tv Larry King Live CNN December 6, 2010 12:00am-1:00am EST
>> i consider that my work won't be finished until i'm dead and buried, and i hope that's a long, long time. ♪ >> larry: tonight -- ♪ people keep on learning ♪ >> larry: stevie wonder. ♪ a language we all understand >> larry: next on "larry king live." ♪ baby everything is all right ♪ ♪ out of sight
baby ♪ ♪ everything is all right uptight ♪ >> larry: good evening. stevie wonder needs no introduction. so why. a introducing him? except for this -- he is a genius, one of the most influential artists and people of all time. we welcome him back to "larry king live." he is the recipient of 25 grammys and a lifetime grammy. he is a political and social activist. last time he was on this show, by the way, was on the eve of the inauguration of barack ob a obama. let's start that way, stevie. how do you think he's doing? >> i think president obama's doing very well. i think that obviously we were with a mess, unfortunately, at the end of the previous eight years. and i think it's almost like when you gain a lot of weight,
it's going to take a minute to get it off. we got some things we unfortunately got into that happened, it's going to take time to get it back to where it needs to be and to move forward. i think that he is moving the world forward. reports that are coming out that basically the economy is getting better, that jobs that are lapping, and i think that we have to stay on point as a, night people of america. >> stevie wonder, have you always been an activist, by the way? always active in political things? >> i was like -- when i was a little kid, obviously, activist trying to make sure my mother got me when i wanted to get for christmas, cookies -- >> larry: active in that? >> no, i think i've always had my feelings about different things. and obviously, you know, the whole thing of what's right and
what's wrong. i think that maybe more socialist, you know, just feeling that there's no reason why we can't work it outta a united people of the united states -- out as a united people of the united states and of the world. >> let's discuss this extraordinary career, where did you grow up? >> detroit. >> larry: a child of detroit, born blind. >> yes. well, actually, i was not born blind but shortly after that because of being pre matumature had -- a condition -- >> larry: did you see some light? >> i may have. i think litrafibroplagia, it
happened, anyway, from the temperature -- having too much oxygen. many kids who were born in the '50s before the doctor discovered there was another way to do it became blind. >> larry: do you have brothers and sisters? >> i have -- now four brothers and one sister. i lost a brother a four years ago. >> larry: they were all sighted? >> yes. lawyer how did your parents -- what did your father to? >> my father was really not the dominant person who raised the family. it was my mother who raised the family. and my mother worked at a fish company working with -- for a
while and then fortunate ly we were blessed with me being discovered at the age of 9. then signing with motown by the age of 10, then at 11, having the first record out. >> larry: that helped the whole family? >> we did make some money. >> larry: you were a prodigy. did you play piano when you were 5? >> yeah. i played piano. obviously, sound was very important to me, so when i was able to touch a thing called a piano, i was able to play -- curious. that was probably the first thing i played -- ♪ >> larry: "three blind mice," prom enough. was it -- it had to be tough. george sheering -- >> he was great. >> larry: yeah. he said that when you've never
se seen, he didn't toward as a handicap because -- regard it as a handicap because it's the only thing he knew. >> yeah. it's definitely more difficult for someone who has seen and then lost their sight. obviously, you're used to seeing and used to being able to look at something and point at it or go right to it. even though that's true, it's not impossible to survive and to live. >> larry: obviously, you've proven it. we're going to trace an extraordinary musical career. we'll talk more about stevie wonder's inner visions. don't go away. >> i want to interview you, too. i'm a fan of yours. >> larry: we'll let you do that, stevie. but this is your hour. ♪
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♪ give me your love oh baby ♪ ♪ cause if you really really love me ♪ ♪ you will do things to show >> larry: we're back with stevie wonder. do you remember the first thing you ever wrote? >> there's a song i wrote called "ellafandella." >> "ellafandella." ♪ >> larry: could be a hit. >> i don't think so. it wasn't then, and it's not now. >> larry: what was the first hit? >> the first hit we had was a song called "fingertips." ♪ >> and originally -- >> larry: third album, right? >> that was in the -- yeah,
third album. it was a jazz -- the first time it was recorded, it was a jazz solo with little stevie which was a project that motown did with me playing the harmonica and piano and drums, a kind of jazz project. and then we did "tribute to uncle ray," tribute to ray charles. then we were on the motown review, and in chicago, "fingertips" was done again. a live version of it. my music director at the time came one an idea for everybody say yeah and all that stuff. and that was put on the album that was called "the little stevie wonder live at the apollo." >> larry: you ain't so little anymore. you were once little stevie wonder. right? >> never little.
