♫ Pastime Paradise ♫

A dear friend, whose name I shall not say except to note that the first and last letters of his first name are the same, shot this song into my brain last night, whereby it lodged and refused to budge.  All day, I have been humming or whistling this song, and so … sigh … sorry folks, but from my brain to yours it goes …

Pastime Paradise was first released on Songs in the Key of Life, which has become Stevie Wonder’s most highly praised album. Michael Jackson considered it Wonder’s best, whilst Elton John told interviewers it was “the best album ever made,” a sentiment shared by many in the listening public.

When one thinks of Stevie Wonder, “joy” is the operative word, but in Pastime Paradise the synthesizer strings – one of the first novel attempts at using this sort of string-synthesis in a song – create an edgy atmosphere of anxiety, substantiated by the lyrics which are insistently negative in tone until the final stanza. A combination of issues, from race and religion to the economy are vaguely alluded to by using catchwords like “Race Relations” and “Exploitation” without any further explanation. Anyone that would have been hearing these words in 1976 at the tail-end of the Black Power movement (1965-1975) would know exactly what they were referring to. However, Wonder’s final statement defines the actual message of the song: “Let’s start living our lives, living for the future paradise,” as opposed to living in the unhappy past, or the illusory future in order to escape present social issues.

Pastime Paradise
Stevie Wonder

They’ve been spending most their lives
Living in a pastime paradise
They’ve been spending most their lives
Living in a pastime paradise
They’ve been wasting most their time
Glorifying days long gone behind
They’ve been wasting most their days
In remembrance of ignorance oldest praise

Tell me who of them will come to be
How many of them are you and me
Dissipation
Race relations
Consolation
Segregation
Dispensation
Isolation
Exploitation
Mutilation
Mutations
Miscreation
Confirmation, to the evils of the world

They’ve been spending most their lives
Living in a future paradise
They’ve been spending most their lives
Living in a future paradise
They’ve been looking in their minds
For the day that sorrows gone from time
They keep telling of the day
When the savior of love will come to stay

Tell me who of them will come to be
How many of them are you and me
Proclamation
Of race relations
Consolation
Integration
Verification
Of revelations
Acclamation
World salvation
Vibrations
Stimulation
Confirmation, to the peace of the world

They’ve been spending most their lives
Living in a pastime paradise
They’ve been spending most their lives
Living in a pastime paradise
They’ve been spending most their lives
Living in a future paradise
They’ve been spending most their lives
Living in a future paradise
We’ve been spending too much of our lives
Living in a pastime paradise

Let’s start living our lives
Living for the future paradise
Praise to our lives
Living for the future paradise
Shame to anyone’s lives
Living in the pastime paradise

Songwriters: Stevie Wonder
Pastime Paradise lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC