While the 2023 Grammy Awards may have been the biggest night of the year for the last year’s biggest releases, Stevie Wonder made sure to pay tribute to those who paved the way on Sunday night (Feb. 5).
Taking to the stage to honor Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson as 2023’s MusiCares persons of the year, Wonder launched into a rollicking, Motown-inspired medley. Kicking it off with The Temptations’ “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” Wonder grooved his way through a slick performance of the classic track while backed up by a full four-man ensemble singing backing vocals.
The legend then decided that the best way to pay tribute to Robinson was to let him get on stage and sing it himself. Performing his iconic single “Tears of a Clown,” Robinson got the crowd to its feet as he duetted alongside Wonder to his soulful hit.
To close out his tour of Motown, Wonder invited country superstar Chris Stapleton to the stage for a duet to Wonder’s own funk-driven anthem “Higher Ground.” Trading verses back and forth, the duet evolved into a dueling guitar-and-keyboard performance, with Stapleton holding his own on stage with the legend.
Robinson and Gordy were the first pair of artists to be honored with the MusiCares person of the year award in the same year. Speaking at the annual gala on Saturday (Feb. 4), Robinson expressed deep admiration for his fellow honoree Gordy, saying, “In my life, I’ve been blessed enough to get a few awards, but this one is really the most special to me because I’m getting this award with my very best friend in the world … I never thought it would be possible for me from where I grew up. But he took me under his wing.”