It was one nation under a groove at Barack Obama’s victory celebration Tuesday night in Chicago.
Classic soul, R&B, funk, disco and Motown provided the soundtrack for the president’s post-reelection bash, as throngs of Democratic Party faithful swayed to Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day,” Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up,” Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” McFadden & Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now,” KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Boogie Shoes” and Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff.”
And when the commander in chief mounted the stage with the First Family in tow, he did it to the ebullient, jangly opening chords of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours,” which topped the charts for six weeks in 1970.
The upbeat, gospel-tinged pop-R&B tune, about the blessings of receiving a second chance, was a fitting choice as a sonic backdrop for Obama’s reelection night frenzy. It’s a secular hymn about the redemptive joys of rising above one’s previous mistakes -- a suitable sentiment for a lover pleading for a fresh start, or a politician seeking a reboot from the U.S. electorate.
In it, the singer plays the part of a repentant lover expressing remorse for his past misdeeds, as well as his hopes of being admitted back into his beloved’s embrace.
It begins with a confession and a flicker of doubt, which Wonder delivers with his customary earnest clarity:
Like a fool I went and stayed too long/Now I’m wondering if your love’s still strong
After the chorus, he admits:
I’ve done a lot of foolish things that I really didn’t mean.
As the song builds emotionally and musically, contrition gives way to ecstatic relief, as the singer pledges his eternal devotion to his lover:
Here I am baby, signed, sealed, delivered -- I’m yours
As if overcome with joy, Wonder’s voice erupts in Little Richard-like yelps of pleasure, the backup singers join the amen chorus of approval, and the brilliantly tight drumming propels the track upward toward a higher plane. In the context of the African American church and gospel tradition, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” is about the soul’s aspirations toward spiritual enlightenment. It’s also one hell of a pop song.
The president has called the Wonder his “musical hero,” and Wonder performed the same tune at the Democratic National Convention. His 42-year-old song delivered again Tuesday night, as the president sealed his victory.
Follow me on Twitter: @RJohnsonLAT