Benny Jay: Stevie Wonder’s Backup!

November 18th, 2014

On the day of the Stevie Wonder concert, I knock off work early, cause I’ve got to get ready for my United Center debut.

Yes, it’ll be Stevie on the stage under the spotlight. But I’ll be singing backup from my seat up in the second balcony.

Together we’ll be performing Songs in the Key of Life. A record I’ve listened to 1,627,463 times — give or take a time or two — since he released it back in 1976.

So I probably know it almost as well as Stevie.

My wife and I take the limo to the show — the #50 bus down Damen to Madison.

Outside the stadium there’s a long line and it takes forever to reach the front door and get into the lobby and through the vestibule and up the escalator and down the hallway to our seats.

But at last — we’re here!


I couldn’t be late for Stevie…


I’m sitting next to a guy who looks like Carl Winslow from Family Matters.

I tell him: “I just want to let you know I’ll be singing all the songs, though I can’t sing.”


“And I might be dancing, though I can’t dance.”

“All right…”

“Other than that — I’m sure you’ll love sitting next to me.”

The lights dim and to the stage steps Stevie. He says a few words and takes a seat at his piano. And then — I swear — he looks up at the second balcony, as if to say, “Ready, Benny Jay?”

And with that, the chorus rises –“ooh, ooh, ooh”– and in unison me `n Stevie begin the concert.

“Good morn or evening friends
Here’s your friendly announcer…”

The greatest opening line to the greatest opening song on the greatest record — ever!


If he was Carl, I was Urkel…


Folks, I don’t want to brag, but I’m on the top of my game.

I sing the love songs…

“I see us in the park
Strolling the summer days of imaginings in my head…”

And the fast songs…

“So make sure when you say you’re in it but not of it
You’re not helping to make this earth a place sometimes called Hell…”

And even the ones in Zulu…

“Ngiculela ikusasg
Ngliyacula nao thandotk…”

Plus, at various times I pretend play the harp, harmonica, violin, trumpet, congas, cow bell and drums. I even make the baby-crying sounds on Isn’t She Lovely.

If that’s enough, by the encore me and my new best friend — Carl Winslow — are practically dancing the bump!

And they say Stevie Wonder’s multi-talented.

When the show ends — three hours after it starts — I’m not even tired.

I stay long after the lights have come on, half hoping Stevie will return to say, “C’mon, Benny Jay — let’s do Fulfillingness’ First Finale.”

Speaking of great records!

Alas, the usher, who looks all of 16, comes by to say: “I don’t want to be that guy who says you got to go, but…”

I guess all good things must come to an end.

Hey, Stevie–when you come back to Chicago, I’ll be the guy in the second balcony, singing every word to every song.

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