What began as a tribute night to Stevie Wonder at an Echo Park club took a turn for the unbelievable when Motown icon Stevie Wonder himself showed up to hang out, sing a few bars and talk politics. (Yes, politics.)
At the Echoplex, DJ Spinna was hosting his yearly "Wonder-full" club night, where Wonder fans gather to dance to the musician's arsenal of hits and B-sides, and buy T-shirts with screen prints of the legend's face on them.
It may have been his signature sunglasses or long braids decorated with small seashells, but Wonder's arrival was electric, unparalleled even by the Echoplex’s history of big-name talents like Beck and Nine Inch Nails.
The 22-time Grammy winner sat at a small table with friends and family, watching the party from a roped-off corner near the stage. This VIP area was modest, much like Wonder’s entourage and demeanor.
Wonder seemed to revel in his own beats and gave his trademark head shake in between jumping up on stage to surprise the audience with a few impeccable bars. Screams, cheers, squeals and claps thundered with every appearance of the multi-faceted musician, best known for his powerful voice and nimble-fingered piano playing.
Check out cell phone video of Wonder making a late night address to the crowd:
Wonder may be best known for hits like "Superstition," "You are the Sunshine of my Life" and "My Cherie Amour," but in the shadows of his top 40 hits he remains a passionate political force.
He advocates for equal rights for those with disabilities and used his appearance at the Echoplex to tell the crowd to love.
"Whatever faith or religion you have, or whatever you don't have, I hope you will get something to believe in," he said Saturday. "And if you have nothing to believe in, believe in love."
Wonder spreads the love through his life and his legacy. He owns Inglewood radio station 102.3 KJLH, whose call letters he decided would represent Kindness, Joy, Love and Happiness.
In 1980 Wonder petitioned to make Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a national holiday and in 2009 he was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace.
Wonder's come a long way since signing with the Motown label by the time he was 11 and performing with a young Marvin Gaye by 13. Wonder’s performed at the televised memorial service of Michael Jackson and has inspired decades of devoted artists that cover and sample his music, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers and De La Soul.
As Saturday night turned into Sunday morning, Wonder concluded the evening with a heartfelt speech and a few bars of Michael Jackson's "Rock with You."
He talked about nothing to do with music and everything to do with a meeting with President Barack Obama, the state of jobs in America and equal rights for everyone with any disability.
"My vision ... is for us to make this country completely accessible for everyone who has any kind of physical disability so they have no reason to not be able to go anywhere at all," Wonder said.
Wonder’s compassion and humor held the audience captive as he thanked Steve Jobs for changing the way people communicate and for creating technology that's equally accessible to all, even for the blind.
"There's nothing on the iPhone or the iPad that you can do that I can't do," Wonder said. "I can be talking to you, you can be looking at me, I can be doing whatever I need to do ... and you don't even know what I'm doing."
After all of this, I had my own personal moment with Mr. Wonder, too. After almost everyone had left and the house lights slowly came on, Wonder began to move toward the door as I stood by with a gaping grin, half-frozen in awe. I could barely generate my voice to ask Wonder's bodyguard if I could give Wonder a quick handshake. When the musclebound bodyguard gave me the Ok, I was so overwhelmed that I wasn't sure if I was going to cry or be sick.
As I stuck out a trembling hand to shake Wonder's, he took it and pulled me toward him so that he was able to hear me over the dwindling crowd of people. Our cheeks were touching when he asked me my name, which remarkably, I was able to squeak out. He was gracious and kind and didn't rush me through my moment with him.
A million thoughts ran at lightyear speed through my head: What does one ask a living legend? Does he really want to hear from another fan? Would his bodyguard jump me if I tried to give Stevie a hug and never let go?
Worried I would run out of time to say anything at all, I decided to just tell him the truth. I said "Stevie, you made my entire life by being here tonight. Thank you so much."
Photos: www.msison.com, Ann Johansson/Getty Images
More Stevie Wonder videos: Stevie singing "Superstition" on "Sesame Street": Young Stevie Wonder singing "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" on the Dick Cavett show:
More Stevie Wonder videos:
Stevie singing "Superstition" on "Sesame Street":
Young Stevie Wonder singing "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" on the Dick Cavett show: