Barack Obama is a Stevie Wonder geek. In the Democratic presidential candidate’s new interview with Rolling Stone editor-in-chief Jann S. Wenner, Obama waxed rhapsodic about his favorite artists, many of whom — Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Jay-Z — have shown him love with endorsements.
“If I had one musical hero, it would have to be Stevie Wonder,” says Obama, who grew up on Seventies R&B and rock staples including Earth, Wind and Fire, Elton John and the Rolling Stones. “When I was at that point where you start getting involved in music, Stevie had that run with Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Fulfillingness’ First Finale and Innervisions, and then Songs in the Key of Life. Those are as brilliant a set of five albums as we’ve ever seen.”
Wonder shares room on Obama’s iPod with “everything from Howlin’ Wolf to Yo-Yo Ma to Sheryl Crow,” he says. “And I have probably 30 Dylan songs on my iPod.” Though he’s partial to 1975’s Blood on the Tracks, “Maggie’s Farm” is “one of my favorites during the political season,” says Obama. “It speaks to me as I listen to some of the political rhetoric.”
While his musical tastes tend towards the old-school, Obama is in touch with today’s creative top dogs: He’s talked policy with Ludacris, referenced Jay-Z’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” (with a brushing motion in response to Hillary Clinton-hurled criticisms) in a campaign speech, and joined acts ranging from Usher to Will.i.am at rallies. “Every time I talk to Jay-Z, who is a brilliant talent and a good guy, I enjoy how he thinks,” says Obama, who believes that the recent political galvanization of America’s youth will soon be reflected in music. “He’s serious and he cares about his art,” he adds. “That’s somebody who is going to start branching out and can help shape attitudes in a real positive way.”
For the entire interview, check out the new issue of Rolling Stone.