Stevie Wonder 'Sketches of a Life' Webcast Now Live!

Stevie Wonder plays the harmonica in the premiere performance of "Sketches of a Life" at the Library of CongressBefore you watch the Stevie Wonder concert last night at the White House in celebration of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song tonight on PBS (you will watch, won’t you?), you really need to see the celebrated artist kick it “classical style” in the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium. (The White House event was also held in honor of African American History Month.)

Wonder and a 21-piece orchestral ensemble performed the world premiere of a piece commissioned by the Library called “Sketches of a Life,” a nine-movement reflection on his lifelong musical and personal influences. The unique piece, a big departure from the Stevie Wonder most of us know and love, has been drawing rave reviews. SEE THE WEBCAST!

The composition, bookended by a pair of standing ovations, was followed by an encore of two more-familiar Stevie Wonder hits. First, he played a goosebump-inducing version of “Overjoyed.” (At least it gave me goosebumps.) Then he led the 450-person audience in a rollicking sing-along of “My Cherie Amour.”

Wonder joins a long list of distinguished composers who have written commissions for the Library, including Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber, Bela Bartók, Paquito D’Rivera and Cecil Taylor. You can learn more about the Library’s vast performing-arts holdings here.

Even if you couldn’t be there in person, I hope the webcast gives you a sense of the excitement in the air for that historic moment. And I hope our servers can handle the traffic that this webcast might (and should) get!

You can also watch a pre-concert news conference in its entirety here.

UPDATE: My apologies, but I had thought the version of the concert we uploaded was much closer to the complete show.  There are a couple of tangles we’re still working through.  The entire show, or the vast bulk of it, should be online soon.

Even communications directors find themselves caught up in miscommunication now and again.


  1. Miles Stillwell
    February 26, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Why is the work and the artist disrespected here by the broken presentation? Doesn’t the public deserve to hear the whole piece?

  2. Rochelle Lesser
    February 26, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    When will you present the full, completed composition? This was merely bits and pieces.

  3. Linkmeister
    February 26, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Why was there no 2008 Gershwin Prize awarded?

  4. vaidb
    February 27, 2009 at 4:58 am

    Thank you for publishing this clip of Stevie’s remarkable piece.
    Are you aware if the Library would be publishing the entire ‘Sketches of a Life’ performance either in audio or webcast format?

  5. Bill
    February 27, 2009 at 9:37 am

    To whom it may concern,

    It would be a shame if the complete version of Stevie Wonder’s “Sketches Of A Life” will never be available for the public to see. I am requesting that this once in a lifetime performance of a song with this much significance be put up in its entirety.

    Thank you for your time.

  6. John Sayers
    February 27, 2009 at 10:26 am

    The Library is working on some technical and rights clearance issues that have precluded us from releasing a full version of Mr. Wonder’s performance.

    We wanted to get at least an excerpted version out for all the folks that have been asking for it. The full version should be available soon.

    Thanks for your patience.

  7. John Sayers
    February 27, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Linkmeister, Mr. Wonder was named as the Gershwin Prize winner in 2008, but the presentation was not made until 2009 due to scheduling issues.

  8. vaidb
    February 27, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Thank you John for your prompt reply. We look forward to this Wonder-ful piece.

  9. Bill
    February 27, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Thank you for the information John. This is great news!

  10. Miles Stillwell
    February 27, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Looking forward to the entire work being posted — even if only in audio format.

  11. piotr
    February 27, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    That’s great to hear Stevie in classical style ! Please, to publish the whole part of this evning .

  12. Ron Washington
    February 27, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    Why aren’t we seeing the entire performance of Mr. Wonder’s work? Please don’t let this very important and significant work go unseen and heard completely!

  13. Linkmeister
    February 27, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    Thank you for the prompt reply. Now if I could persuade my local PBS station to schedule the show for some time more sensible than 3:00am Saturday night . . .

  14. John Sayers
    February 27, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Linkmeister, I think PBS is streaming the White House concert here:

  15. Nicole W
    February 28, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Please, publish the whole masterpiece. Stevie and classical music – simply great.

  16. Amy Lynn
    February 28, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    There are so many of us who would welcome the opportunity to hear Mr. Wonder’s composition in its entirety.

  17. Steve Marshall
    March 1, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Anxiously awaiting the full release of the entire masterpiece , “Sketches Of A Life” from Stevie Wonder.

  18. dave
    March 1, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    Agree with the above, it was lovely seeing the clips of ‘Skechtes of Life’.
    It would be great to hear the entire work.

  19. JB-P
    March 1, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    Wonderful and exciting stuff…
    I’ve been aware Stevie Wonder should write and perform this kind of music since I’ve heard “Secret Life Of Plants” from 1979. With it Stevie Wonder reaches another higher ground. He definitely should release what seems to be a masterpiece. I can’t wait for the complete performance here…

  20. Ed Wichmann
    March 2, 2009 at 6:55 am

    I very much enjoyed hearing the short excerpt of this piece. Please bring us the entire recording as soon as possible.
    Many thanks, Ed

  21. arno
    March 2, 2009 at 2:24 pm

    Thank you so much for this beautifull work of art!
    But please let the world enjoy the whole piece!
    Thank you.

  22. Austin Wedding
    March 2, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Thanks for the link John

  23. HolidayBlooms
    March 4, 2009 at 6:22 am

    I’ve been looking for the link all day. Thanks a million!

  24. Rochelle Lesser
    March 5, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Your update about the holdout was quite some time ago. How about a new update on the status?

  25. Bruno Striano
    March 5, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    The echo of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song has reached us in Italy too, thanks to the masterpiece by Mr Wonder: “Sketches Of A Life”. We’d love to see the full, though, as culture is meant to be spread to all! Thank you, in any case, for all that you do and for letting us see an exerpet while looking forward to the whole.
    Regards Bruno Striano

  26. Astrid Ali
    March 15, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    Can the entire work be made available?

  27. Ralph DeLuca
    March 31, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Stevie Wonder is an amazing artist and has been for 40 years! I hope the whole work becomes available.

  28. Miquel E
    January 25, 2011 at 8:10 am

    There is a new book out Muzik Kinda Sweet, featuring pics of Stevie in Birmingham England. Taken during the 1980s by legendary photographer Pogus Caesar. This book is a must have if only for the rarity of the images. A real treasure for Stevie’s real fans.

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