By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Stevie Wonder is already one of the most decorated artists in pop music history, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer with 25 Grammy Awards, the Kennedy Center Honors, an Oscar and multiple lifetime achievement awards among his many accolades.
Now, the Motown legend will need to carve out a little more space in his crowded awards room: The Library of Congress yesterday named Wonder the winner of its second Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
Wonder will receive the award in the library's Great Hall on Feb. 23, with an all-star concert-cum-coronation planned for the following night. (No performers have been announced for the gala concert, which will be open to the public.) The soul singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist has been commissioned by the library to write a song for the celebration.
"The Gershwin Prize was created to honor an artist whose creative output transcends distinctions between musical styles and idioms, bringing diverse listeners together, and fostering mutual understanding and appreciation," James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, said in a statement. "Stevie Wonder's music epitomizes this ideal."
Said Wonder: "I am touched to receive this honor."
Named in honor of George and Ira Gershwin, the Gershwin Prize was established last year to honor an American composer or performer, making it the pop music corollary to the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
Paul Simon received the inaugural prize, with Wonder among those performing Simon's songs at the gala concert.
Wonder's own work has been recognized by the Library of Congress before: Three years ago, his 1976 double album, "Songs in the Key of Life," was added to the National Recording Registry, which notes recorded works that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States."
Wonder, who is 58, was born Steveland Judkins in Saginaw, Mich. He has been on the Motown Records roster since he was 12, writing and recording dozens of hits for his Hitsville label mates ("The Tears of a Clown" for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles) and, especially, for himself, including "Living for the City," "Superstition," "Higher Ground" and "You Are the Sunshine of My Life."