So here's the story of how I met Stevie Wonder, in full.
I was at home, having lunch, waiting to see if ominous storm clouds would roll in as forecast. On the noon news, there was a piece about Stevie Wonder at the Jazz Fest and that he would be holding a press conference at 1 pm. I hustled to get down to the press room, arriving around 1:05 to a lobby full of journalists waiting to get in.
Once we were ushered into the new conference room, it was business as usual: reporters sat down, camera crews took to the wings and back. The lead press organizer made an announcement about how long the conference would be and to limit questions about Michael Jackson.
Festival co-founders Andre Menard and Alain Simard came out with Stevie close behind. After describing the festival's Spirit Award (a bronze statue based on a painting Miles Davis did for the festival) to Stevie, and Stevie's heartfelt words about jazz, the festival and Michael Jackson, they opened the floor to questions.
I had the first question. Identifying myself from CKUT (college and community radio), I asked him to talk about the influences that shaped his unique sense of melody and harmony. Since there was a piano onstage, I figured it would be a good way to get him showing examples and playing tunes - an Inside the Actors Studio moment. Stevie almost answered and then said, "You know, let's take the other questions first, and then you can come up here and hang and I'll show you some tunes."
Other questions were taken about Michael Jackson, child stardom, Motown, a forthcoming spiritual record, etc. I'm not sure who reminded him about me - someone in his crew or someone from Jazz Fest - but he said, "Where's that student? Come up here and let's talk." Not expecting it, the media organizer popped up beside me and prompted me to go up! I went up and introduced myself, thanking him, and he said to me, "So what do you want to know?" Flustered, I blurted out "Bridge of 'Living for the City' and 'They Won't Go When I Go'." He proceeded to talk about "They Won't Go," written on a Monday in New York as he was trying to get out of some contracts, and how Malcolm Cecil and Bob Margouleff's Moog synthesizer programming really made the song come alive. "I Can't Help It" (from Off the Wall) is his take on "A Night in Tunisia." I suppose he was willing to continue, and I didn't want to cut him off but I knew time was running out.
Quite possibly the most surreal and flabbergasting experience of my life.