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Long IslandPolitics

Obamas honor Stevie Wonder at White House

President Barack Obama on Wednesday thankedmusician Stevie Wonder for creating "a style that's uniquelyAmerican" as he presented the singer-songwriter the nation'shighest award for pop music.

Obama, who called Wonder the soundtrack of his youth, gave thestar the Library of Congress' Gershwin Prize for Popular Songduring an East Room tribute that featured Tony Bennett, MartinaMcBride and Wonder himself. The president joked that the group was"the most accomplished Stevie Wonder cover band in history."

- Click here to see photos of Stevie Wonder with the Obamas at the White House

Wonder was emotional at times, thanking Obama for the award andreflecting on what his election as the first black president meansto the United States.

"What is truly exciting for me today is that we truly havelived to see a time and a space where America has a chance to againlive up to the greatness that it deserves to be seen and known as,through the love and caring and the commitment of a president -- asin our president, Barack Obama," he said.

Wonder cited Martin Luther King Jr., his faith and his motherduring an acceptance speech that flowed into a set of Obama'sfavorite songs. The Grammy-winning musician -- he has 25 of theawards -- joked that he looked forward to writing more love songs --perhaps a soundtrack for "you know, maybe I'll be a part ofcreating some more of those babies."

Obama praised Wonder's decades-long career and a style that hasblended pop and funk, R&B and gospel.

"Stevie has always drawn on the incredible range of traditionsin his music and, from that, he's created a style that's at onceuniquely American, uniquely his own, and yet somehow universal,"Obama said. "Indeed, this could be called the American tradition --artists demonstrating the courage, the talent to find new harmoniesin the rich and dissonant sounds of the American experience."

First lady Michelle Obama spoke in more personal terms, callingWonder "one of the world's greatest artists." She recalled howshe and her grandfather would listen to Wonder's albums together.

"He'd blast music throughout the house and that's where he andI would sit and listen to Stevie's music together -- songs aboutlife, love, romance, heartache, despair. He would let me listen tothese songs over and over and over and over again," she said.

The first album she bought was Wonder's "Talking Book," andshe and Barack Obama used "You and I" as their wedding song.

President Obama said he was lucky to have already loved Wonder'smusic when he first met his mate.

"I think it's fair to say that had I not been a Stevie Wonderfan, Michelle might not have dated me, we might not have married,"Obama said, with his wife sitting in the front row. "The fact thatwe agreed on Stevie was part of the essence of our courtship."

Although the president is a well-known fan -- Wonder performed athis nominating convention in Denver last summer and at a LincolnMemorial concert before his January inauguration -- the Library ofCongress had decided to honor Wonder before Obama won the election.

The Gershwin Prize honors George and Ira Gershwin and is givenfor lifetime achievement in popular music. Paul Simon claimed thenation's first prize in 2007.

Wonder's performance will be broadcast Thursday on PBS stationsas part of a White House series on the arts.

- Click here to see photos of Stevie Wonder with the Obamas at the White House


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