This Black History Month I’m Grateful for Stevie Wonder
“Just because a man
lacks the use of his eyes doesn’t mean he lacks vision.”
Stevie Wonder is a living legend in an obvious way. The
owner of 22 Grammy Awards*, legendary songs and albums Wonder has had profound
success as a musical artist. It was largely Wonder’s success in transcending
the racial and musical barriers of the 1970s that paved the way for the
unprecedented crossover stardom of Black 80s singers Michael Jackson, Prince,
Whitney Houston and Lionel Richie. While these accomplishments are amazing,
Wonder’s greatest legacy may well be found in the ways he’s used his celebrity to
bring attention to social concerns.
With the possible exception of Coretta Scott King#, no
individual deserves more credit than Wonder for the creation of the Martin
Luther King Jr. federal holiday. Wonder’s birthday song for King has even
become the model for birthday songs in Black homes today.
By the early 80s, Wonder had developed an emphasis on
pan-African identity, themes and issues. Wonder wrote about African politics,
Third World life and helped break Bob Marley into the US market. He also participated
in events designed to raise awareness and money to combat hunger, poverty,
drunken driving, AIDS, and drug use.
Stevie Wonder was also deeply committed to the end of the apartheid
system in South Africa. He was one of the most prominent Americans to argue
that our country needed to deliberately disinvest from South Africa. Wonder
helped provide public forums for Nobel Laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu who had not
been widely known in this country.
The combination of Stevie Wonder’s sunglasses, head shaking
and broad smile have become a cliché as is his perpetual musical optimism. What
is not cliché is the sincerity of Wonder’s dedication to the causes of peace
and justice “all throughout the world”.
Today, I am grateful for Stevie Wonder. You should be too.
*- the most for any male solo artist
#- check back later this month for more