Saturday, November 17, 2007


"Stevie Wonder," I think, is the least imaginative title for a post I've come up with yet. But on the other hand, it's Stevie Wonder: you don't need to say much more. I just love the guy and his music.

Unfortunately, I missed out when tickets went on sale for the concert he is playing tonight at Madison Square Garden. And, of course, they sold out really quickly. So, I'm not going. Which is a big time bummer.

Still, in the weeks leading up to this show, I've been listening to a lot of his music, sort of as a prayer vigil in hopes that tickets would somehow materialize. That fact is, it's always good to listen to some Stevie. He truly is on of the greats. I don't know if it is cliche at this point to talk about how 1976's Songs In The Key Of Life is just one of the best records ever. But that's one that I always go back to. I have it on vinyl: it's a double LP, but it came with a bonus 45". That's unbelievable: a double album wasn't enough for him, and he didn't want to hold on to the other songs for his next album. He was 26 years old at the time. And it was like his 20th album.

I always love to sort of turn people on to non-"greatest hits" songs from iconic artists. In Stevie's case, there are a bunch of them - which is crazy, when you consider how many huge hit singles he's had. From his early days, I love "A Place In The Sun" and "Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday." From the '70s, there's like an embarassment of riches: "I Believe (When I Fall In Love With You It Will Be Forever)" is one of them. I love the richard nixon bitch-slap of "You Haven't Done Nothin'," which, today, sounds like it could've been written about w. Another song that not a lot of people cite is "As," from Songs In The Key Of Life. It's such a great love song, and it kind of works for any kind of love. I remember when we hired the band for our wedding, they asked if we wanted them to learn any songs for us, and I asked for "As." "No problem!" I was like, "Are you sure, it's a pretty long, pretty complex song..." They ended up playing the CD version. I actually told Stevie Wonder this story, and he laughed (more on that below). I'd read that he has said that "As" is his best lyric. Another one I love is Stevie's version of Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind." He first recorded it when he was 15, and years later he performed it at the Dylan tribute concert in 1992. The performance is just so moving, and in my mind he kind of owns the song. Oh yeah, one more: "Love's In Need Of Love Today," which opens Songs In The Key Of Life. He also performed it at the post-9/11 telethon America: A Tribute To Heroes.

So, my meeting with Stevie. I got to interview him at the Grammy Awards, I think it was 2005. I was packing up my VH1 crew to go to the edit when I heard he might talk to us. "Wait!" We set back up, and then Stevie Wonder appears in the door of our one-on-one room. I was told he would answer one question. Luckily, no one told Stevie that. It wasn't the longest interview, but I'll never forget it. A weird thing happened: at these events, when you do an interview, there's a ton of people in the room: everyone from VH1, and the artists publicist, maybe some label people, management, other people from their entourage. Stevie came by at the end of the night, everyone was beat, and no one was in the room except for me, him, and two members of my crew. We were chatting while the crew was setting up, I told him the "As" story, asked him about his next album (he said he was finishing it up, the album was A Time To Love) and he says "How old are you anyway?" He was surprised that I knew so much about him. I told him that I saw his last New York concert at Radio City Music Hall in 1994 or 1995, and that I'd never seen such a wide mix of young and old, black and white people at a concert, and he smiled.

Another thing about these interviews, is that you usually have people telling you that your time is up. But there was no one in there to do that. But after a few minutes, I thought I shouldn't take advantage of the situation, and said, "Stevie, I could talk to you all night, but I know you gotta go." Then I realized, he can't just get up. I walked over to him, and he held my arm in both hands as I led him out the door. I just couldn't believe it, and I have chills writing about it right now.

Well, I'm still bummed about missing the show tonight. But I feel blessed to have seen his Radio City concert, and to have had a conversation with the man, brief as it was.

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