indeed the way the lyrics read actually allude to the idea of reincarnation. That is the narrator (Stevie Wonder) had an experience that he equates with death. So he is relaying these current sentiments as someone who has been given a new lease on life.
And concerning the world around him, things are as they have always been. Or perhaps more to the point, he perceives life on the mortal plane as indeed being finite. Thus no matter what transpires, we all ultimately meet our end.
Grateful for a Second Chance
But that being established, he has come to regret how he conducted himself during his first life, so to speak. Thus he is expressing appreciation for being given a second chance. And he is resolute on taking the lessons he learned from his prior experiences and applying them now, with the ultimate goal being to reach a superior state of existence then how he had conducted himself prior. Indeed this time around he is not going to let up the pursuit for “higher ground”, even though he knows there will be stark opposition along the way.
Was “Higher Ground” inspired by Stevie Wonder’s Accident?
Now this song is part of Stevie’s classic “Innervisions” album. A mere three days after that project was released, Wonder was in a car crash which nearly took his life. So many people consider this song to be about said accident. And indeed with it being based on the aforementioned subject of having a second chance of life, the relationship between that incident and the track itself is indeed uncanny. However, it is important to point out, once again for the sake of accuracy, that Stevie had written, recorded and released this tune before the crash itself.
But with that being said he also described the process of writing and recording it as somewhat of a divine experience, like it was something that he “had to get… done”. So for those who believe in clairvoyance and things of such, this song can definitely be understood as foretelling, to some extent, that life-threatening experience.
All in All…
Generally speaking “Higher Ground” appears to be a tale of man who is genuinely penitent. Yes, he realizes in the grand scheme of things that nothing is likely to change. But as for him personally, he has been enlightened to come to the understanding that his greatest aspiration in life should be reaching a “higher ground”, i.e. a more-excellent moral plateau. And said ambition is apparently a mixture of both Christian and traditional Eastern spiritual ideologies.
Facts about “Higher Ground”
Like many of his other classics, “Higher Ground” was both written and produced by Stevie Wonder, in addition to him playing all of the instruments. In fact as the story goes he conceptualized, wrote and recorded the entire hit within the time span of three hours.
“Higher Ground” charted in seven countries, most notably topping Billboard’s Hot R&B Singles’ chart.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers went on to cover “Higher Ground” in 1989, and that rendition was also met with admirable success, indeed in a way becoming one of their signature songs.
Alicia Keys also teamed up with Stevie to drop a rendition of “Higher Ground” at the 2006 Grammy Awards.
Indeed “Higher Ground” itself has been placed on Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
Oddly enough given the subject matter of the tune, Stevie Wonder almost died a few months after recording this song via a car crash. And while he was in fact comatose, when this song was sung into his ear (a second time) by Ira Tucker Jr., his road manager, Stevie showed his first signs of recovery by moving his fingers.