Released on August 3, 1973, the album many consider Stevie Wonder's crowning artistic achievement was very nearly his last. It was just three days after the record was released when Wonder was involved in a horrific car accident that left the artist in a coma for five days.
A 23-year-old Wonder was sitting in the passenger seat of a rented Mercury Cruiser driven by his cousin, John Wesley Harris. They were followed by two more cars with their traveling entourage en route to a radio show in Durham, NC, in the early afternoon. Wonder had fallen asleep while listening to the just-released Innervisions on reel-to-reel tape through headphones when the car collided with the back of a flatbed truck at approximately 1:40PM local time.
Wonder had been struck in the head during the collision, and was found bleeding and unresponsive. Rushed to a nearby hospital, he was in a coma for days, unrecognizable from the swelling around his head and face. His hospital stay extended into two weeks, including one week in intensive care.
“The only thing I know is that I was unconscious, and that for a few days, I was definitely in a much better spiritual place that made me aware of a lot of things that concern my life and my future, and what I have to do to reach another higher ground," Wonder said during his first public interview following the crash on August 18, 1973. With Motown execs around him, the singer praised the North Carolina Baptist Hospital: “I've gotten the feeling of being loved not just because of me being Stevie Wonder, but being loved as a person,” he said.
All of this was happening as Innervisions was flying out of record stores and up the charts. The album's first single, "Higher Ground," would go on to peak at #4 on the Hot 100 in October 1973. The record peaked at #1 on the Billboard Soul LPs chart, and #4 on the mainstream album chart, in September.
The second single, "Living for the City," is famous for being among the first soul songs to directly address systemic racism in America. The track peaked at #7 on the Hot 100 in January 1974.
The third single from Innervisions, "Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing," reached #16 on the Hot 100 in May 1974.
Fourth and final single, "He's Misstra Know-It-All," was a hit in England, peaking at #10 on the UK Singles chart in May 1974.
The music industry recognized Innervisions at the Grammys, where it walked away with awards for Album of the Year and Best Engineered Non Classical Recording. "Living for the City" took the honors for Best R&B Song.
BONUS BEAT: In 1991, Stevie Wonder did the soundtrack for Spike Lee's movie, Jungle Fever. There's a famous scene featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Halle Berry in the movie set in a crack den that utilizes "Living in the City" to great effect. Here's a video with Wonder and Lee promoting the movie on MTV.