“Ebony and Ivory” is one of Paul McCartney’s most famous tunes, but Stevie Wonder deserves recognition as well. Wonder and McCartney made a wonderful combo, but it almost didn’t happen because scheduling difficulties disturbed McCartney about Wonder’s arrival. Everything worked out in the end, but Wonder kept the former Beatles guessing. Paul McCartney named the song ‘Ebony and Ivory’ after piano keys. Paul McCartney’s solo career tended to deviate from social or political messages. He did, however, decide to write a song that advocated for social unity among different ethnicities. “Ebony and Ivory” was the lead single from Tug of War, his 1982 album. The title alluded to black and white piano keys, a not-so-subtle symbolic for black and white people. McCartney revealed in vintage footage uploaded on his YouTube page that he needed a “ebony” to his “ivory,” so he called Stevie Wonder, who was interested.
“I thought, ‘Well, I’ll be the ivory, so I’ll need an ebony,'” he explained. “So I figured Stevie Wonder would be the best choice if I could get him.” ‘Do you like the thought of doing this?’ I asked Stevie over the phone. And he replied, ‘Yeah.'” Paul McCartney had numerous scheduling conflicts with Stevie Wonder.
Paul McCartney spoke about his experiences working with Stevie Wonder in his book The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present. McCartney described himself as a “precise” artist who could detect even the smallest flaw in any tune. While McCartney had no trouble recording with Wonder, getting the “Superstition” singer to appear was a challenge. “So there was a lot of phoning,” McCartney explained. “That’s how it is with Stevie.” ‘We’ve arrived. ‘When are you going to come out?’ The date was always ‘this Friday.’ The weekend would pass, and I’d call him on Monday. ‘Oh, I’ll be there on Wednesday,’ he’d say. Okay, fine.’ So there was plenty of it. He’s his own person. He’ll arrive when he’s ready.” Wonder encountered similar schedule challenges while planning the “Ebony and Ivory” music video. “[The music video] was booked with the team and the studio and the technicians, cameramen, and everybody, and Stevie was supposed to show up on Monday morning or whatever it was, and he didn’t,” McCartney explained.
“Getting through to him was a challenge because it would go like this: ‘Mr Wonder’s in the studio at the moment. ‘Excuse me, who is this?’ ‘This is Paul McCartney. We’ve worked together and know each other.’ ‘Oh well, he’s working and can’t be bothered.'” This, according to the former Beatle, lasted until Wonder arrived a week later. “So, yes, it was great to work with him,” McCartney continued. “But there was always this being late, not being there thing.” Which, to be honest, I wasn’t used to.” What was the chart performance of ‘Ebony and Ivory’? “Ebony and Ivory” peaked at No. 1 in the United Kingdom and on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. McCartney has nine No. 1 singles in his solo career, with “Ebony and Ivory” remaining at the top for the longest period of any of his songs, at seven weeks. However, his duet with Michael Jackson, “Say Say Say,” held the top spot for the longest time, at 22 weeks.