big in spirit, small in size. grew match my spirit. >> larry: did the harmonica come naturally to you, too? >> harmonica was something that obviously growing up in detroit you'd hear the different harmonica players playing the blues, walking down the streets. when i was off the christmas holiday season, an uncle gave me achromatic harmonica, and obviously i didn't know what to do with the button. what is this for? so i was like -- ♪ >> then i figured for me, playing the harmonica after a while was like the saxophone to me. and so it was like -- ♪
>> larry: you take to music, you're called a genius. did that bother you being called a genius so long? >> the amazing thing about being called a genius is i never paid any attention to it. i appreciated it, but since a very early age i felt like this here is a gift from god. and i'm only being used as a vehicle through which i can do these things. so, you know, the thing about it -- 13 years old, you're a big star and all that kind of stuff. and they're talking about these interviews and things they're going do, and -- okay, fine, but i want to watch "huckleberry hound." so i was definitely a kid. >> larry: you never stop being a kid. >> you don't. >> larry: when you write a song, where does it come from? i mean, you don't see colors. you don't see people. you don't know what a television set looks like.
you feel the piano, but you've never seen a piano. where does the music come from? >> i honestly think that if i were to see a piano or to see someone or all the other things you mentioned, i -- if ever i was to see it, i think it would be close to what i imagine it to be. i think i got a pretty good -- pretty vivid imagination, and i think that, you know, we really feel before we saw see. we really hear before we see. because the information goes into our mind and if we're honest, if we're going ourselves, we have to say, okay, this is how i see this. if your vision gives you preconceptions, then you've got a problem with yourself. >> larry: do you read braille? >> what's that?
>> larry: you don't read braille? >> i'm kidding you, of course i read braille, yes. >> larry: want to play a little under me, we're going to break? under me, anything you wrote. ♪ >> larry: our guest is stevie wonder. more music with stevie as our guest, we're honoring him tonight for the full hour. [ sneezes ] client's here. whoa! that achy cold needs alka-seltzer plus! it rushes multiple cold fighters, plus a powerful pain reliever, wherever you need it! [ both ] ♪ oh what a relief it is!
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♪ let's fall in love >> larry: back with stevie wonder. what a career. you toured with the rolling stones back in 1972. >> right. >> larry: i was going to ask, what was that like backstage? what was that like? >> it was interesting, and we had a lot of fun. a lot of i wrote for "talking book," the album that was very successful -- ♪ >> around that time, i wrote on that tour. "superstition" i did on a day off with the stones. we had a good time. we did. >> larry: did you like their music? >> i think we went to the "playboy" mansion. we went to the play play mannbp. at that time, stupid me, i took my girlfriend. how much trouble could you get into? it was great.
