No disrespect to Bob Dylan (or Smokey Robinson, who Dylan thinks is America’s greatest living poet), but no one writes songs better than Stevie Wonder, and that crown was sewn up back in 1976, when he was the biggest thing since sliced bread. In the thirty-plus years since “Songs in the Key of Life”, his run of classics has slowed, but it hasn’t stopped: “Lately”, “All I Do”, “That Girl”, “Overjoyed” and “These Three Words” are just a handful of the lyrical and vocal masterpieces that have come from a post-Seventies Stevie.

I won’t even get into the stuff he made before then. Let’s just say that “Talking Book”, “Innervisions” and “Songs in the Key of Life” are albums every human that’s into music should own (and “Fulfillingness’ First Finale, trippy as it is, isn’t a slouch, either). It’s an achievement to make one classic album; Stevie made a DECADE’s worth of them. No wonder the man has won more Grammy Awards than any other pop, rock or R&B performer in history.

One way you can judge a great song is by how many times it’s remade, and you could fill a box set with nothing but Stevie covers: everyone from Barbra Streisand to the Red Hot Chili Peppers to 2Pac to Wayne Brady has covered (or heavily sampled) Stevie. He has to be, apart from Dylan, the most covered songwriter of the rock era.

Those too young to remember Stevie in his Grammy-winning, slimmer phase and want to know who the dude with the sunglasses was that performed with the Jonas Brothers was definitely need to be schooled. His music, for the excellent lyricism, pioneering musicianship, stellar vocals (every R&B singer that doesn’t sound like Marvin or Michael sounds like Stevie) and positive message, is as relevant now as it was when it was first out.

I was fortunate enough to see Stevie live about 18 months ago, and with no light show and no choreography, blew the roof off of Madison Square Garden. I’ve been going to concerts fairly regularly for 15 years now, and I have never seen a better show.

In 1980, Stevie wrote and recorded a song called “Happy Birthday” in dedication to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Stevie was one of the most responsible forces for getting King’s birthday recognized as a national holiday). The song has also become a standard of sorts-go to a black birthday party and I guarantee someone’s gonna break into Stevie’s song either right before, during, or right after the candles are blown out!

Here are two of my favorite songs by him. One from his golden era (the lyrics to this song are among the best-and yet simplest-ever written), one from more recently.