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Stevie Wonder kneels during the national anthem as the F1 USGP comes to a close

Stevie Wonder
Photograph: David Brendan Hall

Though the crowd lingering Sunday evening to watch Stevie Wonder after the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of Americas was relatively tiny—at best, half the massive throng that gathered for Justin Timberlake the previous night—the 67-year-old musician spoke to his audience during his opening remarks as though he was addressing the entire world.

“I’ve never seen the color of my skin, nor the color of your skin,” he said. “What I want you to know is that we are in a race, we here, all of us here, a race against time … [so] it’s time for all the leaders, all the people, all of us to come together in the spirit of unity so we can move this world to a positive form.” 

After that powerful message, the living legend asked, “Are you ready to jam?” and commenced a 90-minute set comprised almost entirely of hits: He kicked it off with the chart-topping 1980 single “Master Blaster (Jammin’),” threw in a never-before-played cover of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” mixed in classics “Sir Duke” and “I Wish” off Songs in the Key of Life, paid tribute to tremendous trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie (who would’ve turned 100 Saturday) with “Do I Do” and, of course, capped it with an extended jam on “Superstition,” which featured a hilarious flub of the intro after he asked the audience to count it off.

It was incredibly endearing and humanizing seeing the storied singer-songwriter admit the mistake with a hearty laugh—“I messed up; I’m sorry!”—though by that point, there was no diminishing the larger-than-life presence he’d established just before by wrapping up John Lennon’s “Imagine” with a coda of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which saw Wonder kneeling as he blasted out the half-improvised notes of the national anthem through his signature chromatic harmonicas. Many among the audience dropped to one knee with him—mass-movement toward positive form, indeed. 

All photos by David Brendan Hall

Stevie Wonder

 

Stevie Wonder

 

Stevie Wonder

 

Stevie Wonder

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