i remember once we were performed -- we performed at i think it was madison square. and there's a big crowd obviously coming to the show. and the gay sauy says, listen, y can get in but mick jagger. if you're not one of the stones, you can't get through here. but, this is stevie wonder. stevie -- i don't care about stevie who, but we want mick jagger. if you're with the stones, you get through. i said, well, i am mick jagger. oh, you are. >> why didn't you say that&they let me through. >> larry: did you like their music? >> yeah, i did. >> larry: you did. okay. let's take any song you wrote. where is it like "my cheri cherie amour," where did it come from? >> it originally went -- ♪ ♪ oh my marsha
oh my marsha ♪ >> larry: my marsha? >> yeah. ♪ >> larry: why did you change it? >> marsha and i broke up. so the lyricist wrote my cherie amour. sorry, marsha. she's probably saying it wasn't about me anyway. >> larry: someone has to write down all the notes, right? >> well, in today's -- well, with today's technology, you can play on a keyboard like this or on any keyboard and through a technology that takes -- based on numbers, digital,ing in, it can take the information and
convert that into the writing of each note that you play. the amount of beats that you play the song in. that's how it happens today. >> larry: the machine can write the note? >> yeah, there's a machine that can write through the computer and software, it can be written out. >> larry: are you always thinking of music? are you always sort of writing in your head? >> i can't -- i can't say that i'm always writing in my head, but i do spend a lot of time in my head writing or coming up with ideas. what i do is usual low write the musk or melody and -- usually do is write the music or melody and the basic idea. when i feel i don't have a song, please, god, give me another song. and i just am quiet, and it happens. it's just amazing. >> larry: like? play something.
♪ ♪ larry we're going to miss you ♪ ♪ so don't ever go too long ♪ if you were a woman i may have kissed you ♪ ♪ but that will never happen ever ♪ ♪ larry i remember listening to you ♪ ♪ when you interviewed james brown ♪ ♪ on the radio i was younger then ♪ ♪ and you were too a few years ago ♪ [ applause ] >> larry: someone will record that and he'll dump me and it will be marsha. more music, more stevie after the break. i'm that guy that doesn't take directions.
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one ♪ ♪ one two throw >> larry: do you have a favorite song? >> favorite song? you know, i always when people ask me like what is my most favorite song, i quote duke ellington when they would ask him his most favorite composition. and i say -- and i do feel i haven't written it yet because, you know, there are different songs for different occasion, the "my cherie amour," "i just called to say i love you," a vision for a different day. i think that the blessing is that i have been able to writ songs that have created so men different emotions at different times that i can connect to. >> you remember -- like "i just called to say i love you," where
the inspiration came from? >> i think the idea of the story came from the spirit of how love is for something that's for all seasons, whether that be a holiday, not a holiday or just being able to express that place any time. love is always something that can be expressed, and then for years i just had the -- ♪ ♪ i just called to say i love you ♪
♪ i just called to say how much i care ♪ >> larry: does the lyric come to you right away, too? >> well, the loerk fyric for the from me having some words already and then putting them together in a way that worked good for the film and equally as important for the song. >> larry: did you know it was going to be a hit? >> i knew it was going to be a hit, i knew that. >> larry: i thought you would know that. how could that not be a hit? >> no. i just felt good about it all the time. i remember playing it for different times, birthdays and stuff, but i still only had certain words i would make up at the time. >> larry: you had other words for that, too? there was a marsha for that? >> no marsha, no marsha. >> larry: have you written a song that you thought would be a smash and wasn't? >> we all have that. every songwriter has a song that they think is going to be
incredible and then huh-uh. >> larry: what is one that disappointed you? >> i think the -- the song all about the love again. i wrote that a while back, and then recently we put it on the album for president barack obama in the campaign. and i remember when -- i wrote the song,ed idea of it -- the idea of it, the melody was catchy -- ♪ ♪ ooh oh yeah that sound so good to me ♪ >> larry: how could that miss? >> i know, what's up? ♪ ♪ ooh oh yeah that sounds so good to me ♪ ♪
>> larry: sound good to me. stevie wonder, "signed, sealed, delivered, he's yours." in the middle of the night...n rest is here, on the wings of lunesta. lunesta helps you fall asleep and stay asleep, so you can wake up feeling rested. when taking lunesta, don't drive or operate machinery until you feel fully awake. walking, eating, driving, or engaging in other activities while asleep, without remembering it the next day, have been reported. abnormal behaviors may include aggressiveness, agitation, hallucinations or confusion. in depressed patients, worsening of depression, including risk of suicide, may occur. alcohol may increase these risks. allergic reactions, such as tongue or throat swelling, occur rarely and may be fatal. side effects may include unpleasant taste, headache, dizziness and morning drowsiness. ask your doctor if lunesta is right for you. get lunesta for a $0 co-pay at lunesta.com. sleep well, on the wings of lunesta.
