Growing up in Windsor in the ‘60’s, I cut my teeth on Motown and vividly recall when “Little Stevie Wonder” performed his first hit, “Fingertips (Part 2)” on Robin Seymour’s Swingin’ Time. As well as being gifted with a most versatile voice, this handsome thirteen-year-old boy–who had been blind from infancy and grew up in poverty–taught himself to play the harmonica, drums and keyboards. Proving he was most worthy of his name!
Fast forward to Tuesday, November 6, 2018. Stevie is now 68 years old. Backed by a staggeringly tight and talented 11-piece band (including two of the hardest working drummers in show business, three angel-voiced backup singers, virtuosos on sax and trumpet, plus renowned DJ Mal-Ski), this charismatic genius brought his hit-laden songbook back to Windsor for a hero’s welcome. Stevie’s unique blend of pop, R&B, funk, soul, jazz and reggae knows no bounds. He’s been making award-winning music for 50 years—a legacy of lush songs that will live on long after he’s reached higher ground.
Opening with a deep dive into his repertoire–the introspective “As If You Read My Mind” from 1980’s Hotter Than July LP, was followed by “Spiritual Walkers” from 1985’s In Square Circle. Then, the unmistakable opening chords of “Higher Ground” propelled the sold-out audience out of their seats while Stevie took us there. Hit after hit after hit ensued, including “I Wish” and “Sir Duke”, from the iconic Songs in the Key of Life LP – the first by an American artist to debut at number 1 and stay there for an incredible 14 weeks.
Other highlights of the evening were Wonder’s blending of Bob Marley’s “Jammin’” into “Master Blaster” and the harmonica “sample” of “Isn’t She Lovely”, seamlessly woven in to “Ribbon in the Sky”.
Seeming to delight in taking on the role of “teacher”, as well as ensuring that everyone was included in his Song Party, Wonder encouraged the audience to take over singing “My Cherie Amour”. Not sure we were really worthy, but this was just one of many times that this teacher genuinely wanted his “students” to shine.
And what Stevie Wonder concert would be complete without “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” or “Living for the City” from the landmark Innervisions LP (the first of three consecutive Grammy Albums of the Year)?
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, earning 25 solo Top 10 pop hits—seven Number Ones among them—and 22 Grammy Awards, plus the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1996, this man truly is a wonder.
Saving one of his best for last, Stevie’s farewell song was “Superstition”.
In Rolling Stone magazine’s 2004 article “The Immortals – The Greatest Artists of All Time,” Elton John wrote about Stevie Wonder: “When he comes into a room, people adore him. And there aren’t many artists like that. People admire you and they like your records, but they don’t want to stand up and hug you. But this man is a good man. He tries to use his music to do good. His message, I think, is about love, and in the world we live in today, that message does shine through.”
Stevie’s Song Party was packed with passion, joy and an overarching sense of humanity. As he covered John Lennon’s “Imagine” on the electric 16-string harpejji, his message of love surely did shine through…leaving this writer a little more hopeful for the world.
Caesars Windsor Setlist:
As If You Read My Mind
If You Really Love Me
Don’t You Worry ’bout a Thing
All I Do
Ribbon in the Sky
Master Blaster (Jammin’)
My Cherie Amour
I Just Called to Say I Love You
Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours
My Eyes Don’t Cry
Living for the City
Imagine (John Lennon cover)