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'What's Good': Bobbito Describes How Stevie Wonder 'Speaks To One's Soul'


Stevie Wonder comes prepared for an interview.

STEVIE WONDER: (Laughter).


WONDER: (Vocalizing, singing) Wheel of '84.

SHAPIRO: That's from the newest episode of What's Good With Stretch And Bobbito, NPR's podcast. Here to tell us about what it was like talking with Stevie Wonder is Bobbito, also known as Robert Garcia. Hey there.

ROBERT GARCIA, BYLINE: Hi, Ari. Thank you for having me on the show.

SHAPIRO: Tell us what we are listening to right now.

GARCIA: Well, Stevie Wonder is in my estimation not just the greatest artist of our era. He might very well be the greatest artist period. He's sold a hundred million records. He's got 25 - I mean the list goes on. But forget about all the accolades and all the critical acclaim. I mean the manner in which he speaks to one's soul is just - it's unmatched. And then, like, by the grace of the universe, he happens to have a piano. And then he also plays.

SHAPIRO: And he didn't just play his greatest hits, but he played stuff that we've never heard before.

GARCIA: I mean he was improvising on the spot. My jaw was literally down for at least 72 hours.

SHAPIRO: So when you got home that night, what did you tell your wife first about what Stevie Wonder told you that day in the studio?

GARCIA: Yeah. I just say - (singing) oh, little lady, oh - well, actually, no, no.


SHAPIRO: This is not going to make sense to people until they hear this.


WONDER: (Singing) Oh, little lady, oh, little lady - oh, little lady. What the - man, that would've never made it.


WONDER: That would've never...


WONDER: (Singing) Golden lady, golden lady, I'd like to go there.


GARCIA: You're writing. You're composing both...

I'm, like, interviewing Stevie Wonder with Stretch. And I don't know what - I started singing for Stevie.


GARCIA: (Singing) You've killed all our leaders. Pardon me for singing. I just can't help it.

WONDER: You're in the wrong key (laughter).


GARCIA: And he told me, you're out of key (laughter).

SHAPIRO: Oh, no. Wow.

GARCIA: Imagine that. I mean it was great, you know, 'cause he's so love and peace, right? He doesn't really shoot anybody down, but he shot me down in a beautiful way.

SHAPIRO: You've been immersed in his music for decades.


SHAPIRO: So what insight did you get from talking to him about it that you didn't have before?

GARCIA: What I think was profound was the manner in which he's been so consistent for 50 years in terms of extending his mind, his thoughts, his consuming of what's wrong in the world and being able to filter that into his lyrics. And even when you don't hear him singing, you can still feel the emotion in the chords.

SHAPIRO: What did he tell you about the connection between his music and his political activism?

GARCIA: He shared a lot in terms of his advocacy to get Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King supported as a national holiday.


WONDER: I just felt that a man who had fought for the economic, social and civil rights for all people should be recognized for the greatness that he did. And for those like himself who lived and died for that should be recognized. And when people would say to me, hey, a black holiday, I said, no, this is a holiday for everyone. He was a black man. As I said, he was an African-American man. But I'm not looking at a color of a person's skin but, as Dr. King said, the content of the character.

GARCIA: And he's blind. He can't see color. And he - even if he wanted to, he wouldn't. And for someone that speaks to so many volumes of people around the world, it's incredible that he has that posture.

SHAPIRO: If there are people who know Stevie Wonder's music from having heard his songs played again and again and again on the radio but they don't know him as a person, as an artist the way you do, what are they going to take away from this interview that they might not have heard before?

GARCIA: I think the most revealing for me was that he has this vast amount of unreleased music. That's uncanny to think about because he's composed so much for other people. He's composed so much for himself. And then he shares with us, like, oh, yeah, you know what? I have, like, however many more songs that have never been heard by public ears. What? How dare you, Stevie (laughter) - holding back on the public.

SHAPIRO: So is he going to release it, or what's going to happen?

GARCIA: He - well, you can listen to the podcast and find out.

SHAPIRO: Bobbito Robert Garcia, co-host of What's Good With Stretch And Bobbito, NPR's new podcast, it's great having you here. Thank you so much for telling us about the Stevie Wonder interview.

GARCIA: Thank you.


WONDER: (Vocalizing, singing) I live in the ghetto. Somebody I will move on my feet to the other side. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.