why didn't you stay ♪ you know, i loved michael a lot. and i just. that the way -- here's the deal. i. that if you're going to befriend someone and if, god forbid, they pass away, then, you know, why do you come after they die to talk about their business? i was not feeling that at all. >> larry: we're back with stevie wonder. i guess the song that more singers sing, nightclub performances, whatever, my wife sings it, she sings a lot of club songs, is "for once in my life." >> hey, you want me to write your wife a song? >> larry: yeah, i'd love you to. >> are you serious? >>. >> larry: yeah. >> i'll do it. i will do it. and the reason i'll do it is because as much some of the
things i did see when you were dog the who doing the whole thing about michael jackson kind of pissed me off a little bit. but i thought the spirit in which you kept it with integrity was great. >> larry: tell me about "for once in my life," where that came from. ♪ for once i can see you can take it ♪ >> the way that went was i was in motown it detroit, with my producer, hank cosby, at the time. i said, i've got this great idea because obviously i heard tony bennett do the song when i was maybe 12 years old, 13, whatever i was, 14. and i loved what he did with the song. but by about 17, 18, i said, wow, that's such a great song, let economy tme try doing it an. i said, let me do this song,
"for once in my life." i went to the studio, i -- ♪ what are you doing, man? what's up? i said, listen, just listen. ♪ ♪ for once in my life i have someone who need me ♪ ♪ someone i needed so long ♪ for once unafraid i can go where life leads me ♪ ♪ somehow i know i'll be strong ♪ ♪ for once i can touch when my heart hears a dream of ♪ ♪ long before i know ♪ oh someone warm like you ♪ ♪ what makes -- >> by the time i get to that, i'm hearing a knock on the door. [ knocking ] and he goes, so what are you doing to my song? i said, i'm telling you, this is going a hit. he said, no, no, though, this is
a song -- i said, i'm telling you, this is a good way to do it. he said, okay, if i'm wrong, you know, i -- i'll buy you dinner. if i'm right, you buy me a car. no. i said, i'm telling you -- >>. >> larry: you put your own stamp on it, though. >> i felt that was the way to do it. it was a song that in both ways obviously it's a great song. i think part of a great song is that you're able to do various interpretations of that song. >> larry: yeah. >> and so this song done like that, to me, it. like what i could relate to at 17, 18-years-old. >> larry: play us to the break. we've got to break. >> sing with me. come on. let's go for once in my life
i have someone i need ♪ ♪ for once unafraid i can go where it leads me ♪ ♪ somehow i know i'll be strong ♪ ♪ my heart is a dreamer ♪ long before i knew glass to cookies just out of the oven. to the morning bowl of cereal. and to lactaid® milk. easy to digest and with all the calcium and vitamin d of regular milk. [ female announcer ] lactaid®. the original lactose-free milk.
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side by side ♪ >> there was of a promotions person in motown for years. reached tout someoout to someon with me at the time saying paul mccartney had a song this he felt would be great for he and i to do together. the person that told us of the song was herb beagle who worked in motown right when i first got with motown. and so we worked it out to connect and get together and met in monsurat. and i felt at the end of the day it really is about being able to understand that we may have differences of opinions, but at the end of the day we have to come together and live and work
together. just as on my piano, why can't we? a great song. loifr at a larry king cardiac will goa, we sang that song together. >> i remember that. >> larry: i didn't do ivory. what did i say? >> you may have been ebony. >> larry: no, i was ebony and you were ivory. >> yeah. >> larry: let's see if we remember a little of it. >> let's see here. ♪ ebony ♪ ♪ ebony ♪ and ivory live together in perfect harmony ♪ ♪ side by side on my piano keyboard ♪ ♪ oh lord why can't we ♪ ♪ side by side on my piano keyboard oh lord why can't we ♪ ♪ ebony and ivory
>> larry: how are we going to top that? >> you quit -- >> i know. >> whether it comes out, you won't get as much me. keyboard, drums, harmonica, percussion instruments. >> larry: anybody you'd like to work with you haven't? >> i mean, i'm a big fan of music. i'm a music lover so there probably is no one i wouldn't want to work with. i think it would get down to the chemistry. and if the chemistry was right and we had the same feeling about working together, and if they could sing or play and didn't mind being challenged, i'm good. >> larry: will you play "sir duke" to break? >> i need some tea.
