"Honored to join my friend Stevie Wonder at his street naming ceremony. Congratulations Stevie Wonder." said John Conyers, Jr.
|Stevie Wonder and John Conyers|
A grateful Stevie Wonder brought warm spirits to a frigid Detroit afternoon as city officials christened a street in honor of the iconic Motown star.
Signs marking Stevie Wonder Avenue now grace the corners of Milwaukee Avenue at Woodward, a mile from Motown's original headquarters and just two blocks from the site of Wonder's first Detroit home — a house at Milwaukee and Brush where the Saginaw native moved as a young prodigy in the early 1960s.
"I know things can't last forever, but I'm going to freeze this moment in my mind and make it last," Wonder told fans and Detroit dignitaries ahead of the sign unveiling.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, and Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones were among those on hand for the dedication, an effort spearheaded by Wonder's cousin Sharon DuMas and approved by the City Council in late 2015.
Amid the speeches and razzmatazz, there was a cozy family feel to Wednesday's proceedings, where Wonder was flanked by his older brother and longtime stage escort, Calvin Hardaway.
A crowd of about 400 braved an hour delay and temperatures in the 20s for the occasion, where Wonder also announced that he'll be bringing his House Full of Toys holiday concert to Detroit in 2017. The annual children's benefit has been a Los Angeles tradition for two decades, with Wonder performing alongside guests such as Alicia Keys, Justin Bieber and John Legend.
Wednesday's event found Wonder delivering familiar messages of peace and unity, declaring his affection for Detroit and breaking into an impromptu rendition of "You Are the Sunshine of My Life."
Duggan, presenting Wonder an honorary key to the city, told the 66-year-old star that the street dedication "is a way of saying thank you for all you've given us."
"You changed history, and you did it getting your start here in Detroit," the mayor said.
Jones lauded Wonder as an "artist whose music has inspired generations, raised consciousness and put expressions of love into words."
A grinning Wonder listened on — and periodically joined in — as a choir from the Detroit School of Arts performed the chestnuts "Do I Do," "Isn't She Lovely" and "All I Do."
From there, it was on to the street corner, where Cass Tech High School's marching band laid down "Sir Duke" as Wonder, Duggan and Motown Museum chief Robin Terry tugged a rope to unveil a blue "Stevie Wonder Avenue" street sign.
"Obviously it's an amazing feeling, unbelievable," Wonder told media afterward. "I never imagined in my lifetime this would happen."
He spoke optimistically about the Motown Museum's planned $50-million expansion.
"As Detroit goes through its expansion and growth, it's only appropriate for that to happen for a jewel (that is) so much a part of Detroit's legacy as Motown," he said. "So I'm very happy about that."
He also applauded plans to make the expanded museum accessible to the blind and deaf.
Asked about President-elect Donald Trump, Wonder — a Hillary Clinton supporter and longtime Democratic booster — mostly played diplomatic, declining to directly attack the incoming U.S. leader.
"Our choice is to do good by each other, or to do bad by each other — to do good for each other, or do bad for each other," he said. "I think that the president-elect has a decision he has to make."
He also paid tribute to Detroit, the city where he honed his musical skills as a teen under the tutelage of Berry Gordy Jr. and Motown's other heavyweights.
"My love of the city is a reflection of the music I've written," he said, later adding: "Detroit is all in everything that I've done."
For now, Stevie Wonder Avenue signs will grace two corners of the Milwaukee-Woodward intersection. DuMas, who led the street renaming campaign, said she'll be lobbying the city to rename the entirety of Milwaukee Avenue, which runs 1.7 miles from East Grand Boulevard to the Lodge Freeway.
"I felt like it was time for this. We lost Michael Jackson and Prince. But Stevie is here," she said Wednesday. "I wanted to give him his flowers while he's here."
Stevie Wonder Avenue joins a list of area streets named for homegrown music stars, including Berry Gordy Boulevard, Aretha Avenue, Miracles Boulevard and Temptations Drive in Detroit. In Royal Oak, Glenn Frey Drive was unveiled earlier this year in honor of the recently deceased Eagles founder.
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