The headline in the Detroit Free Press on March 15, 1974 — nearly 47 years ago — was clear and direct: “Stevie Wonder Plans to Move to Africa.”
The iconic Motown star, who had recently traced his ancestral roots and was embarking on the album that became “Songs in the Key of Life,” would continue to talk up his love for Ghana. In interviews and press conferences through the decades, he often spoke of his goal to move to the west African nation — though he never pulled the trigger, instead staying put in Los Angeles.
So why were Wonder’s Ghana aspirations suddenly hot and heavy in the headlines these past few days?
Chalk it up to the power of Oprah Winfrey — and the strength of African social media in the digital age.
Since Friday, a host of U.S. entertainment and news sites have posted stories about Wonder and a planned Ghana move. Like others, CNN’s Monday morning piece was emphatic: “Singer Stevie Wonder is moving to Ghana.”
The recent flurry of attention seems to have been spawned on Twitter last week, via a Ghanaian tech executive who plucked a clip from Winfrey’s four-month-old interview with Wonder for Apple TV+.
There, the music great told Winfrey about his intention to move to Ghana. Asked why, he alluded to the state of race and politics in America: “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’m important, please value me.’ What kind of (expletive) is that?”
The clip got traction among other Twitter users across Africa and was boosted Friday by the Punch, a Nigerian newspaper. The social media buzz trickled onto the radar of showbiz reporters in the U.S., and the digital news world did its breathless thing.
Is it possible the Ghana prospect has picked up steam for Wonder this past year? Sure. In an August interview with the Free Press, part of the USA TODAY Network, he mentioned his Ghana hopes and even noted he’d been talking about it since the ’70s.
He added to the Free Press that the Ghanaian president “has allowed me to have some land.”
He also went on to mention the topic during a virtual press event in November with music journalists from around the world, as he unveiled new music and his departure from Motown Records.
Wonder’s camp declined to comment Monday.
Contact Detroit Free Press music writer Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or [email protected]