By its definition, the eighth wonder of the world is born of inspiration, leaving in its wake a ripple of awe running through the hearts of all who behold it. Wonders broaden the horizons of humanity, through their very existence – and Stevie ain’t no exception to this rule!
As if you can’t tell already, I had an amazing time at the Stevie Wonder concert in Abu Dhabi last week!
Whoever would have guessed that little Stevland Hardaway Judkins, of Nowheresville, Michigan, who was blind from birth and raised by a single mama, would master numerous instruments, completely change the face of pop music, and go down in history as a great philanthropist, all in one lifetime?
Stevie was the first African American recipient of a Grammy, winner of the most Grammys for a male artist date (25, to be exact!), writer of 30 top ten singles, and recipient of countless awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award, an Oscar, and inductions into the Apollo, Rock and Roll and Songwriters halls of fame. With a music CV like that, you know you’re in for a damn good concert!
We rolled up to the Yas Island Arena after much adieu about directions, where couples, families and groups of friends poured through the gates, smiles plastered ‘cross moon-lit faces. Walking toward the entrance, the buzz had a certain tangibility to it. An excitable breeze, a funky bassline laughter, twinkly star-studded outfits, and a love-infused warmth for one of pop music’s Big Daddies of innovation. We were walking toward something great, and we all knew it.
I’ve had Superstition on infinity loop in my head for the last week or so – consciously building anticipation for this concert while trying to fast-forward time on the 3 hour commute to and from work. Even if it was originally written for guitar virtuoso Jeff Beck – also blind, incidentally – the song was Stevie’s second number one hit in the States. Coupled with a supporting tour with The Rolling Stones, Superstition put Stevie on the radar of mainstream America –he’d stay there for decades to come.
Waiting outside for the ticket pick-up, a television crew interviewed me about the concert, Where are you from and what do you think about events in Abu Dhabi? As far as I can gather, the Arena’s got it goin’ on – can’t wait to see what the night holds in store!
As I was soon to find out, the night came fully stocked with tasty concert grub, fresh open spaces, well-lit signage (comes in handy when you’ve gotta pee and you’re trying to get back in time for your favorite track – which, inevitably, gets played while you’re in line!), polite co-concerteers, a haunting full moon, and no lines at the beer counter – hoo rah!
Though the not-so-little-anymore Wonder may’ve made us wait an hour before he graced us with his presence, it was nothing short of a gracing – and definitely worth the wait. Within ten minutes of being on stage, the man was belly-up on the floor, wilding out with a guitar-keyboard, spinning around like it was 1983 and he was Crazy Legs’ even crazier cousin, Crazy Chords. Singin’ it, playin’ it, and spinning in circles like a madman. Welcome to the Stevie show!
We lived for the city, boogied on like reggae women, professed our love over the phone, and took on our best French lover personas (my Cheri, indeed!) for over two and a half hours of Stevie, Stevie, and more Stevie.
Oh Stevie. Father to seven, an artist who redefined musical genres, and on top of that, a philanthropist extraordinaire. Early in 1983, Stevie led the campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday. As we all know in the States, yup, he was successful!
In 2009 Stevie Wonder was recognized for his ability to focus attention on and mobilize support for civil and human rights issues by being named a United Nations Messenger of Peace, a cherry atop his long history of giving.
Stevie was one of the prime players in the 1985 “We Are The World” fund-raiser – an unprecedented reaching out of the music industry to contribute to an international community in need. He’s well-known for his involvement to put an end to apartheid in South Africa and has provided toys for children and families in need with his annual House Full of Toys benefit concert for ten years. Stevie has been recognized with the “Distinguished Services Award” from the President’s Committee on Employment of Handicapped People, the “Carousel of Hope” Award from the Children’s Diabetes Foundation, and an Honorary “Global Founder’s” Award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
With all this in mind, it came as no surprise when Stevie dedicated the concert in Abu Dhabi to the people struggling for survival in Japan. His announcement was met with enthusiastic cheers from the crowd, and maybe even a smidge of a tear from yours truly.
It was the best combination you could ask for in a night out: good friends, amazing performances, an impromptu on-stage proposal, a brilliant venue, and all in the name of social service. Cheers, Stevie!
(watch this space for video . . . just trying to reconcile poor internet connection with large file size!)