Last November, I had the honor of seeing Stevie Wonder perform, in its entirety and in order, “Songs in the Key of Life” with a gaggle of friends. It was indeed an honor. While we are still debating how many people were actually on the stage, the number varied between 9-17 people, we all agreed that we had witnessed something magical. I thought about that show for the next two weeks and my mind kept uncovering new nuances and emotions I went through that evening. This is a long way to say when Susan and I heard that Stevie Wonder was doing a pop-up concert in Philly recently, we simply asked, “where and when?”
We were hanging out at City Hall for about 45 minutes before the show started and it was a relaxed atmosphere, with folks lounging around and enjoying a perfect hot summer day. As it got closer, it got very, very crowded and by the time Stevie came on stage, there were a couple thousand people around City Hall.
In my opinion, Stevie Wonder is one of the few artists who completely transcends race. This will sound corny, but it could because he is blind and literally cannot see color. Or it could just be his personality. “Songs in the Keys of Life” is a transformative album, way ahead of its time. The things he did on that album, recorded a longer than accepted song including sounds of his baby daughter gurgling, spoken word about race relations and angry political songs explained through words of love was way ahead of its time. There are so many styles on music on that album that were not popularized until years later. The whole idea for the pop-up concert was to publicize his last tour dates playing the album from start to finish and he played songs off of it.
As soon as he started playing, the thousands jammed on city hall plaza were just jamming. While it was an incredible show at the Wells Fargo center, there was something even better being with a crowd that was seeing him for free. There was the diversity of race, age, gender, income that was an exact metaphor for what his music is trying to accomplish. As I jammed with my fellow Philadelphians to Sir Duke with a huge smile on my face and the sweltering heat on my back, I truly embraced his message of “It’s all about love… and we truly are in need of getting things right. There are so many things that we read about the people talk about that need to be fixed, not just in this country, but on this planet. Negativity breeds negativity. We can’t go out like that.”
Thank you, Stevie, thank you.
33 shows to go, 288 days left…