Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images North America

The poetry of divinely inspired words, the musicality of rich melodies and the passionate vocals of a global artistic treasure, otherwise known as Stevie Wonder, was honored at the sixth annual Apollo Theater Spring Gala Benefit Concert.  The event, held last night, June 14, began with a star-studded red carpet that nearly stopped traffic in the busy thoroughfare of Harlem as Rev. Al Sharpton, Sherri Shepherd, Gabourey Sidibe, Wyclef Jean, entrepreneur Wendy McClean and others came out to support Wonder.
Some of the artists who performed in his Wonder’s honor included Take 6, Raphael Saadiq, Kim Burrell, Yolanda Adams and Melanie Fiona.

It’s Wonder’s status as a cultural icon and humanitarian for social justice issues, such as race and poverty, that inspired so many to attend.

“He represents more than singing a song.  He shows what it means to stand for something even though, sometimes, it won’t be popular.  But in the course of history, you have to stand for what’s right,” stated Wyclef Jean.

There are those fortunate enough to know the legend personally, such as veteran entertainer Leslie Uggams, who has an additional reason to love Wonder: his sharp wit.

“He is funny and is always making jokes.  They are corny jokes, but he loves to laugh,” she revealed.

Wonder’s joyous and infectious spirit was evident during the benefit concert where highlights included him reminiscing about a secret romantic rendezvous at the Apollo as a youth; his poignant surprise duet with Tony Bennett on “For Once in My Life”; and a master class in jam sessions featuring Chick Corea, Paul Schaeffer and Questlove of The Roots.

The gala also recognized the contributions of cosmetics giant Revlon with the Corporate Award, which was accepted by Chairman Ronald O. Perelman.  Philanthropist and arts supporter Reginald Van Lee received The Percy E. Sutton Civic Leadership Award.

Following the benefit concert, the event concluded at the Apollo Supper Club. Under a stylishly accented white tent, guests mingled, enjoyed delectable gourmet cuisine, sipped on Belvedere concoctions and danced the night away to the grooves of DJ D-Nice.

During the festivities, Wonder joined Spike Lee and Doug E. Fresh in the deejay booth to deliver a live mash-up of his classic “Living for the City” over the instrumental to Naughty by Nature’s “Hip-Hop Hooray.”  In that moment, it was evident that Wonder was right at home at the Apollo, where his talent was nurtured.  And by the end of the night, it was guaranteed that, with a successful fundraising total of $1.2 million, the Apollo will continue to support the future Wonders of the world through their arts, community and educational initiatives. –souleo