On this day in music history: August 10, 1963 – “Fingertips Pt. II” by Little Stevie Wonder hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 7 weeks on August 3, 1963. Written by Clarence Paul and Henry Cosby, it is the first chart topping single for the Motown icon from Saginaw, MI. Having struggled for his first year on Motown with his first three singles and first two albums failing to chart, Berry Gordy, Jr. comes up with another plan. Noticing audiences response to Wonder’s energetic live performances, Gordy decides to record him live during his first outing on the Motortown Revue Tour in 1962 at the famed Regal Theater in Chicago. Among the songs featured is “Fingertips”, written by Wonder’s producers Henry “Hank” Cosby and Clarence Paul. Recorded on June 1, 1962, it features the singer backed by members of The Funk Brothers, and a pre-fame Marvin Gaye playing drums. Over six and a half minutes long, the first half features Stevie playing the harmonica and bongos. During the second half, he begins a call and response with the audience, who respond enthusiastically. At the five and a half minute mark, the song appears to end with Wonder playing a short bit of “Mary Had A Little Lamb”, followed the MC telling him to take a bow. With The Marvelettes up next, bassist James Jamerson has steps off stage with Joe Swift taking his place. At this point, Wonder makes an unexpected encore, continuing to play the harmonica, with the other musicians slowly falling back in. Then Swift is heard frantically yelling out “what key??? what key???”. Then the band launches back into “Fingertips” for another minute as the crowd roars its approval, with Stevie responding with “goodbye, goodbye… goodbye, goodbye… goodbye, goodbye, goodbye… I’m gonna go back, I’m gonna go, yeah… But let’s just swing it one more time!!!”. The results are undeniably electric, moving Motown to release the song. “Fingertips” is divided into two parts, and is issued on May 21, 1963. DJ’s begin playing part two featuring the encore half, which listeners respond to immediately. Entering the Hot 100 at #85 on June 22, 1963, it rockets to the top of the chart seven weeks later. The huge success of “Fingertips Pt. II” also propels the album “Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius” (though is actually thirteen at the time of its release) to number one on the Top 200 and R&B album charts. Stevie Wonder becomes the youngest artist in history to score a chart topping single and album. It is also the first live recording to top the charts since Johnny Standley’s “It’s In The Book”, eleven years earlier. Years later, part of Wonder’s vocal from “Fingertips” is sampled on Chaka Khan’s version of the Prince penned “I Feel For You” (#1 R&B, #3 Pop), which also features Stevie on harmonica. “Fingertips Pt. II” is the first of twenty R&B and ten pop chart toppers Wonder has over the course of his five decade plus career.
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