Stevie Wonder paid tribute to the late Dick Clark on last night's American Music Awards with a medley of hits including "Master Blaster (Jammin')," "My Cherie Amour" and "Sir Duke." The 40-anniversary edition of the awards show – which Clark created in 1973 – marked the first AMAs to take place since the TV host died of a heart attack in April at 82.
Before performing with a 15-piece band, Wonder, seated at a grand piano and donning a purple blazer, recalled meeting Clark at age 13, and performing for him his first Number One single, "Fingertips – Part 1 & 2." "I just remember his friendship, his kindness, and I remember his love for music and love for people," the singer said. Wonder also pleaded for all to band together in these divisive times. " I challenge you, you as communicators, leaders, politicians, spiritual leaders, put your love first as we musicians put our music and songs first, and unite the world. And then we can be jamming 'til the break of dawn!"
Ryan Seacrest – who in recent years hosted New Year's Rockin' Eve with Clark – introduced Wonder, first offering up words of admiration for his late friend and peer.
"I was in awe of [Clark's] star quality and how completely comfortable he was in front of the camera," Seacrest said. "Even when I got to know him well and count him and his wife Carrie as friends, I never lost that sense of awe."
Seacrest said the American Music Awards was a fitting platform on which to honor Clark.
"This show, on its 40th anniversary, still reflects Dick's original vision: bringing the top artists on the planet together on an equal stage," Seacrest said. "Dick loved the power of music and its ability to create pure joy. That's why we're going to use music tonight to celebrate the joy of his life."
Clark, who is perhaps best known as the host of American Bandstand, created the American Music Awards in 1973 as an alternative to the Grammys. Unlike the Grammys, Clark's vision was for an awards show in which music buyers – that is, fans – and not industry insiders selected the winners. The AMAs is now broadcast in more than 190 countries.
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