The band went into a melody of some of my favorite, flipper-tapping tunes-"You Are the Sunshine of My Life," "Superstition," "Sir Duke," "Isn't She Lovely," "Ebony and Ivory"-when someone poked his head around the door, and said with a big smile, "Hey, I recognize some of those songs!" We all looked, the music stopped, and no one could say a word...until Janice finally squeaked, "Oh, how totally awesome. It's Stevie Wonder!"
I finally recovered, hopped off my stool, and ran over to greet Stevie. His music has a part of my life since he was Little Stevie Wonder and I was a little tadpole. Turns out that he is just about the greatest guy you'd ever want to meet-and he even took the time to sit down at Dr. Teeth's keyboard and jam with the band. He also had a lot of neat things to say about music and life and growing up. So here's our very special guest-Stevie Wonder!!!!!
KERMIT: Stevie, I love your music so much! Gosh, you've had seven number 1 songs, 24 Top Ten singles, 39 Top 40 hits, you've won 14 Grammy Awards, you're in the Song-writer's Hall of Fame...
STEVIE: Hold on, Kermit! You know more about me than I do! Look at it this way-when you start making music at eleven and you've been in the business for more than twenty years, like I have, you've had some time to have some hits.
KERMIT: I'd say you are a very humble person, Stevie. Tell me, was music always your first love?
STEVIE: My mother says that my first instruments were the pots and pans in her kitchen when I was four years old! Then I got a harmonica and started playing along with the radio. I like Wes Montgomery and his guitar playing. I remember his music always sounded like butter to me. Ray Charles was also a favorite, but I didn't know he was blind just like me for a long, long time.
KERMIT: How did you feel when you did find out?
STEVIE: It made me feel good, because I've always believed we can do anything we want to do if we set our minds and hearts to it.
KERMIT: That's very positive attitude, Stevie. Where does this feeling come from?
STEVIE: Well, Kermit, you see, I was born black, blind, and from a poor family. But there was always a lot of love in my family and between me and my six brothers and sisters. My family tried to help me, to encourage me. My mother, of course, worried about me as mothers do-but she was good about letting me find out what I could and couldn't do by myself. And the things I used to do!
KERMIT: You were a goof-off, Stevie?
STEVIE: I guess you could say that, Kermit. I always had a lot of energy and I took a lot of risks. So, when my brothers climbed up on roofs, so did I. And I loved to tease the girls, too. Being blind didn't hold me back. In fact, risk-taking is still an important part of my life today.
KERMIT: Wow, Stevie. I don't know if I would be as strong a person as you are if I couldn't see.
STEVIE: You'd be surprised, Kermit. You can deal with most anything that comes your way with the right attitude. You can't listen to the negatives. People would say to me when I was little, "You can't do that, you can't do this, you're blind." But I tried anyway. Being blind for me has just always been what I am. This is my life, the only one I've got, and I believe I can and must do something with it. It's a gift.
KERMIT: What you just said gives me goosebumps. Life is pretty wonderful, isn't it?
STEVIE: It is, Kermit, and I try to communicate this through my music. My songs are about the joys-and the pains-that we all share in life.
KERMIT: You've worked very hard to help make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. How does it feel now that it's happened?
STEVIE: Somewhere, Kermit, Dr. King's smiling. I know he would appreciate that his birthday will forever be a day when Americans will celebrate love, peace, and unity.
DR. TEETH: Excuse me, Kermit. I've got to ask Stevie about his dynamic concerts. They are outasight, with everyone singing along and dancing in the aisles. Man, how do you do it?
STEVIE: Well, Doctor, concerts are just about the most incredible times of all. The energy is absolutely fantastic. I am so honored that people come to hear me, to share my music.
DR. TEETH: But Stevie, how do you get your fans to respond like they do? I'd really dig it if my band could have that kind of feedback.
STEVIE: Here's a clue, Dr. Teeth. If you want an audience to get up and dance, give them love. I give an audience everything I've got. And you know what? They give it back!
FLOYD: Hey, Stevie, I can dig what you're saying. You are too cool! Can you tell me the story of how you got a recording contract at Motown Records?
STEVIE: Glad to, Floyd. When I was about ten years old, I heard some music being played across the street. I wanted to go over to it so badly that I crossed the street which I wasn't supposed to do. And it was there that I met someone who knew Ronnie White of the Miracles. Ronnie got me an audition, Motown Records offered me a contract, and Steveland Judkins Morris became Little Stevie Wonder. Oh, and I got a whupping for crossing the street. But it was worth it!
JANICE: Wow. That was when you recorded your first hit, "Fingertips." "Let me hear ya say, yeah, yeah." It must have been groovy to hit the road at eleven, Stevie. No more homework, parents telling you what to do....
STEVIE: It didn't work out quite that way, Janice. It seemed to me that everybody at Motown had become my parents! The Temptations, the Shirelles, Smokey Robinson...everybody made sure I ate right, studied with my tutor, got enough sleep. It was a relief sometimes to get back to the Michigan School for the Blind to be with kids my own age. But I loved traveling. It's an education you can't get at school.
KERMIT: Your latest hit album is "In Square Circle." We all love it!
STEVIE: Thanks, Kermit. It's about the actions and interactions of people, how the things we do affect one another.
KERMIT: All right, everyone. We'd better let Stevie get on his way. It's been an honor meeting a true musical genius, Stevie. How about a chorus or two from "Ebony and Ivory"? Or maybe we can make it, "Ebony and Green"?
STEVIE: Sounds good to me, Kermit. Ready, Dr. Teeth? One, two, three...