Few people, let alone celebrities, are as universally adored as Stevie Wonder. At tonight's 39th NAACP Image Awards (Fox, 8 pm/ET), the humble music legend and inspiring civil-rights activist is inducted into the organization's hall of fame. We were fortunate — and a bit awed — to chat with Wonder about the honor and how he took his career to higher ground.
TVGuide.com: You're joining some awfully heavy company — Ray Charles and Sidney Poitier among them — in the hall of fame. How does that make you feel?
Stevie Wonder: Very thankful. Very honored. I have to thank everyone that I've met along the way, because they are one reason for me getting to this point and receiving this honor. Those inductees have been inspirations to me or encouraged me in various ways.
TVGuide.com: Do these types of honors hold a special value for you? You're also a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Wonder: I think they hold value, because No. 1, it didn't have to be me. And so that's significant that it was me. I just hope that I continue to represent to God the blessings that He allowed me to get.
TVGuide.com: Everyone seems to be a fan of yours. Why do you inspire such admiration?
Wonder: You know, I love life so very much. I love people so much. I love the possibility of where we can go and what we can do. Someone said to me once, "You've got three strikes against you: You're black, you're blind, and you're poor." And I said, "Ma'am, you forgot one thing: I'm bowlegged!" [Laughs].... If I were of a negative spirit, I could have put my head down and said, "You're right." But I was like, "Bring it on!"
TVGuide.com: There have been many young artists dubbed "the next Stevie Wonder," but they don't seem to last that long. Why is that?
Wonder: There are so many talented artists out there with such potential. On a certain level, the music industry has become a little more corporate than I would like for it to be. I understand, but you cannot build a new artist based on how close they sound to someone else or how much they might be like the trend of today. I think the thing that has always made music great is that it's not homogenized.
TVGuide.com: So much has been made about the decline of the record industry. What can be done to save it?
Wonder: I think it's like the planet — Earth has been here a lot longer than we have been here as a people. In the case of the record industry and music, music was here long before the industry. I think there will come a time when there will be that person who starts an Internet label or company or whatever.... We have all these various things that happened; we [went] from the cylinder to the record to the cassette to the compact disc. But at the end of the day, it's all about what Duke Ellington used to say, "It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing."
TVGuide.com: So something new or unique will change the industry?
Wonder: I think so. People have so many alternative ways of listening now. It used to be you either listened to radio or you played your records. Now you've got MTV, BET, downloads, satellite radio.... You've got many different means. And lots of people choose to create their own music, so they use their iPod.
TVGuide.com: We've all become DJs in a way.
Wonder: I think so. And that's OK.
TVGuide.com: Whom do you like on the music scene now?
Wonder: I'm listening to a lot of different things and artists.... My daughter Aisha is, like me, a music lover. Anything she has on her iPod, I'm listening to. And I think music is a yin and yang kind of thing. So for those people who say, "I was influenced by Stevie," I'm influenced by them, too.
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