For Stevie Wonder, Chadwick Boseman’s death was another challenging tragedy in a stormy year that has left him reflecting.
Speaking Saturday from his home in Los Angeles, Wonder told the Detroit Free Press he first met the actor after an event they had both attended. As they sat and talked, Wonder made a point to tell Boseman he related to his artistic approach.
“I was really impressed with how he was able to go into a character, not only visually,” Wonder said. “The way he became the voice of the character was incredible, like his whole soul was inside.”
Citing musical works of his own such as “I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It” and “If It’s Magic,” Wonder said he identified with Boseman because “part of my doing different songs and singing different ways is sort of becoming the character of the song. You have to be what you are in.”
Boseman was among the dozens of A-listers who participated in Wonder’s “The Dream Still Lives” video in 2018, commemorating the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.
Boseman, star of “Black Panther,” “21 Bridges” and “Get On Up,” was a heralded actor whose skyrocketing career was cut short at age 43. He died Friday after a private, four-year battle with colon cancer, having made several films while keeping his personal ordeal out of the spotlight.
Wonder lauded Boseman’s quiet grace and strength during the suffering.
“The thing about it is, Wakanda will live forever. He is that character,” Wonder said, referencing Boseman’s lead “Black Panther” role. “His motivation is something that can encourage people in every corner of the earth. He made a decision to put his purpose in front of the suffering and pain.
“He didn’t take us to a pity party – he put us in his purpose party. That’s what we need, and that’s what he showed us.”
Wonder, 70, recently confronted a significant health issue of his own. Last summer, the iconic Motown star revealed he would be receiving a kidney transplant in September 2019.
He said Saturday he’s in good shape.
“Oh yeah, I’m good. I’ve been very blessed to feel like I’m 25,” he said. “I really do. I’m very thankful, and I guess it means I’ve got more work to do. And I’m good with that.”
Boseman’s death is the latest in a series of losses for Wonder the past two years. He performed at the funerals of fellow Detroit titans Aretha Franklin and John Conyers, and he was close to U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who passed in July.
Wonder said he regarded Boseman the way he viewed figures such as Lewis and John Lennon – as people who “put themselves out there” in the name of good.
“Of all those things in my life, I’ve been inspired by people like Chadwick, people who have done the work,” he said. “The army of hate can never win against the army of love. It’s too big. It’s been around too long.”
For Wonder and others, Boseman’s passing was another blow in a year that has often felt like one long, unrelenting shock wave.
When nationwide protests erupted after George Floyd’s May 25 death, Wonder issued a video, “The Universe is Watching Us,” urging leaders on all sides to make “a unanimous commitment to atone for the sins of this country.”
Speaking Saturday, he doubled down on that message. Wonder, a longtime supporter of Democratic leaders and causes, insisted he was putting party aside as he contemplated the bigger picture.
“Any president, at any time, has been given the gift of bringing people together. I don’t care what country it is. To me, that’s a gift beyond politics, an opportunity given by God,” he said. “They have a responsibility to do their very best to bring that nation and those people together. If they don’t do that – if they divide people to hate – that’s a curse to God. An abomination.”
Nothing has dominated 2020, of course, more than COVID-19.
Wonder, a Michigan-born child prodigy who grew into a global star at Motown Records, asked how Detroit is doing now.
The city was battered hard during the early stretch of the pandemic, and to date has tallied more than 1,500 deaths amid 13,625 confirmed cases. While rates have declined this summer, the effects of the outbreak – family loss, business disruption, economic pain – …