Wild At The GRAMMYs: Joking With Stevie
David Wild has written for the GRAMMY Awards since 2001. He is a contributing editor to Rolling Stone, a blogger for Huffington Post and an Emmy-nominated TV writer. Wild's most recent book, He Is…I Say: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Neil Diamond, is now in paperback. Follow him on Twitter.
I hold this truth to be self-evident: Stevie Wonder is one of the greatest musical artists of all time. So it is only right and fitting that this remarkable man is one of the most honored musicians in all of GRAMMY history. There was a time in the '70s when it seemed as if Stevie Wonder was a kind of human GRAMMY magnet — a situation that didn't escape the attention of other great artists. For example, when Paul Simon won the Album Of The Year GRAMMY for his Still Crazy After All These Years, he wryly noted, "I'd like to thank Stevie Wonder, who didn't release an album this year."
To this day, Stevie is a welcome and frequent participant in the GRAMMY show — even during the years when he hasn't made a new album. Often, Stevie will agree to present one of the big awards of the night. And every time I'm asked to write something for Stevie to say on the show as a presenter, it's an honor.
Truth be told, writing for Stevie Wonder is a thrill in a number of ways. Because Stevie does not read a teleprompter for obvious reasons, he has on more than a few occasions asked that I read his scripted part into a microphone that goes from backstage directly into his special earpiece onstage. Trust me, it's nerve-racking enough to try and read at exactly the right pace to help lead one of your all-time heroes to sound right on live international television.
But that's not the nerve-racking part. See, I have a funny habit of asking some of my favorite vocalists to sing a little a cappella when they're presenting an award. It's something I've asked many of the greats to do on the show. Thankfully, Stevie is a generous and agreeable soul, so over the years he's agreed to sing parts of his greatest hits before handing out a GRAMMY.
Yet perhaps because Stevie's also a bit of a prankster, he usually insists that I also sing his songs into that microphone for his ears only. And so it is that I have sung for Stevie Wonder many times. Thank God, he's the only one who's ever heard my lame version of "Higher Ground." How he avoided laughing is beyond me.
One year right in the middle of the show, I got word Stevie wanted to see me in my dressing room. Generally I'd never leave my position backstage, but for Stevie I rushed back during a commercial break. When I found him, he calmly suggested we write a short little original song he could sing to each of the two women he was presenting with that year — Bonnie Raitt and Celine Dion. "Let's make it about what they're wearing," said Stevie, who famously loves a little blind joke, and is extremely funny beyond being a musical genius. "Since you can see them, you give me a title and I'll write a tune." For Celine, whose dress was pinkish, Stevie and I wrote "Sexy In Salmon." For Bonnie, whose dress was a metallic material, this songwriting legend and I composed "Bonnie, Pin That Metal On Me."
Whatever else I do in this life, no one can ever tell me, "You Haven't Done Nothin'." That's because once upon a time, I wrote a couple songs with Stevie Wonder — and ground doesn't get any higher than that.
(Click here to read Wild's other GRAMMY blog installments.)