Have you ever thought about what you would say or do if you were in a room with one of your childhood idols?
One of my childhood idols was Stevie Wonder. I discovered his music by way of the 1993 cover of “Lately” by Jodeci. When I started doing some research browsing the CD racks at the local library, the first CD I pulled of the rack was “Songs In The Key Of Life”. I must have been too eager to play the music, as I started with disc 2 rather than disc 1, and the first song I heard was “Isn’t She Lovely”. I was hooked.
Since then, I’ve amassed a considerable collection of his music (on CDs and LPs) even spending hours making a detour to an HMV while I was touring Japan with my college singing group to search for albums I hadn’t ever seen before. While the rest of the group members were doing touristy things, I found a copy of Stevie Wonder’s harmonica album “Eivets Rednow” (that’s his name spelled backwards if you couldn’t tell).
Fast forward to the relative present, I had to pick up a paycheck at my bosses’ business manager’s office. I stepped into the elevator, and with the doors closing to take me up, a hand jammed in the middle to open the doors back up. One man walked into the 5ft by 5ft compartment, followed by another man directing an older gentleman wearing a daishiki and sunglasses. That man was Stevie Wonder.
All of a sudden, my stomach turned and my palms got sweaty. My mind started racing, searching for something to say, but as the elevator came to a stop, it’s doors opened and my teenage idol slowly departed the space, with me there silently watching … watching him walk away as the doors closed me in.
Ever since then, I’ve repeatedly thought to myself what I could have said in that space of a few seconds …”I used the lyrics of ‘Send One Your Love’ for my best friend’s wedding toast” … “‘Sugar’ and “Anything You Want Me To Do” are my favorite songs form “Signed, Sealed and Delivered” … “‘Music Of My Mind’ changed my life.” … “I plan on using ‘Ribbon in the Sky’ as a song at my wedding, whenever that happens” … Yeah, I guess you can say that I’ve thought about what I’d say to Stevie the next time I was ever in a room with him.
When I heard that Mr. Wonder would be performing “Songs in the Key of Life” in its entirety for his annual “House Full of Toys” charity concert in Los Angeles, I used my industry connections to ask for orchestra seats that had been announced on Ticketmaster as being “sold out”. Weeks went by, and it wasn’t until the week before the event that I was notified that a pair of tickets would be held at will call for me. I was set, and I could only eagerly count down the days before attending a concert whose music meant so much to me and my life.
When I picked up the tickets at will call, I was surprised to find that with my tickets were VIP passes to the private bar of the venue. I’m not typically a VIP kind of guy, but knowing that the venue was huge (maximum capacity is over 7000), I appreciated not having to wait in line for a beer.
As me and my guest were about to enter the private bar, a security guard halted our progress. I scanned the room and noticed the hallway to the stage door in front of me and …. AN ELEVATOR immediately to my left. My stomach turned and my palms got sweaty. Sound familiar?
As I nervously joked with my guest that, “I bet you Stevie is in the elevator,” the elevator doors opened, seemingly in slow motion … in a way that made it seem like the universe was playing some twisted joke on me … and the man of the evening, Stevie Wonder, stepped out of the elevator with his entourage.
The room was quiet. I was quiet.
My mind racing to retrieve one of the gems I had thought of years before, a woman standing behind me, interrupting my train of thought, yelled, “I love you, Stevie,” and with that my mind yelled out the only thing I could think of…
“I love you too, Stevie” … and with that, he disappeared behind the stage doors.
Epic, EPIC fail. LOL.
My epic fail aside, the concert was everything that I could have hoped for. The list of special guest performers was epic: Greg Phillinganes, Joe, Frederic Yonnet, John Popper, Chick Corea, Eric Benet, Esperanza Spalding, John Mayer, Ledisi, India.Arie, Herbie Hancock … the list goes on. It was a backing band fit for a king, and Stevie ruled the stage. The Los Angeles Times and Rolling Stone Magazine wrote terrific reviews of the show, so I’ll spare you my rambling.
While you click those links to read what they had to say, I’ll be over here in my corner practicing what I’ll say the next time Stevie Wonder is in the room.
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