LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Reigning stars of the music world, from Beyonce to Tony Bennett to Pharrell Williams, on Tuesday saluted Stevie Wonder, the singer, songwriter and musician they called a genius and inspiration to their careers.
Tapping the talent that came to town for the Grammy Awards two nights before, the tribute opened with Beyonce belting out “Fingertips,” a tune that put the child prodigy from Detroit on the Motown map at the age of 12.
She then enlisted British singer Ed Sheeran for a mix of “Master Blaster” and “Higher Ground”.
Wonder, now 64, holds the distinction of having won 25 Grammy awards, more than any other artist. He also won Album of the Year three times in the space of four years, in 1973, 1974 and 1976, the last one for his most famous work “Songs in the Key of Life.”
“I see a lot of people here,” joked Wonder, who has been blind since shortly after birth, when he appeared on stage in front of a packed Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.
Wonder was hailed not only for his contributions to R&B, soul, pop and jazz over half a century, but also his work for civil rights, most notably his push to get Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday made a public holiday.
Bennett called him “one of the greatest jazz artists who ever lived” and performed “For Once in My Life”.
Lady Gaga said “people throw the word genius around a lot, but Stevie Wonder you truly are a genius” before pumping out an energetic rendition of “I Wish”.
Wonder’s daughter Aisha joined R&B singer Ne-Yo for “Isn’t She Lovely,” the song he wrote at her birth, and said “I love you, Daddy”.
Pharrell sang “Don’t Worry ‘Bout a Thing” with Ryan Tedder, frontman of OneRepublic, and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli performed a solo of “I Just Called to Say I Love You”.
“I thought it was simple, but when I decided to sing it, Jesus, it was so difficult,” Bocelli told Wonder.
Annie Lennox, John Legend, Janelle Monae, Ariana Grande and Jennifer Hudson were also among the evening’s performers, many of whom praised his love songs.
Even if the stars did justice to his music, they were ultimately upstaged by the man himself who performed a final medley that included “Superstitious” and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”.
The two-hour tribute will broadcast in the United States on CBS on Feb. 16.
Editing by Tom Heneghan