This has to be one of my favorite songs by Stevie Wonder. It reminds me of a boyfriend I had back in my teenage years. It will always remind me of him, and a mini road trip he and I took with his big brother and his brother’s girlfriend. This song was his brother’s favorite and he played it until we reached our destination, and back. It was awesome!
“I Was Made to Love Her,” was released in 1967 on the album of the same name. The song peaked at #2 in the US and #5 in the UK.
Written by Wonder, who was 16 at the time, together with his mother Lula Mae Hardaway, Motown songwriter Sylvia Moy, and the song’s producer Henry Cosby. Wonder’s mother co-wrote many of Wonder’s songs during her son’s teenage years. She was nominated for the 1970 Grammy Award for Best R&B Song for co-penning “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.”
Wonder recalled to the Rock Around the World newspaper that this song, “kind of speaks of my first love to a girl named Angie, who was a very beautiful woman.” He added: “Actually, she was my third girlfriend but my first love. I used to call Angie up and, like, we would talk and say, ‘I love you, I love you,’ and we would talk, and we would both go to sleep on the phone. And this was like from Detroit to California, right? You know, mother said, ‘Boy, what you are doing – get off the phone!’ Boy, I tell you, it was ridiculous.”
Sylvia Moy, who is in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, also worked on Wonder’s songs “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” and “My Cherie Amour.” She says that her inspiration for “I Was Made to Love Her” was stories she heard from her parents – her mother is from Arkansas, which is why Stevie opens the song singing, “I was born in Little Rock.”
After his initial success as “Little” Stevie Wonder, he stopped playing harmonica on most of his songs to help shed the image. On this track, Wonder’s harmonica came back strong.
Who played bass on this track is a matter of dispute? Motown used top Los Angeles studio musicians like Carol Kaye for some of their recordings at this time, but records of these sessions are either nonexistent or inaccurate, as certain union rules were bypassed to make them happen. Kaye has a clear memory of playing on this track, and she told Songfacts about it. “The first four bars were written, so that thing was pretty straight,” said Kaye. “The first bar was written to give me an indication of what they wanted the rest of the tune. And then another part I can remember was written – that triad lick was written. And I screwed that one up. [laughing] I mean, you always remember when you make a mistake on the hits. I made plenty of mistakes, but the feel of the record was good, and that is the main thing. So, the rest, I was on my own. No problem, a lot of chromatics and just aiming for the triads and stuff.”
Refuting Carol’s claims is Allan Slutsky, author of Standing in The Shadows of Motown. His research shows that James Jamerson, who was the bass player of the Motown house band The Funk Brothers, played the bass on this track. All Motown associates he contacted, including the Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team, said it was Jamerson. Hank Crosby, who co-wrote and did production on this song, signed an affidavit saying that the bass line was performed by Jamerson.
Among the artists to cover this song have been The Beach Boys on their 1967 album Wild Honey, Jimi Hendrix (with Wonder on drums) on the BBC Sessions album, and Boyz II Men on their 2007 covers album, Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA. Also, Whitney Houston made a recording with minor changes, titled “I Was Made to Love Him” on her 1998 album My Love Is Your Love.
This spent four non-consecutive weeks at #1 on the American Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles chart.
The stunning vocal on this song took some work. Producer Henry Cosby coaxed it out of Wonder by taking him to a Baptist church in Detroit and having Stevie imitate the preacher. The next step was finding Wonder his congregation. “Stevie wanted people in the studio. He had to feel the presence of people,” said Cosby. “If there were none around, his vocal was just dead. I had to go outside and just stop people who were passing to bring them in, so Stevie could feel their presence. Once we got that, he could fire into that feeling.”
Song Lyrics –
I was born in Lil’ Rock
Had a childhood sweetheart
We were always hand in hand
I wore hightop shoes and shirttails
Suzy was in pigtails
I know I loved her even then
You know my papa disapproved it
My mama boohooed it
But I told them time and time again
“Don’t you know I was made to love her
Built a world all around her”
Yeah! Hey, hey, hey
She’s been my inspiration
For the love, I gave her through the years
Like a sweet magnolia tree
My love blossomed tenderly
My life grew sweeter through the years
I know that my baby loves me
My baby needs me
That’s why we made it through the years
I was made to love her
Worship and adore her
Hey, hey, hey
All through thick and thin
Our love just won’t end
‘Cause I love my baby, love my baby. Ah!
My baby loves me
My baby needs me
And I know I ain’t going nowhere
I was knee-high to a chicken
And that love bug bit me
I had the fever with each passing year
Oh, even if the mountain tumbles
If this whole world crumbles
By her side, I’ll still be standing there
‘Cause I was made to love her
I was made to live for her, yeah hey hey hey
Ah, I was made to love her
Built my world all around her
Hey, hey, hey
Oo baby, I was made to please her
You know Stevie ain’t gonna leave her, no
Hey, hey, hey
Photo credit: Yahoo.com/images