I play you for my college students
whose parents might have boogied to your songs
in their teen years, but these kids,
Stevie, they don’t recognize the funky
sounds of your keyboard, their bodies
don’t automatically start to groove
when they hear the familiar opening riff
on the Clavinet, before you even start to sing.

But after a month with too much rancor
in the world, I decide that we need some
Wonder in our lives, cue up the video in class,
crank the volume and holler, “Everybody up!”
and, looking puzzled, my students stand to take in
the ageless man onstage, his hair in fine cornrows,
keyboard reflecting in his shades.

And when you begin to sing,
Very superstitious—writing’s on the wall,
my feet are already moving—
me, the awkward white girl in eighth grade,
long hair, braces, far from blossoming,
moved to dance in front of others
because of this song, the coolest music
I’ve ever heard.

And now the horns chime in, the chunky sax
and piercing trumpet:
When you believe in things that you don’t understand
Then you suffer,
and without knowing it,
I have had my first lesson in Buddhism.

And now, as the video plays, I see students’ hips
start to sway, torsos bend and twist, and someone says,
Who’s this guy again? And I shout, Stevie Wonder!
as you sing,
Very superstitious, wash your face and hands
Rid me of the problems, do all that you can…

You are a wonder, Stevie, always have been to me,
not because of your young piano prodigy self,
all of 11 when you were discovered by Motown,
persevering through blindness to become
a legendary singer/songwriter,

but because you got me dancing,
finally learning not to care who saw my clumsy self
moving without inhibitions, that geeky 13-year-old girl,
now an almost 60-year-old college professor grooving
in a classroom on a spring afternoon
with her students, all ages, shapes, sizes and colors,
all of us wearing big smiles,

dancing dancing dancing,
never wanting to stop


Stevie and Grover, “Sesame Street,” 1973




About janishaag

Writer, writing coach, editor
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9 Responses to Stevie

  1. Cindy Domasky says:

    After a month with too much rancor in the world, thank you for this, Jan. Smiles and early morning feel goods.

  2. Constance E Raub says:

    As my tap teacher always ends her correspondence. . . . “Dance first, think later. It’s the natural order” ~ Samuel Beckett 1906-1989

  3. Connie Johnstone says:

    I love the way you live out your values with passion and share them in the world. Your energy is never for the small stuff. You go for the real deal. 💕💕💕👏👏👏💕💕💕

    Sent from my iPad


  4. Connie Johnstone says:

    Btw I was playing bobby mcferrin be happy for patients and families for Holy Week and all durI get Lent. So I get you, Girl. 😀

    Sent from my iPad


  5. Hilary A says:

    I am with you all the way, our Janis! Stevie is my favorite all-around musician–writer, arranger, singer, philosopher. Yes. I loved Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, but cannot dance to their beat! We must dance!x

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