First Hit #1: May 15, 1982
It’s actually not hyperbole to say Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder are two of the most important musicians of the 20th century. As such, you would expect a collaboration between the two to be among the greatest songs ever written. You might thing that, but Ebony and Ivory is not exactly the pinnacle of either’s career.
It’s tough to criticize just because it is supposed to be a plea for tolerance and love between races. I can’t object to that, no matter what I think of the actual song. The problem is that the song is somewhat cheesy and on the nose, and when it comes to pleas for tolerance Stevie Wonder has already done a lot better on most of his ’70s work. Written largely by McCartney, it kind of seems like a poem written by a third grader, lots of sentiment but not much sophistication, with mom helping with the turn of phrase that the song rests on. If it was actually written by a third grader, that would be admirable, but it’s written by one of the greatest pop songsmiths and sung by two of them. You know they can write better lyrics, you know that they can put together an arrangement that is more sophisticated and doesn’t sound like someone’s dad found a synthesizer in a garage sale and was noodling around – Wonder was a master of synthesizers in the ’70s, in fact – and they could come together and make a song that’s much better. It’s well intentioned, but it just seems amateurish, a word I’d never expect to use to describe these two.