Awards ceremonies often are monuments of mawkishness the entertainment industry imposes on the public, but this year’s record industry Grammys had a couple of truly affecting moments, and both involved Stevie Wonder. He received two shouting, standing ovations—not only for his five awards but also for his survival.
The 23-year-old singer-composer, blind since birth, was nearly killed last August just after the release of his award-winning Innervisions album. Struck flush in the forehead by a log that slipped off a lumber truck and smashed through the windshield of a car he was riding in, Wonder was in a coma for three days with a brain contusion.
For Steve, the accident and his subsequent nearness to death seemed to be the fulfillment of the lyric of his album’s prophetic cut Higher Ground, which dealt with the renewal of life: I’m so darn glad he let me try it again/’Cause my last time on earth I lived a whole world of sin.
As a youngster in Detroit, Steve considered going into the ministry, but at 12 he became Little Stevie Wonder, a Motown recording star, and “decided to be a sinner instead.” He now sees that he has done “a whole lot of things I feel I have to correct.” Only to someone of his strict fundamentalist background would they seem serious: a few mild street rumbles as a kid, and more recently a joint or two, a steady progression of attractive women, and sometimes a little too much wine. “I think when you come as close as I did to dying you realize the importance of life and what you have to do with whatever time you have.”
Steve, divorced from his Motown secretary-wife in 1972, says he wants to marry again and have children. But he has not asked anyone yet, nor does he intend to immediately. “I’ve learned that you have to be friends before you’re lovers.” Recently, after exposure to African music, Steve has displayed an increased black consciousness in his song writing.
Though largely recovered from the accident, Wonder is left with some loss of sense of smell and some restless indecision. He canceled the 20-city American comeback tour that was to begin last week, but he has just about completed a new double album tentatively entitled Fulfilling Ness’s First Finale. “Ness” stands for “wonderfulness,” and he feels that 1974 means “the endings of this era in Stevie Wonder’s career and the entrance to another place.”