Stevie Wonder surprised Philadelphians with a pop-up performance. The city has hosted Mr. Wonder in the past, including on his sixteenth birthday.
Almost fifty years ago – well before the “Songs in the Key of Life” album hit the market in 1976 and inspired, more than thirty years later, a live concert tour under the same name that comes to Philly on October 6th – Stevie Wonder, a child prodigy born Stevland Hardaway Morris, was partying in Philadelphia to celebrate his 16th birthday.
The venue of choice for the famed musician, who was then marketed as “Lil’ Stevie Wonder,” was the Uptown Theater in North Philadelphia, a once regal building that has failed to regain the luster it had during the Motown-era when stars like The Temptations, The O’Jays and the Jackson 5 graced its stage.
“It was fun,” he said while sitting behind his signature Yamaha Motif EF8. “It was a Friday going on Saturday,” he added, with much excitement, which I attributed to the local girl who he said liked him and who he seemed to like back.
Memories of that special birthday on North Broad Street, which was so colorful that Mr. Wonder joked and said “I thought” I could see,” inspired him to play a song that he performed that night: Hey Love, which at that time, in 1966, was a new release.
That song was among at least five of Mr. Wonder’s most popular titles that was performed by him and a band today in front of City Hall in Center City Philadelphia.
The pop-up performance attracted a massive audience and even workers inside City Hall could be seen hanging out the window singing, swaying with music and aiming their smartphones in the direction of the stage.
Even the Mayor of Philadelphia, Mr. Michael A. Nutter, was spotted singing and dancing among the paparazzi and news personalities.
But at one point the music was paused and Mr. Wonder spoke about his feelings on two controversial political topics: gun control and police brutality.
Regarding the latter, Mr. Wonder asserted there should be “accountability for those who are supposed to protect and serve us,” which drew loud cheers from spectators.
I have love for everybody, he continued, but I have “no respect for people who are irresponsible with their authority.”
To be fair, he also noted he has no respect for those who “have no respect for authority.”
After a few more remarks, the music went live again. A special guest, Ms. Jazmine Sullivan, appeared on stage towards the end of the performance.
Mr. Wonder asked Ms. Sullivan to join her in concert in October, to which she, blushing and smiling from ear-to-ear, said yes.
Mr. Wonder surprised many with his performance today and he now has another great Philadelphia story to tell along with his anecdotes of the famed, now defunct Uptown Theater.
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Photo: C. Norris – copyright 2015