Stevie Wonder

Blind Luck

Tom Zimberoff


©1974 Tom Zimberoff / May not be copied, reproduced, or altered in any manner / All rights reserved

The first thing Stevie Wonder said to me that day was, “Show me the pictures.” I played along.

“Right here,” I said. We sat side by side, legs dangling over the edge of the stage in a cavernous rehearsal hall. I set my leather loose-leaf portfolio on his lap and opened it.

“Oh wow, man! These are cool,” he said, examining each page with a feigned arpeggio, fingers flying with a grandiose flourish on each flip from recto to verso. This was a puckish Liberace in beaded dreadlocks milking an imaginary concert grand piano for all its worth — in Braille. Then he said, with arch seriousness, “You’re getting better.”

“I love your work, too, Steve,” I replied. “But I don’t rub my ears all over your records. You’re ruining my prints.” I got a hug.

It wasn’t the first time we’d met; I’d photographed Steve several times before. Incidentally, at any rung on the ladder of propinquity, people call him Steve; Stevland Hardaway Morris is his real name — with only one e. This time, Motown’s Tamla record label hired me for a photoshoot to publicize his professional comeback from a near-death experience.

In the summer of 1973, Steve and his band were on a road trip to promote their new album, Innervisions. Leading a three-car caravan up Interstate 85 in North Carolina with Steve riding shotgun…