Stevie Wonder has been a legend for a long time, but now it’s official. On Monday night, the Apollo Theater will induct Wonder into the Apollo Legends Hall of Fame at its annual Spring Gala fundraising event. In honor of the soulful synth player, the Apollo is throwing a star-studded tribute featuring Raphael Saadiq, Melanie Fiona and Chick Corea, among others, playing Wonder's tunes. Other Apollo Hall-of-Famers include James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Quincy Jones.
Here's what our favorite local musicians think about the legacy of Stevie Wonder:
Melkit Hadero, Singer-Songwriter and New York University Artist-in-Residence: "There was a whole year where Songs in the Key of Life was just about the only album I listened to. I let it sink in until those melodies would appear in my dreams. As a songwriter, Stevie's music is a buoy and a beacon. He has a way of expressing love that goes beyond our defenses. We all need that kind of light. His music is a gift to the world."
Melvin Van Peebles, Director, and musician: "One of the biggest thrills of my life was when the legendary Stevie Wonder shouted out Sweetback on his track "Sweet Little Girl" on Music of My Mind. Congratulations on the induction, Brother, and all the inspiration you've been spreading!"
Homeboy Sandman, Queens-based hip-hop artist: "Stevie is the most brilliant musician that I have ever been blessed to hear. His catalogue of not only amazing songs, but amazing songs that you NEVER get tired of listening to, is unmatched to my knowledge. Stevie does not invoke emotion. He transfers it. I have never heard anything else like him. His music is proof of God."
Jason Moran, Jazz pianist and 2010 winner of a MacArthur Genius award:
"Stevie Wonder is quintessential listening for the understanding of America. Through every decade of his career, his music has made statements that resonate, and that is a goal I aim to accomplish with my work."
Blitz the Ambassador, Ghanaian-American rapper and bandleader
: "In Africa, it’s always been Stevie and James Brown, they have always found their way into our music. There’s just something about it that connected to people. My favorite album is Innervisions, and my favorite track would be “Living for City.” I love the way it breaks down and goes into this kind of scene, where they create a fast-forward of this guy’s life but using sound effects, and just creating this world. It was his ability to take you into these worlds, and keep you there, that was so inspiring."
Jared Tankel, Baritone sax player with the Budos Band: "To think, he’s been doing his thing for 50 years — making hits since he was 13! Totally crazy. His songs always move. If it’s an upbeat tune, you have to get up, move your feet and dance. If it’s a ballad, you can’t help but nod your head and clap. And they are always full of emotion — sincere and honest emotion — and feeling. As a horn player, there are lines in his tunes that always stick with you. You strive to write melodies as burning as that.