Stevie Wonder moved out of Detroit years ago, but he’ll always have a home in Motown ― and now he can also lay claim to his very own street.
The legendary musician joined Mayor Mike Duggan Wednesday for the public unveiling of “Stevie Wonder Avenue,” a renamed portion of Milwaukee Avenue north of downtown. The new name is marked with a street sign at the corner of Woodward Avenue.
“This is just an amazing moment,” Wonder said at the dedication, his brother and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) by his side. “I’m going to freeze this moment … and remember it forever.”
The spot has some significance for Wonder, who once lived on Milwaukee Avenue, according to the Detroit News. A mile west is Hitsville U.S.A., the former headquarters of Motown Records ― now home to the Motown Museum ― where Wonder got his start.
The artist thanked Conyers, saying the veteran congressman’s fight for equal rights has been an inspiration since his teenage years. Wonder took up the cause of championing social justice issues through his music.
He then took a moment during the celebratory press conference to get “real,” urging fans to focus on unifying the nation in the wake of divisions revealed by the presidential election.
“I’ve never seen none of you,” Wonder said, referencing his lifelong blindness, “so when I hear things about people not liking people because of the color of their skin, it is so absurd to me, so barbaric to me.
“I just say to you in this city, even in this state that has now become, at this point, a red state ― I’m just keeping it real ― don’t let the color of the state define who you are,” he added. “Don’t let negativity say this is what you are.”
Before the election, Wonder quipped that voting for President-elect Donald Trump would be like asking the blind musician to drive you to the hospital in an emergency.
“We are on a journey,” he said Wednesday. “When I think about this street, now being Stevie Wonder Avenue, I want all of us to walk down the street that leads us to a place of humanity and equality, of fairness and respect for each other.”
Wonder, 66, was born Stevland Hardaway Judkins in Saginaw, Michigan, and spent his childhood in Detroit. He was a musical prodigy, reportedly teaching himself to play the piano, drums and harmonica by age 10. A year later, Motown founder Berry Gordy offered him a record deal, and in 1963, “Little” Stevie Wonder landed his first of many No. 1 hits with the spirited live recording “Fingertips, Pt. 2.”
He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the 1980s, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014, and has won more than 20 Grammys.
“Naming this street in his honor is reflective of the profound impact that he has had on both the city of Detroit and Motown’s legacy,” Robin Terry, Motown Museum chairwoman and CEO, said in a statement ahead of the dedication.
It’s not the only new honor bestowed on Wonder. News site Slate has declared this “Wonder Week,” delving into the artist’s discography and his enduring influence on popular culture.
And if you read through Slate’s growing list of articles, you may as well listen to a seasonally appropriate soundtrack ― so here’s a compilation of Wonder’s Christmas songs.
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