The Grammys’ Songs in the Key of Life – An All-Star Salute to Stevie Wonder will air on CBS February 16th, and before the tribute concert is broadcast, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer chatted with AP about the star-studded celebration, music streaming and the nation-changing events that are fueling Wonder‘s next album, tentatively titled Through the Eyes of Wonder, which he plans on releasing this September. The singer’s last LP was 2005’s A Time to Love.
“Since the last album I did was about 10 years ago, a lot has happened. I’m hoping to show what I’ve seen and I’m hoping it will encourage people to move to the next level that will give us a place of positivity,” Wonder told the AP (via Billboard). “How long have we been talking about the planet and what we’ve got to do? The fact that we’ve had the tragedy [the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut], that’s a wake-up call… We’ve got to have fewer people be silent and do something by their actions, by how they vote. I just think that we’re in a time when we have to put some action behind that mouthpiece that we have.”
After the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Wonder quipped, “I don’t know if the mayor has blinders on, but to say that he didn’t know that there was a racial or cultural problem in the city is unfortunate.” Wonder also said after a grand jury chose not to press charges against the police officer in death of the Eric Garner, “I’ll tell you what I do understand: I heard Eric Garner say with my own ears, ‘I can’t breathe.’” These incidents and the protests demanding change that they sparked have also informed Wonder’s new music.
“We’re stuck in fear and in not wanting to cross that most important bridge of understanding that we’re more alike or not,” Wonder told the AP. “We have to want the same thing. I’ve got to want the same thing for your son or daughter I would want for mine. I’ve got to make sure that your son is as educated as mine, or vice versa. We’ve got to make sure we all live in communities that are safe. We’ve all got to feel there’s a non-existence of ‘driving while black,’ ‘driving while brown,’ ‘walking while black.’ We want to see equality.”
Wonder also criticized streaming music and the low quality files those services use, saying “The days of the cheapening of music, and music just being a sort of background source, is unacceptable.”