One of the unquestionable highlights of last night's American Music Awards was one icon paying tribute to another, when Stevie Wonder performed a three-song melody honoring his late friend, the show's creator, Dick Clark.
After the show, Wonder told Rolling Stone he was flattered to be asked to salute Clark, who died in April at age 82. "Truly honored to have been asked, because that spirit I knew and saw on television was his real spirit in real life," he said. "Meeting him as a person was wonderful."
Clark's rich and varied legacy, Wonder believes, goes well beyond music. "He brought musicians, artists and songwriters of all the various genres together, and we perform in the spirit of music," he said. It's a challenge to Americans and world leaders to do the same, he said.
How to uplift and inspire people is at the center of Wonder's work in progress, Ten Billion Hearts. "I wrote this song, music and melody, when I worked on The Secret Life of Plants, the musical. The song that I wrote didn't make the actual film," he said. "But I always had the song and a good melody, so after the earthquake that happened in Japan and the tsunami I just thought, if we all had the spirit of wanting to see the world better, really opening our spirits to that, how all these things we talk about wanting to see would happen. By the end of the century we will have 10 billion people on the planet, and I'm hoping we can really bring people together with that spirit of saying, 'Listen, if we put our hearts together in the spirit of helping people, then the world will be motivated to change.'"
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has plenty of other material underway as well. "I got so many songs it's weighing me down," he said, laughing.
He plans to debut some new material at his annual House Full of Toys benefit in Los Angeles, to be held December 15th at the Nokia Theater, which hosted the AMAs last night. Past years have seen an abundance of guests, with stars ranging from John Mayer to John Legend having joined Wonder. This year there may be fewer acts on the bill: "We probably will not have as many people, because sometimes the show gets kind of long and the artists want to do their thing. Sometimes less is more."
As a result, he said, "I'll do a little bit more . . . I'm working with this new instrument called the harpeji, sort of like in between the keyboard the guitar. So we're gonna do some different stuff, have some fun."