Forty-two years ago today, Stevie Wonder released his 18th album, Songs in the Key of Life, which debuted atop the Billboard 200 album charts. Wonder, who became the youngest artist to top the charts with Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius in 1963, became the first American to debut in the number one spot with Songs. Only one other artist had accomplished this feat, Elton John, which the Brit accomplished with two albums the year previous.
Songs in the Key of Life spent 13 straight weeks in the pole position, fending off mighty challengers like Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same, Rod Stewart’s A Night on the Town and Earth, Wind & Fire’s Spirit, among others. The Eagles’ Hotel California finally dethroned Wonder at the start of 1977, yet Songs in the Key of Life returned to the top spot for a single week in late January. In all, the album spent more than a year and a half on the album charts.
The lead single, “I Wish,” topped the Billboard Hot 100 charts, but the follow-up single “Sir Duke” (seen here in a 1985 live performance at the Apollo Theatre) enjoyed even more commercial success with multiple weeks atop the Hot 100. The latter song is a tribute to Duke Ellington.