Friday, June 14, 2024

Stevie Wonder Jams in Harlem, Old School Style


It was an old school night for Stevie Wonder as he received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Apollo Theater. Several artists performed his hits–Raphael Saadiq, Kim Burrell, Take 6, and Yolanda Adams each did knock out versions of Stevie songs. The amazing Tony Bennett showed up as a surprise and the two singers gave a spontaeous version of “For Once in My Life” at the podium.

In typical Stevie style, he wound up honoring Bennett for all his work in civil rights. “As much as I can’t see the color of his skin,” Stevie said of Tony, “I can see the color of his spirit.” Oh my, get out the handkerchiefs. Maybe now he and Bennett will record their long awaited album together. It’s been in the works for eons.

That wasn’t the only moving speech of the night. Revlon chief Ronald Perelman, accepting the corporate award, spoke poignantly. Instead of thanking everyone for getting the award, Perelman thanked the Apollo for all the great times he’s had there. It was lovely.

And then came Stevie: he played the Barbra Streisand hit, “People,” as well as his own “My Cherie Amour” and “Do I Do.” He had just launched into “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” when the very entertaining special guest emcee Sinbad and music director Ray Chew interrupted him. Out came Questlove from the Roots, who took the drums; Chick Corea and Paul Shaffer appeared at keyboards, and they all proceeded to take over the show. Their own jam session featured many of Stevie’s themes, with him joining in. The show ended with a big flourish of “Living for the City.”

Usually that would have been it. Finito. But not with Stevie Wonder. At the after party in a massive tent like building set up behind the Apollo, Stevie took over the mic from the deejay and proceeded to start his own one man show, sort of doing karaoke to his own songs. Spike Lee popped up with an IPad 2 and tried to film the spontaneity. Doug E. Fresh joined Stevie on the tiny stage, and they did impromptu versions of “Jungle Fever” and “Ribbon in the Sky” interspersed with a rap Stevie made up called “Welcome to Harlem.” Besides Spike, in the audience were Robert DeNiro and Grace Hightower, Gabby Sidibe and Sylvia Rhone, as well as many members of Stevie’s family including wife designer Kai Milla, and singer-daughter Aisha Morris.

More on Stevie shortly…


picture c2011 Showbiz411


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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