A Time To Give And Share
In June 2004 Stevie appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show to announce the imminent release of the much anticipated new album A Time To Love. Sadly a couple weeks later, Syreeta passed away losing her battle against breast cancer. This resulted in further delays to the album. Committed to play the Stockholm Jazz festival at the end of June, Stevie gave an emotional performance dedicating the show to his former wife.
On July 2, 2005, Wonder performed in the USA part of the Live 8 series of concerts in Philadelphia to raise funds for the famines in Africa.
Eventually his first new album in ten years, A Time to Love, was released on October 18, 2005, after having been pushed back from first a May. The album was released electronically on September 27, 2005, exclusively on Apple's iTunes Music Store. The first single, So What the Fuss, was released in April and features Prince on guitar and background vocals from En Vogue. A second single, From the Bottom of My Heart was a hit on adult-contemporary and R&B charts. The album also featured a duet with India.Arie on the title track and duets with Aisha, his daughter. The destructive path left by Hurricane Katrina at that time in New Orleans woke up many to the devastating force of Mother Nature. Contributing to the relief, Stevie released the song Shelter In The Rain as a charity single.
Stevie performed at the pre-game show for Super Bowl XL in Detroit in early 2006, singing various hit singles
with various artists, and even four year old son, Kailand on drums, and accompanying Aretha Franklin during "The Star Spangled Banner".
In March 2006, Stevie received national exposure on the popular American Idol television program. Each of 12 contestants were required to sing one of his songs, after having met and received guidance from him. he also performed My Love Is on Fire. In June 2006, Stevie Wonder made a guest appearance on Busta Rhymes' new album, The Big Bang on the track Been through the Storm sing the refrain and playing piano. He also appeared on the last track of Snoop Dogg's new album Tha Blue Carpet Treatment, Conversations, a song which sampled Have a Talk with God from Songs in the Key of Life. In 2006 Wonder staged a duet with Andrea Bocelli on the latter's album Amore, offering harmonica and additional vocals on Canzoni Stonate. Stevie also performed at Washington, D.C.'s 2006 "A Capitol Fourth" celebration, which was hosted by actor star Jason Alexander.
Sad news was to befall the entire family though when on May 31st 2006 Lula Mae Hardaway, Stevie's mother passed away. Being very close to his mother Stevie was devastated, and for the next year seemed quite reclusive.
However on August 2, 2007, Stevie announced the A Wonder Summer's Night 13 concert tour — his first U.S. tour in over ten years. The tour was inspired as he states, by a dream he had of his mother speaking to him insisting he get off his behind and continue to do what he does best, make and play music. The tour eventually extended to Europe and Japan. On the road he announced the possible release of two albums, one a a gospel tribute to his mother called A Gospel Inspired By Lula, and the second an album of songs that reflects how he sees the world, titled Through The Eyes of Wonder.
By this time the 2008 Presidential race in the US was on its way. As an early supporter of Barack Obama, who had approached Stevie for advice and support prior to his announcement to run, Stevie was busy up and down the coutry appearing and performing at various political rallies.
On August 28, 2008, the day Barack Obama accepted his party's nomination to run for President of the United States, Wonder performed at the Democratic National Convention at Invesco Field, Colorado. Songs included were the previously unreleased song, Fear Can't Put Dreams to Sleep and Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours a song that was used regularly during the Obama campaign.
After a successful dueting with Tony Bennett on the perennial For Once In My Life, a song both performers released as singles in 1968, rumours circled that the pair were keeping the door open for a jazz album collaboration with Quincy Jones as producer. Later in 2008, Stevie's harmonica playing could be heard on Raphael Saadiq's 2009 Grammy-nominated Never Give You Up track.
At the end of the year Barack Obama was elected as the first black president of the United States of America and Stevie was announced as the second recipient of the prestigious Library of Congress Gershwin Award for Lifetime Achievement. on February 23rd the award was presented by the newly inaugurated president at the White House, the day after Stevie performed his first public classical piece, titled Sketches of a Life, which was commissioned by the Library of Congress.
Stevie performed on January 18, 2009 at the We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. On Inauguration Day, January 20, Stevie performed the song The Neighborhood Inaugural Ball, one of ten inaugural balls honouring President Barack Obama. He performed his new song All About the Love Again and, with other musical artists, Signed, Sealed, and Delivered in honor of the president.
In July the world was shocked with the news of the death of Michael Jackson. On July 7 Stevie performed Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer and They Won't Go When I Go at the Staples Center for Michael Jackson's memorial service. Later in the month Stevie closed the Mandela Day Tribute concert in the USA, commemorating the South African leader's 91st birthday.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary in October, the Rock & Roll hall of Fame hosted a two day concert extravaganza with Stevie as one of the headline artists. Stevie's harmonica could again be heard by year's end, this time on the Rod Stewart cover of Stevie's My Cherie Amour, on the album Soul Book.
A great honour was conferred on Stevie when he was announced as a United Nations Messenger of Peace. On December 3rd The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon presented Stevie to the world as the latest Messenger of Peace with a special mission of helping people with disabilities. It was not long after, in September 2010 when Stevie urged members of the UN to unlock access to copyrighted material that disabled people need for their education and livelihoods. He pleaded for a deal to facilitate trade in copyrighted books so that they can be translated into readable formats for people with disabilities. Following this plea the organisation subsequently, at a meeting in New Delhi, in October agreed on legislation to create accessible formats of publications for sharing with specialized libraries.
In January the world witnessed the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Hope For Haiti Now was a telethon organised by George Clooney at which Stevie not only performed a medley of A Time To Love and Bridge over Troubled Water, but also found time to man the telephones. An album of performances at the fund raising event was subsequently released.
The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) in March, honoured Stevie with its first AAPD Image Award at their 2010 Leadership Gala in Washington, DC. In May the Oberlin College conferred an honorary Doctorate on Stevie where he performed to commemorate the opening of the college's new Bertram and Judith Kohl Building.
In March Stevie Wonder was awarded France's top cultural honour, which he dedicated to his deceased mother. I receive this honour in memory of my mother and in memory of all of those that have made it possible for me to stand here today. Later at Feench's equivalent of the Grammys, the Victoires de la Musique ceremony, Stevie was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Summer of 2010 saw Stevie headlining a number of highly acclaimed festivals around the world. In June were Bonnaroo in the US, followed by Hard Rock Calling at London's Hyde Park followed the next day Glastonbury. A week later he was closing out the North Sea Jazz Festival, in the Netherlands and the Sporting Summer Festival in Monaco.
In October President Obama signed the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. Present at the signing was Stevie, who has been lobbying for such legislation over the last few years. With this bill, manufacturers would force to comply with laws ensuring that the deaf and visually-impaired will have an easier time using smartphones, accessing TV programs online and using other high-tech devices.
December 2010 saw the 15th Annual House Full of Toys concert. An event Stevie hosts, inviting many varied guests to perform to help raise funds and collect toys for underprivileged children at Christmas time. Earlier on the day of the concert Stevie made an appearance at the Silverlake Music Conservatory in L.A. where he donated $10,000 to further their music development for children. Also on hand was Flea of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, another of the organisation's supporters.
With no new music from Stevie Wonder since 2005, but many philanthropic works, Stevie's life now seems centred on altruistic endeavours. The world, though losing the delights of his uplifting sounds, is benefitting from his many charitable ventures.