After Paul McCartney and The Beatles went their separate ways, the musician worked hard to cultivate his own solo career. By 1982 he had released three solo albums, the last being Tug of War. But the lead single from his album, Ebony and Ivory, was a struggle to bring to life, and it’s all because he brought singer-songwriter legend Stevie Wonder into the project.
McCartney spoke candidly about working with Wonder in his book The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present. He said that he began writing the song “as a response to the problem of racial tension, which had been the cause of much friction in the UK at the time”. After writing the lyrics, he went to his studio in Scotland to record a demo.
Realizing that he needed help, however, he called on Wonder to lend his exceptional musical ear to the project. But before long, McCartney realized that he might have been a little out of character.
McCartney wrote, “It was fascinating because it’s a musical monster; it’s just music.”
McCartney said that Wonder was “supposed to show up” to record, but did not. “So there were a lot of phone calls,” he continued. “That’s the way it is with Stevie. ‘We’re here. When are you going to get out?’ It was always ‘this Friday.’ Then I would go over the weekend and call it Monday. [He’d say] ‘Oh, I’ll be there on Wednesday.’ Ah OK.’ So there was a lot of that.”
The former Beatles star added: “He’s his own man. He’ll show up when he’s ready.”
Wonder also didn’t show up when it came time to make the song’s music video.
McCartney recalled: “[The music video] I was booked with the crew, the studio, the techs, the cameramen and everyone, and Stevie was supposed to show up Monday morning or whatever, and he didn’t. Getting to him was a challenge because it would go like this: ‘Mr. Wonder is in the studio right now. I’m sorry, who is he?
“’It’s Paul McCartney. We know each other; we have worked together. ‘Oh well, he’s working and he can’t be bothered.
McCartney said that it “went on and on” until it finally came a week later. “So yeah, it was great working with him,” he added. “But there was always this thing about being late, not being there. Which I wasn’t used to, I must say.”
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