Make My Dream Come True

For once in my life, I’ve got nothing to say, no I am just teasing as I have not reached my limit yet.  ‘For Once in My Life’ is a swing song with lyrics written by Ron Miller and the music was composed by Orlando Murden for Motown Records.  This song was first recorded in 1966 and it is one of the most recorded songs in history, with more than 270 versions.  Ron Miller was born in Chicago, and he was a die-hard Cubs fan, he wrote his first sad song as a child about his beloved but hapless team.  Ron Miller’s success as a songwriter broke all the rules.  He was white and wrote songs in a show tunes style, yet entered the music industry as a staff songwriter for Motown Records in Detroit, and gave Stevie Wonder several of the songs that would establish him at the forefront of black American music.  Miller’s ability to write songs that relied on epic emotional delivery meant that when the right song and singer were paired, the appeal crossed generations and races.  One day in 1966, Miller was delivering pizzas to the hotel room of Mickey Stevenson who was a leading Motown songwriter and producer, and when Miller discovered this, he badgered him into listening to his songs.  Stevenson encouraged him to come to Detroit where he was signed as Motown’s only white songwriter.  Ron Miller wrote a few more Motown favorites, including ‘Heaven Help Us All’, ‘Yester-Me, Yester-You’, ‘Yesterday’ and ‘A Place In The Sun’ for Stevie Wonder, and ‘Touch Me In The Morning’ for Diana Ross.  There is hardly any information out there on Orlando Murden, but I did find out that he was a wonderful pianist, harpist, composer and a bandleader.  He studied harp in Paris for 12 years and he wrote many other wonderful tunes besides ‘For Once In My Life’ including an opera called ‘Trilby’.

Motown staff writer Ron Miller was a true professional who liked to test his songs extensively before having them recorded.  ‘For Once in My Life’ was originally recorded in 1966 by a Jazz/Soul singer named Jean DuShon, who was signed to Chess records.  Ronald Miller had DuShon record the song as a demo, but he liked her version so much that he thought she should sing it.  Record company politics ensued as Berry Gordy, the head of Motown, was not pleased with one of his songwriters’ compositions going to other labels.  He made sure to have his artists record the song, and the first to do so was Barbara McNair, who performed it later in 1966 on a TV special and released it on her album ‘Here I Am’ that year.  The next Motown act to record it was The Temptations, who released it in 1967 on their album ‘In a Mellow Mood’.  Motown CEO Berry Gordy discovered that Chess records label gave the sole songwriting credit to Murden, and since Miller who was contracted to Motown had co-written the song, Gordy reportedly asked Chess not to promote the DuShon single.  Berry Gordy stopped radio stations from playing her single, because he wasn’t going to let rival Chess (whose A&R man was his former songwriting partner, Billy Davis) get the better of him.

All versions of the song to this point were long, drawn-out ballads.  Stevie Wonder was the first recording artist to pick up the tempo to exemplify happiness.  Wonder’s version, which he recorded when he was just 17 sat in the Motown vaults for nearly a year before Gordy finally released it in 1968.  This became the hit record and definitive version of the song.  Stevie took a slow ballad, got The Funk Brothers and Henry Cosby in the studio, and whipped up something that reached number two in the Billboard Hot 100 just behind Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’.  The Funk Brothers were a brilliant but anonymous studio group of Detroit-based session musicians who performed the backing to most Motown recordings from 1959 until the company moved to Los Angeles in 1972.  They were woefully underappreciated as architects of the fabled ‘Motown sound’, as the individual musicians were rarely credited on the records that relied upon their performances, which downplayed their importance to the label.  Henry Cosby worked for Motown Records during the company’s early and formative years in Detroit.  Cosby worked with many of Motown’s artists, from the Supremes to the Temptations, and is best known for producing or co-producing many of Stevie Wonder’s early hits.  The song is about finding that special someone who gives you a feeling of boundless happiness.

Stevie Wonder was born on May 13, 1950 in Saginaw, Michigan, and he became a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist and made his recording debut at age 11.  Stevie became a 1960s force to be reckoned with and over the next decade, Wonder had an array of No. 1 songs on the pop and R&B charts.  He was born Stevland Hardaway Morris (née Judkins) née meaning literally born used to indicate the maiden or family name of a married woman.  He was born six weeks early with retinopathy of prematurity, an eye disorder which was exacerbated when he received too much oxygen in an incubator, so the blood vessels at the back of his eyes hadn’t yet reached the front, and their aborted growth caused the retinas to detach, leading to his blindness.  The family moved to Detroit when he was four.  He sang in the church choir where he showed an early gift for music and he started playing the piano at seven, and taught himself the harmonica, drums and bass before age 10.

At 11, he was introduced to Ronnie White of the Miracles who brought him to Berry Gordy, the Motown mogul, who signed him up instantly.  He was soon on tour singing a mix of his own material and songs from greats like Ray Charles.  Before Stevie was a ‘Wonder’ his surname proved a problem until Clarence Paul, a songwriter, suggested ‘Wonder’, reasoning that, “We can’t keep introducing him as ‘The Eighth Wonder of the World.’”  Those close to their relationship say that Paul and Wonder were like father and son and later when Wonder began having hits, he’d accompany him on tour.  At first he was called Little Stevie Wonder, but when he became 15 his voice was too deep for anyone to call him ‘Little’ any more.  He became a classic product of the Gordy factory and the label’s executives would chose what songs he’d sing.

Wonder released his album ‘For Once in My Life” in 1968 at just 18 years old, with the album’s track of the same name becoming its single.  ‘For Once in My Life’ not only marked a moment of vocal achievement and range for the then-young Wonder, but it also introduced a style of song that would become typical of Wonder, containing soulful and bittersweet sounds, that are full of feeling and strength.  Wonder’s hit rendition rose to the No. 2 position on both the pop and R&B charts in 1968.  By the early seventies, Wonder had proved himself to be a staple of Soul and R&B.

For once in my life I have someone who needs me
Someone I’ve needed so long
For once unafraid I can go where life leads me
Somehow I know I’ll be strong

For once I can touch, what my heart used to dream of
Long before I knew
Oh someone warm like you
Would make my dream come true, yeah yeah (For once in my life)

For once in my life I won’t let sorrow hurt me
Not like it’s hurt me before (Not like it’s hurt before)

For once I have someone I know won’t desert me
I’m not alone anymore (I’m not alone anymore)

For once I can say
This is mine you can’t take it
As long as I know I have love I can make it
For once in my life I have someone who needs me (Someone who needs me)

Hey hey hey, yeah (Someone who needs me)
Oh baby, Lord baby

For once in my life I won’t let sorrow hurt me
Not like it’s hurt me before (Not like it’s hurt before)

For once I have something I know won’t desert me
I’m not alone anymore (I’m not alone anymore)

For once I can say
This is mine you can’t take it
As long as I know I have love I can make it
For once in my life I have someone who needs me (Someone who needs me)
For once in my life (Someone who needs me)
Somebody that needs me (Someone who needs me) Oh baby, for once in my life

Written for Daily Addictions prompt – Exemplify and for FOWC with Fandango – Limit.

15 thoughts on “Make My Dream Come True

    1. Session musicians or record studio house bands are the unsung stars of the music industry. As temporary members of big name bands, they step in during recording or touring to fill in the gaps in an act’s lineup, and often learn their parts in only a matter of hours. While front men and bandleaders might get the bulk of the money and the fame, it’s the session musician who is often responsible for playing the bass line or guitar riff that helps makes a song a hit.

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