By Chesney Hearst, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The city of Rio will bring Stevie Wonder to town for a free Christmas night concert on the famed Copacabana Beach. Along with the legendary Brazilian singer, Gilberto Gil, the December 25th show is expected to draw over one million fans.
Part of two shows Wonder will play in Rio during the holiday season, the beach concert is set to take place in front of Copacabana Palace starting at 10PM, with Gilberto Gil opening at 8PM and later joining Wonder on stage.
The two have performed together before, most notably pairing up at the 1995 Free Jazz Festival where Gil sang a Portuguese version of “I Just Called to Say I Love You”.
The feeling of love is mutual, as Brazil has shown its affection for Wonder, he has also returned the sentiment throughout his career.
“His love of Brazil has influenced many of his best hit songs. I recall reading an interview he once gave several years ago where he rattled off a pretty impressive list; “Isn’t She Lovely”, “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life,” and “I Just Called To Say I Love You” come to mind, “ said Scott Adams, host of the Chicago-based The Sounds of Brazil radio program and founder of the Brazil Club.
Performing numerous times live in Brazil throughout the years, Wonder was last in Rio while headlining the soul day of the fourth edition of Rock in Rio in 2011. A well received show, Wonder included a cover of “Girl from Ipanema” and sang verses of the song “Você Abusou” (“Abused You”) in Portuguese.
Born six weeks premature in 1950 in Saginaw, Michigan as Stevland Hardaway Judkins, the man later known as Stevie Wonder entered the world blind due to a condition known as retinopathy of prematurity. He quickly went on to prove himself as a child prodigy, playing the piano, harmonica and drums and singing in his church choir.
Catching the attention of those around him, Motown Record Corporation signed him to their label in 1961 as “Little Stevie Wonder”. That began what is now a fifty plus year career during which Wonder has sold more than a hundred million albums; won 22 Grammy Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1996) and an induction in 1989 to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
With complex and catchy vocal arrangements of pop and soul music, Wonder has acquired a fan base that stretches across cultures and generations. He has also inspired and influenced musicians from The Red Hot Chili Peppers to Lauryn Hill.
Before Wonder goes on stage in Copacabana for Christmas, he, again joined by Gil, will play Imperator (Imperator Centro Cultural João Nogueira) in Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone) on Sunday, December 23rd.
Tickets for that event went on sale during the first week of December and are R$800 with half price also available. Proceeds benefit Sociedade Viva Cazuza, a nonprofit organization that assists children and adolescents infected with HIV and AIDS.
On Christmas Day, Gil is expected to take the Copacabana stage first as one of the founding members along with Caetano Veloso, Torquato Neto, Os Mutantes, Gal Costa and Tom Zé, of the revolutionary late-60s Tropicalia movement. Gil has also seen a career spanning almost fifty years and is well known for his songs, “Palco”, “Domingo No Parque” and “Aquele Abraço” among others.