By Tamara Palmer
Following last year's well-received Bay Area appearances, Stevie Wonder returns to the Bay Area for two concerts. He will play hits, classics, unreleased creations and even a few surprise covers live at Mountain View's Shoreline Amphitheatre (July 5) and a few days later at Concord's Sleep Train Pavilion (July 8).
These special shows easily might not have been. After Wonder lost his mother Lula Mae Hardaway in May 2006, he canceled a planned performance in Hawaii and contemplated quitting touring altogether. His mother came to him in a dream a few weeks later.
"She said, 'you can't stop what you're doing," he recalls in a press conference conducted by phone. "'You've got to keep on with what you're doing.' And so that really made me feel as if she was saying to me through the dream, you have to continue on with the gift God has given you of music, of song, and you can't stop. She would always say to me, 'nothing can ever separate us, not even death.'"
He rescheduled his Hawaii show, which rekindled his flame for performing.
"From that, I decided that I wanted to go throughout the country, as I still am doing, thanking everyone. Just for your allowing me, through the success of my music, making it possible for me to have been able to give my mother a far better life than probably she would have had, as well as my children and family."
His brother Milton and daughter Aisha (the latter one of his backup singers and the subject of "Isn't She Lovely?") provide familial comfort while touring.
As does making music; Wonder loves to write music on the road and has two projects to create for while he travels, albums that he calls "Gospel Inspired by Lula" and "Through the Eyes of Wonder," respectively. After he finishes the North American portion of the tour next month, he will travel to Australia and Europe. He says he'll continue to write along the way and hopes to have one of them completed by then.
Lula will be partly comprised of traditional gospel music. But he also wants to put a twist on it.
"I might do something in Arabic," he says. "I might do something in Hebrew. Just different things I'm going to probably do differently than what one would expect, because my whole thing of the title is just spreading the good word, the message." Wonder has performed selections from these works in progress on the opening dates of this tour.
"We've got some new and exciting, talented musicians," he continues. "Young musicians that are really on fire. Not only on fire, on fi-rah! They are incredible, and so that's exciting."
And while the excitement of each of the lucky dozen reporters on the teleconference call is as palpable as Wonder's, this is the only one who dares to break the invisible wall of professionalism by confessing that she just called to say, "I love you. You are the soundtrack to my soul." Shalom.