Stevie Wonder: “We Have To Find A Way To Uplift Everyone”
Every year around the holidays, our sister station in Los Angeles, K-EARTH, welcomes Stevie Wonder as a special in-studio guest to promote his annual House Full of Toys benefit concert on December 15th at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live. The House Full Of Toys benefit concert raises money, and collects toys, for children and families in need.
Listen to part one of the Stevie Wonder interview below to hear more about the HFOT concert, how he came up with the riff to “Superstition” and more!
With a huge catalog of hits spanning more than four decades, Stevie says he has a hard time keeping track of where his songs place on the Billboard charts. When asked if he knew what his biggest single according to the charts was, Stevie guessed correctly that it was his No.1 Oscar-winning song, “I Just Called To Say I Love You.” He explained that when he was approached by Dionne Warwick to write the song for the film The Woman In Red, Stevie had the melody of the song in mind, but hadn’t yet written the words. After working closely with Dionne, Stevie came up with the memorable chorus and lyrics that went on to win the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1984. Listen below to hear Stevie explain (and play along) the story behind writing his biggest chart hit, “I Just Called To Say I Love You.”
One of the most unforgettable duets in music history was the No.1 single “Ebony And Ivory” recorded by Stevie and Paul McCartney. The song not only brought two of the biggest music superstars together, but also promoted a message of peace and harmony. “It was fun doing it with him,” said Stevie about recording with Paul. “You talk about wonderful moments and wonderful things that have happen, that was one of those moments that is an unforgettable time – he and I doing this song together.” Listen below to hear the full story behind the song and what Stevie thinks about Eddie Murphy spoofing him and the famous duet on Saturday Night Live.
In the past couple of years, the music world has lost too many talented artists before their time. Having been close friends with Whitney Houston, Etta James and Dick Clark, Stevie honored each of these influential figures at their memorials in the past year. While paying tribute to Houston at her memorial earlier this year, Stevie was asked about what spirit moved him to say the phrase “America, wake up, God will come suddenly” that has since resonated with many viewers. Stevie explained that his comment was meant to direct positivity back into the world where there is so much attention focused on the negative. “We have this technology and all the various ways of communication now greater than ever before, but it gets down to how do we use these things? Do we use them to uplift people or do we use them to bring down people, depress people to create more negativity?” explained Stevie, adding that today’s media “sell their kindness” when covering issues and lives of celebrity figures in a negative light.
“We have to find a way to uplift everyone, and that’s why I took the political position that I did, because it’s about uplifting people,” said Stevie. “And if we don’t, the consequences really are going to be devastating. I believe that.”
When getting together with friends and family for the holidays, Stevie says he plays and listens to his favorite Christmas songs to get into the spirit of the season. His favorites includes Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” and the always classic “The Christmas Song” by Nat “King” Cole, which you can hear Stevie perform live in studio in the clip below.
During his visit, Stevie brought in a brand new instrument to play songs on called the Harpejji, which he played on the aforementioned “The Christmas Song.” This 16-string instrument released this year is similar to a slide guitar that plays like a keyboard, but don’t get it confused with a synthesizer.
“What I like about it is that it’s an American-made instrument, it’s a string instrument. It’s not a synthesizer – even though I love the synthesizer – but this is fun. Anyway, when the electricity goes out you can still play it,” joked Stevie.
For more information on the 17th Annual House Full of Toys concert, visit nokiatheatrelalive.com.