20 Oct 02
What becomes a legend most? At BET’s 8th Annual Walk of Fame gala, which took place at BET’s Studio 2 in Washington, D.C, Saturday 19 October 2002, it was obvious that it was love. The artists who came out to honor this year’s awardee, Stevie Wonder, obviously did so because his music touched their hearts. It was a love-fest for someone who is undeniably deserving of all the accolades he’s already received and more.
It was obvious from the time that host Jamie Foxx took the stage dressed like Wonder and doing a dead-on impression of one of Wonder’s classic hits. It was obvious when India.Arie sang her own Wonder tribute song "Wonderful" from her debut album Acoustic Soul and followed up with her stirring rendition of "Overjoyed." It was clear when one of Wonder’s personal favorites, Ja Rule, the only hip-hop artist to perform, took the stage in a T-shirt with an airbrushed image of Wonder.
It could only be an artist like Wonder, who’s meant so much to so many for so many years, who could bring out attendees like Louis Farrakhan, Wesley Snipes and former BET "Teen Summit" host and television personality Ananda Lewis. It could only be an artist like Wonder who would have Elton John paying homage to him even when he couldn’t attend, and have famed rock guitarist Eric Clapton there performing his favorite Wonder song.
It was a night of great performances and great moments. Foxx’s creation of several quirky characters who "worked" for and with Wonder gave the show its best comedic moments. Foxx’s quips and impromptu impressions of Wonder and others threatened to steal the show. But with the kind of starpower lent by a diverse group of artists, it was hard for anyone to completely dominate the night.
While Stevie classics predominated, some artists chose to include their own lesser-known personal favorites. Jill Scott sang "I Don’t Know Why" and Eric Clapton did "Heaven is 10 Zillion Light Years Away." Gospel stalwarts Kim Burrell and Fred Hammond performed "Heaven Help Us All."
But it was Wonder fan favorites that were the night’s crowd pleasers. Chante Moore, who was the most fashionable woman of the night in a short, low-cut sparkly dress, joined Roy Hargrove and Gerald Albright on "Do I Do." Musiq did an energetic version of "Superstition" and K-Ci and JoJo did "Lately," one of Wonder’s and Jodeci’s biggest hits. But the night’s most show-stopping performers were Gerald "Tribute King" Levert and Kelly Price. Not only did the duo have chemistry that seem to hint at a future collaboration, they did a medley of Wonder’s classics that had the audience on their feet.
A surprise performance came from Wonder himself, who spontaneously decided to debut a brand new song, "I Can’t Imagine Love Without You" to the delight of the audience, if not to Motown head Kedar Massenburg. While accepting his award, Wonder carried the night’s theme further, expressing his love for his family and for all of humankind as he implored those in power to avoid a war.
It was a night filled with love, music and joyous celebration, things that Wonder has always stood for. In celebrating him, we truly celebrated the best in ourselves. Not just a musician, Wonder is an icon. Other artists could only hope not just for the career longevity but for the ability Wonder has shown to affect change in people’s lives.
BET will televise the show Oct. 29 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
By Tonya Pendleton, BET.com Staff Writer. Reprinted with permission.