The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum


back to profile

Paul Simon inducts Stevie Wonder

"Paul McCartney tells a story about Stevie, about the time that they were recording 'Ebony and Ivory,' and Paul and Linda invited Stevie to dinner, and they said, 'How about tonight at eight o'clock,' and he said, 'Yeah, eight o'clock.' So eight o'clock came and went, and nine o'clock, and ten o'clock - dinner's getting cold; by midnight they said, 'Well, I guess he's not coming,' and they just went to sleep.  Two days later at eight o'clock precisely, Stevie Wonder showed up for dinner - but it's like he said to Quincy Jones once - 'I'm going to show you some new dimensions in time and space.'  And that he did, in his brilliant career.  Can anyone imagine what the last 25 years of American popular music would be without Stevie Wonder?  He is the composer of his generation. A melody writer of such effortless virtuosity that he is virtually incomparable.  His voice is an incredible instrument - the perfect phrasing and intonation.  Many people try to imitate Stevie Wonder, but there's only one Stevie Wonder. His keyboard playing and his synthesizer work revolutionized the way people approached the studio, and the guy plays harmonica better than everybody else.  I remember a couple years ago when we were doing 'We are the World,' and Stevie announced to everybody that he wanted us to sing one of the verses in Swahili - whereupon Waylon Jennings slipped out of the room, never to return.  Anyway, he wasn't sure - Stevie wasn't sure about the pronunciation of the words, so he said he knew this guy in Nigeria - he was gonna call the guy and make sure he had the right pronunciation.  Well, about three o'clock in the morning, a phone call came in from Nigeria, and Stevie came back and said, 'Well if everybody's up to it, you think we can try these words in Swahili?'  And Ray Charles said, 'Shit, man, it's three o'clock in the morning.  I can't even sing in English.'  And Stevie said, 'Just relax, we'll do it in one take, and then I'll drive you home.'  We've been driving home with little Stevie Wonder for 25 years now, and I want to thank him for being alive and on this planet.  I look forward to hearing the next 25 years of his music. It's my privilege to induct into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Steveland Morris - Stevie Wonder."