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Stevie Wonder Avenue is signed, sealed and delivered in Detroit
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

» See more SOUND CHECK

DETROIT -- Though he was born in Saginaw, Stevie Wonder has long called Detroit home.

Now the Motown legend has an address to go wtih it.

Steve Wonder Avenue was unveiled Wednesday afternoon (Dec. 23) at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Milwaukee Street -- though, for the record, the northeast corner sign was already up and visible well before Wonder and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan pulled the cover off the one on the southeastern corner. He was feted by the Detroit School of Arts choir and the Cass Technical High School marching band, and Duggan also presented Wonder with a key to the city, saying that, "you not only define the Motown sound...you changed history, and you did it getting your start right here."

The 66-year-old Wonder, sporting a ski cap and wearing gloves and heavy boots to guard against the cold weather, was clearly overwhelmed by the honor, calling his own street "something I never imagined would happen."

"This is jsut an amazing moment," Wonder, who was accompanied on the dais by his older brother Calvin and sang a bit of his hit "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" before his acceptance speech, told the overflow VIP/media/general public crowd in a tent near the street corner. "I know that things can't last forever, but y'know what -- I'm going to freeze this moment in my mind and remember it forever. You didn't have to do it, but you did."

The campaign for the street was pushed Detroit activist Sharon DuMas, Wonder's cousin, and supported by Duggan and the Detroit City Council. Council President Brenda Jones also spoke, while U.S. Representatives Brenda Lawrence and John Conyers attended the ceremony -- which began an hour later than the announced noon starting time due to a variety of technical problems.

Nevertheless the cold crowd gave Wonder a warm welcome, including chants of "We love you, Stevie!" and a few calls for him to run for mayor himself. During a press conference afterwards, he said that's unlikely.

"I'm too young in the spirit to sit down and be in one place," Wonder explained. "I'd stay in whatever the place is the mayor would be, but I would have to bring my instruments, so I don't think it's gonna work." But he did note that he hopes Stevie Wonder Avenue would be "the street that leads us to a place of humanity, equality, of fairness and respect for each other."

Wonder voiced excitement about the upcoming expansion of the Motown Museum, saying that "as Detroit goes through its expansion and growth...it's appropriate for that to happen for a jewel...that has been (as much) a part of Detroit's legacy as Motown. I'm very happy about that. And Wonder promised to stage one of his House Full of Toys holiday benefit concerts, which he's done during the past 21 years in Los Angeles, in Detroit next year.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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