Earworm Weekly: Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s In Need Of Love Today”

I got married a little over a week ago. It wasn’t exactly a traditional ceremony, but it did feature a processional and a recessional. My partner was the one who chose “Love’s In Need of Love Today” as our march-into-the-room music. It’s the opener to Stevie Wonder’s signature 1976 double album Songs in the Key of Life, and it paired well with Wonder’s “As,” my selection for the recessional and the penultimate song from the same album. Both are mondo earworm material, but if you’re the betting type, put your money on the processional every time.
Forget the recessional, the first dance, all of that. It’s all about the march. Step and pause. Step and pause. And, tempo-wise, “Love’s In Need of Love Today” makes an excellent processional because its rhythm allows a stately walk down the aisle. The thing is, you’ll be rehearsing this bit over and over and over, which is why your processional in particular is going to be stuck in your head for days if not weeks before and after the happy day.

Here’s where we get to the tricky part. Because when it comes to the subject matter, “Love’s In Need of Love Today” is not the most obvious choice for a wedding march. Processionals as a group tend toward the dramatic, announcing the arrival of the wedding party with all the pomp they can muster. Layer on the strings, the horns, the organ pipes. Some ceremonies do choose to aim for a more gentle, airy vibe with classical guitars and such (and save the fanfare for the exit). But either way, they generally avoid the somber.

In contrast, “Love’s In Need of Love Today” is almost melancholy. There isn’t an ounce of celebration in it. But the underlying conceit is more than relevant. Stevie Wonder told The Wall Street Journal that the song expresses the idea that “for love to be effective, it has to be fed. Love by itself is hollow.” In the same interview, he discussed how he envisioned the song as a sermon, backed with gospel vocals.

It sets a different, serious tone. Pay attention, the song says. Without attentiveness, love will wither and die. This ritual we do is part of feeding love, not just between two people but in the world at large. Yes, that big-heart hippie sort of “love your neighbor” love. It might be sappy to say out loud that I truly believe we need all that kind of love we can get these days, but give me a break. I’m a newlywed. You know how we are.

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