(Los Angeles) He still enjoys playing his first number one hit called “Fingertips.”
These days Grammy award winner Stevie Wonder, known for his frank political discourse and take on societal issues in songs such as “Living for the City and “Higher Ground” is still very ‘hands on’ in another heated debate, gun violence.
“The weapons are really war weapons, guns that shouldn’t be on the streets,” Wonder said.
I recently caught up with wonder in Los Angeles after a ceremony honoring Memphian and Motown Funk Brother Jack Ashford on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The 62-year-old musician says weak gun laws are one reason so many people, including musicians, are being killed.
“I was thinking how we have so many musicians, had so many potential musicians, great producers, arrangers that have died at the hands of guns and our young people and we have to put an end to these kind of things,” Wonder said.
Wonder says lawmakers, schools, parents and others must do more to address the problem
“We have to do something about gun violence and how we have to make them not as accessible to people,” Wonder said.
Last December, Vice President Joe Biden called on Memphis Mayor A C Wharton to become a part of the national discussion on gun violence.
I asked the mayor what he thought about celebrities such as Stevie Wonder, or rapper TI reaching out to young people about gun violence.
TI served time on an illegal weapons charge, but when he was released he gave a free concert in Memphis and the mayor gave him a key to the city.
“If it takes a Stevie Wonder, if it takes a Justin Timberlake, or if it takes a TI and a lot of folks said he’s been in trouble, but we got a lot of hits on that and we hit it heads up. He fessed up. There are more people listening to him than folks like me,” Wharton said.
Earlier this year, Wharton unveiled his Memphis Gun Down plan. It includes working with lawmakers to create tougher penalties for illegal gun activity, several community outreach activities and law enforcement programs.
But is it just another slogan or is it making a real difference?
“We have hard numbers in two zip codes. We have two areas where we have seen at least a 10 percent reduction in gun violence in that 17-to-24 age group and that’s where the real violence is,” Wharton said.
As for Stevie Wonder, he says the arts and music must return to schools to help curb gun violence and possibly save lives.
“We have to have things in schools to allow our children to use that energy positively, constructively,” Wonder said.
Stevie Wonder, here to honor fellow musicians, but also hoping a candid conversation about guns can strike a positive ‘note’ in reducing gun violence.
“You seemed thrilled to be here? Exactly(Stevie plays a note on his harmonica). Stevie Wonder, thank you very much. Thank you,” Wonder said.
The Wharton Administration plans on partnering with several Memphis radio stations this summer to have well-known musicians record Public Service Announcements telling young people to put “Guns Down.”