how about if i do this. ♪ >> larry: one handed here. ♪ ♪ music is a world within itself the language we all understand ♪ ♪ with an equal opportunity for all to sing ♪ ♪ to clap their hands ♪ you can tell light aright away when people start to move ♪ ♪ they can feel it all over we've saved people a lot of money on car insurance. feels nice going into the holidays.
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lover." how did that come about? >> how did i write it -- >> larry: not marsha again? >> no. it would have involved a few peop people. this song i wrote i was in england. the beat was like -- it was like -- ♪ hang up the phone let me start again. ♪ call up ring once hang up the phone ♪ ♪ to let me know you made it home ♪ ♪ nothing to be wrong with part-time lover ♪ ♪ if she's with me i'll blink the lights ♪ ♪ to let you know tonight's the night ♪ ♪ for me and you my part-time lover ♪ ♪
♪ chasing love underneath the sun ♪ ♪ we are strangers by day and not by night ♪ ♪ knowing it's so right feeling so right ♪ ♪ ooh >> larry: do you still do a lot of concerts? >> yes, we do. we recently did the tour throughout europe. different concepts. the next one i'm going to do is called "the through the eyes of wonder." the concept is going to be taking the idea that i see -- how i've done various songs and how i visualize various things could be with things that could be visual, whether it be a
video, whether it be staging them a certain kind of way, because i think that obviously if it's something i've written, whether it be vivid imagination or pictures to how i view and see, as well as the world itself. >> larry: through the eyes of wonder? what a great idea. do you ever think -- how old are you now, stevie? >> 60. >> larry: do you ever think of hanging it up? >> hanging what up? >> larry: the career. retiring. >> obviously there will be some point where i'll decide, okay, i've got a daughter that sings, a son that sings, i got family that are talented, little children that are talented. so i think, you know, at some point life will give itself to
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♪ folding my dreams came true when i looked at you ♪ ♪ maybe too if you would believe you too might be ♪ ♪ overjoyed overloved over me ♪ >> larry: here with our remaining moments with the great stevie wonder. i -- boy. it's so unbelievable to have had -- to be able to sit with people like you and to experience you firsthand, for a little kid from brooklyn. >> if i could ask you a question -- how have you enjoyed these events? how many different personalities, obviously, politically -- >> larry: i've enjoyed every minute of it. >> really? >> larry: yeah, 50 years went by -- this is abouty. the great artie short, he
stopped playing at age 53. i asked him why, and he said he had nothing more to say. do you ever feel that way? >> for as long there's life, for as long as we have things happening in the world, for as long as people haven't been able to work it out, for as long as people are not trying to work it out, for as long there's crime and destruction and hate, bigotry, as long there is a spirit that does not have love it in, i will always have something to say. >> larry: do you ever sing what ray charles used to say? do you ever sing "america"? >> i haven't sang the song, i like the song. >> larry: you ought to sing "america the beautiful." >> i think it's a very, very pretty song. and i -- certain songs you hear people say and say i'm not going to think about touching that because it -- in the case of ray, he did such an incredible
job of it. "the national anthem," that whitney houston did. incredible. so there are pieces that in time i will do, but i have an appreciation for the talents of those people that have done them incredibly. there's a song i wrote called "till you come back to me." my version was sort of pop oriented a little bit. and aretha did it, and it was -- aretha franklin did it, it was like forget about it. >> larry: play a little of it. we're closing out. stevie wonder's been our guest. play us out, stevie. ♪ don't call anymore i sit and wait in vain ♪ ♪ i love to rap on your too tap on your window pane ♪ ♪ i want to tell
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