"Songs In The Key of Life" CD cover art, as on the original 1976 double album. Photo by Sara Porter

Songs in the Key of Life

Musings on Stevie Wonder by a skinny little white girl who looked to Motown from across the river.

Stevie Wonder loves me. He told me so. Well, me and 10,000 other people at the Air Canada Centre (ACC) in Toronto on Oct 9. What a stupendous night of music and joy and love.

Here is the longer story:

I was a skinny little white girl who looked across the Detroit River from Windsor every day of my life for three years (between the ages of 7 and 10) at a city that beguiled and inspired and frightened me. It was the home of Motown, that magical muscle of visceral music that moved my body in new ways that could not be suppressed. It woke me up. And I danced. And even though I knew I didn’t quite belong – or perhaps more aptly, the Motown music didn’t fully belong to me – it felt like a profound home and a refuge for me.

There was the boppy little Michael Jackson that reflected my childhood joy. There was the avuncular (well, now I know otherwise) Ray Charles who somehow understood my pain. And then there was Stevie Wonder.

I do not exaggerate when I say that receiving the Songs in the Key of Life album for Christmas at age 11 changed my life. By then we had moved to Halifax and there were lots of other skinny little white girls in the neighbourhood. They didn’t listen to Motown. Stevie Wonder was mine.

I lived this entire history watching the concert tonight. I’ve never met Stevie Wonder and never seen him live before, but I am unabashedly a fan. His music educated my body as much as any dance training did. And he said he loves me. And, strangely, I believe it.

It’s Thanksgiving weekend and I’m feeling grateful for his music, for my path that included it, for my son Felix who came to the concert with me and even for the poor security guard who instructed me to return to my seat and stop dancing in the aisle.

By the end of the concert, I returned to dancing in the aisle with several other security guards who were in full groove. On the way out, I made sure my path crossed the original guard and told him, “Dancing always wins in the end. Remember that.” And we smiled at each other.

by Sara Porter – Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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