Always New Directions
A Lifetime Of Work
By 1997, Stevie Wonder had been making music for nearly thirty-five years. Many people would think of retiring after such an outstanding career. Artists don't retire, though. Their work is all about the life that is happening around them. Artists are always working at a different way to view the world, themselves, and their work. The fans want artists to work, too, but they also want to take the opportunity to reward an artist's achievements.
Stevie's opportunities for fan, industry, and society appreciation began in 1996. He collected a Grammy Award for his lifetime achievement in music. Those achievements spoke well of his musical gifts: Stevie amassed more than twenty number-one hits over his career; he had earned seventeen Grammy Awards, and in 1999 would earn two more!
A few months later, Stevie received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. This was the site of the future Stevie Wonder Center for Computing in the Arts. Stevie donated a lot of money in order for students to have a place to study music. Traditional music is taught at the center, but music is also explored through interactive multimedia computer training. This is one place where the future of music and the music industry will be on the cutting edge of technology.
Sighted for the Millennium
On November 15, 1999, Stevie Wonder told a church group of 400 people that he was considering an operation on his eyes. A new medical operation would place a computer chip in his eyes. The chip would help the eyes grow healthy cells. These cells would let Stevie see light and shades. Stevie had this to say: “I've always said that if ever there's a possibility of me seeing, then by whatever means that would take, obviously under the blessings of God, then I would take that challenge.”
Some people who have this operation are able to see shapes and some light. A doctor told Stevie, however, that this operation would probably not help him. Without even going through an examination, Stevie decided that he would not undergo the operation.
In 1999, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., awarded Stevie a lifetime achievement honor. This award is the nation's highest award for artistic achievement. The president of the United States, Bill Clinton, appeared at this ceremony and awarded this prestigious honor to Stevie.
Keys to the City
Stevie returned to Detroit in July 2001 to perform at a free concert celebrating Detroit's 300th anniversary as a city. His performance was a testament to all Detroit natives and music lovers. Stevie Wonder was a hometown sensation.