Stevie Wonder In Performance at the White House: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize

Thu, 02/26/2009 - 10:00pm

Stevie Wonder

President Barack Obama will give the Second Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song to Stevie Wonder on February 25 at a special concert in the East Room of the White House in celebration of African American History Month. The program, being taped as part of the In Performance at the White House series, will air on PBS stations nationwide the following evening. Stevie Wonder In Performance at the White House: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize airs Thursday, February 26 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV 21 (cable 11) and WXXI-HD (DT 21.1 and cable 1011).

Stevie Wonder's music was frequently heard at Obama campaign events in 2008. His song, Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours, became a theme song during the campaign. Stevie Wonder performed at the Democratic National Convention in Denver on the night Obama accepted his party's nomination. He also performed at two inaugural events in January. The concert will feature a tribute by top performers singing the songs that propelled Wonder to the ranks of international stardom.

The Gershwin Prize for Popular Song was created by the Library of Congress to honor artists whose creative output transcends distinctions between musical styles and idioms, bringing diverse listeners together, and fostering mutual understanding and appreciation.

“Stevie Wonder is the epitome of what the Gershwin Prize stands for," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, who selected Stevie Wonder for the honor in September 2008. “He has crossed musical and cultural boundaries and has made contributions to humanity far beyond the realm of entertainment."

The prize commemorates George and Ira Gershwin, the legendary American songwriting team whose extensive manuscript collections reside in the Library of Congress. The prize is awarded to musicians whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with the Gershwins. Paul Simon in 2007 received the first Gershwin Prize.

As an added distinction to this year's Gershwin Prize, the Library has offered, and Stevie Wonder has accepted, a musical commission. He joins a group of eminent composers who have received Library commissions, ranging from Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein to Paquito D'Rivera. Stevie Wonder will present the piece at a recital in honor of the Gershwin Prize February 23 in the Library's Coolidge Auditorium.

In Performance at the White House began with an East Room recital by the legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz in 1978, and since then has embraced virtually every genre of American music: pop, country, gospel, jazz and the blues among them. The series, spanning every presidential administration since President Carter, was developed to showcase the rich fabric of American culture in the setting of the nation's most famous home. Past programs have showcased such talent as the United States Marine Band, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, the best of Broadway musicals and the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Stevie Wonder In Performance at the White House: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize is the first In Performance of President Barack Obama's Administration.