For five decades and more, Stevie Wonder has resided in the hearts, minds, discotheques and living rooms of millions of people across the world as his silky voice and soulful lyrics became permanently etched in lives. Now, one of the greatest American singers and songwriters of all time has decided he would live out the rest of his time in Ghana.
Wonder whose real name is Stevland Hardaway Morris (original surname was Judkins) told Oprah Winfrey on The Oprah Conversation in November last year that he has already decided to move to Ghana, where he expects to be valued and respected.
Winfrey seemed a bit shocked when Wonder said: “I promise you [America], if you do the right thing, I will give you this song. I will give it to you. You can have it. Because I wanna see this nation smile again. And I want to see it before I leave to travel to move to Ghana, because I’m going to do that”.
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“You’re gonna move permanently to Ghana?” the talk show host asked. To which the singer replied, “I am”, making the case that his decision laid with finding a receptive environment for his humanity. Wonder also expressed worry about his family.
“I don’t want to see my children’s, children’s children have to say ‘oh please like me, please respect me, please know that I am important, please value me’. What is that?,” he asked.
But that revelation was not the first time the Happy Birthday singer had referred to Ghana as the destination he planned to escape the United States to. In a 1994 speech to the International Association of African American Music, Wonder promised to relocate to Ghana where he believed “there’s more of a sense of community”. He has been to the West African nation a few times in the past.
The musician’s advocacy for racial justice is a known substance to his art that goes as far back as the 1970s. Indeed, the hit Happy Birthday was recorded as part of a concerted effort to get lawmakers to pass a bill making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a federal holiday. In interviews over the decades, Wonder has spoken of his delight in how the song has become recognized globally.
If Wonder does make good on his promise and moves to Ghana, he will not only join a recent long list of African-Americans and Caribbean nationals who have relocated but also a historic collection of his compatriots who lived in Ghana at certain points in their lives. Maya Angelou lived and taught in Ghana for a few years, and so did W.E.B. DuBois until his death.
As part of drives to boost tourism and also as a matter of purely philosophical traditions, Ghana is known to market itself as the first-choice spiritual home for people of African descent in the western hemisphere especially, who aim to return to the continent often dubbed “the motherland”.