It was one of the best nights all year on television. I could not have
had a more fantastic experience than listening to Stevie Wonder’s
Songs in the Key of Life,” performed by young and old artists alike.
The Grammy’s Tribute show last year was for the Beatles, this time
it was for an American who has given not only to our musical world,
but to our civil rights movement.
The song Beyonce, Ed Sheeran performed ‘right off the bat,’ an
upbeat medley of “Master Blaster (Jammin’), Fingertips (part II)
and the one which had us all excited, “Higher Ground.” Beyonce
mixing around among the people and onstage had me enthralled
and up dancing, while waiting for my Orange Ginger non-caffeinated
herbal tea to cool off. I had a little tray of foods, one of those Cuties,
(little tangerines), some cashews, two pieces (I am careful to ‘divvy’
up my Valentine’s Day treats’ stash) of Ghiardelli chocolate, thanks to
Jenny, and a half cup of buttered popcorn. I have gained 8 pounds
from the end of Summer until the present time.
LL Cool J was the host or emcee for the night and was enthusiastic,
keeping the program moving and audience motivated. He is one of
the most gracious hosts, I feel, on television award programs.
John Legend, accompanied by piano and rhythm percussion was
awesome in his rendition of, “I believe when I fall in love . . . it will
be forever.” This is John’s moment, he has been everywhere, enjoying
well deserved fame in his collaboration with “Common” on the award
winning song, “Glory,” which was part of the “Selma” film soundtrack.
Maya Rudolph, of Saturday Night Live fame, warmly thanked Stevie
Wonder for his awesome contributions and told a short casual story
of how Stevie played music at her home as a child, since her mother
was a close friend of his. She also told him “thank you” from her Mom.
When I heard that Lady Gaga was up next, I rushed to use take my
break during the commercial, so I would be squarely placed in my
love seat, warm and cozy with a blanket wrapped around me. I was
“ready” to be entertained. She began by telling Stevie that his CD was
her first one she ever was allowed to put into the CD player. The
moment she heard the CD begin to play, she said she knew it was a
monumental part of her life. She is one of the most chameleon-like
musicians, blending her own magic along with making the song
sound like the artist, too. Lady Gaga was ‘channeling’ her inner
Stevie Wonder while singing the moving song, “I Wish.”
To describe Lady Gaga’s tone and vocal performance I would have
to include that she used a different voice from her strident songs, it
had the sounds and endings of words ‘mellowed out,’ while she still
belted out the words. When you hear someone from the country or
someone who is laid back, there is a softening (not slurring) of the
Lady Gaga blended the words to connect together beautifully. While
jumping around on the piano bench, playing and shaking her head
back and forth, she presented the image and sound of Stevie Wonder,
miraculously, while singing within her own higher vocal range.
“Signed, Sealed and Delivered,” was performed by Ariana Grande
and Baby Face. Something I had never known before was this song
was co-written by Stevie’s mother. Ariana soared in the higher
octaves, effortlessly and Baby Face was sweetly sang this love song.
I enjoyed this duet and the young couple made it relevant to the time.
Next came, Annie Lennox. Wow! She is also having a great year, like
John Legend. No one could ever listen to her singing and think she
had aged a day. Her voice can be ‘gritty’ when there were some places
needing an emphasis on the emotion, along with hauntingly beautiful.
She say, “Ma Cherie, Amour.” It had been a long time since I heard it,
so I was very entranced by the words and musical performance for
this Stevie ‘wonder.’
Pharrell (of “Happy” fame) is one of my favorites, my grandies love
him so. He sang a duet with Ryan Tedder. It was one of the best songs
of the night, “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing.” Oh, it gave me tingles!
Paul McCartney was taped and gave a funny and caring tribute to
the young Stevie who was named, “Stephen Morris,” according to
Sir Paul. He told the famous singer and audience that he knew him
before he was “discovered by Motown” and just knew he would be a
successful singer and artist. He said he was a “wonder” and then,
you won’t believe this, unless you heard it, he was ‘bloopered’ out
or censored, but you could see him saying this illustrious compliment
to Stevie Wonder:
“You are f- – – – ing great!”
Tony Bennett did a fantastic performance of, “For Once in My Life,”
which fit his singing rand and impeccable style. It was such a ‘class
act’ and tribute to Stevie, too. Here is an approximation of what Tony
said before he sang:
“People may view Stevie Wonder as an entertainer but he is the
Greatest Jazz Musician and Artist of all time!” (I got teary eyed,
at this emotional expression of respect and love of S. W.)
The song Tony Bennett sang was accompanied by piano and the
percussion instruments. There was a cymbal tapping the beat,
it made it quite jazzy and ‘new’ to me, all over again.
Ed Sheeran is so talented and an inspiration. This is what he also
declared Stevie Wonder to be. He showed honor in these words,
before he sang with many instruments and “I Was Made to Love
You,” came to be another favorite moment of my show watching.
There was soul in his singing, emphasized by his ‘ah’s’ and sighs.
The Band Perry did well, after Tyler Perry announced they were
‘related’ and gave them a ‘shout out.’ I felt the band did well, but
would have liked a little bit more ‘edge’ to the song which was
political and also, against President Richard Nixon:
“You Haven’t Done Nothing.” I know this is blasphemous but I
would have liked Lady Antebellum sing this, since she is sometimes
able to be saucy and edgy in her singing.
India Ari and Janelle performed, “As” or “Always,” which is always
loving as long as the stars shine…. until trees…. and Just as …. I”ll
be loving you always. This trio were wonderful and were given a great
send off by the last of the “Supremes,” Mary Wilson. Lovely trio.
An operatic tenor sang, “New Year’s Day,” but admitted he was not as
familiar with the song as others who have listened to it over the years.
He did make a friendly comment, “It’s not just a song. . .”
I love how it begins: “I just want to say I love you. . . from the bottom of
Neo sang a song which has a deep meaning for Stevie Wonder, when he
first saw his daughter Aisha, (who got up on stage and told this story)-
“Isn’t She Lovely?”
There was a fantastic quote I will close this review of the highlights of
the tribute show for Stevie Wonder:
(taken from “Visions” (1973))
“Do we have to find our wings and fly away to the visions of our mind?”
I am heading off to my own musical wonderland!
Marley (of M & M’s) is singing at a Kindergarten Winter Song Fest!
Sending you warm feelings and hugs. . .
Let me know your favorite Stevie Wonder song, please!