Stevie Wonder will receive Israel’s Wolf Prize, which has been awarded since 1978 to outstanding artists and scientists from around the world “for achievements in the interest of mankind and friendly relations among peoples.”
Past music winners of the Wolf Prize include Paul McCartney, Wonder’s partner on the 1982 smash “Ebony and Ivory,” a brotherhood anthem that neatly encapsulates the Wolf Prize’s values. Most of the 21 past music winners — including Vladimir Horowitz, Isaac Stern, Zubin Mehta, Pierre Boulez and Plácido Domingo – come from the classical world. Wonder will be only the second Black recipient in the music field, following opera singer Jessye Norman.
Wonder, 70, is one of two music honorees this year, along with Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth, 52. Neuwirth is only the second female music recipient, also following Norman.
A statement from the not-for-profit Wolf Foundation, which administers the award, sheds light on the selection of this year’s two music honorees. “Both Neuwirth and Wonder, though fundamentally different in genre and style, have pushed the boundaries of their art, each in his/her own realm of expression, to serve as a vehicle for universal values and humanistic ideals.”
The Wolf Prize recognizes achievements in both scientific categories (medicine, agriculture, mathematics, chemistry and physics) and arts categories (painting and sculpting, music and architecture). The prize laureates are selected by international jury committees. Each honoree receives a certificate and a monetary award of $100,000. To date, 345 scientists and artists have been honored. The prize presentation takes place at a special ceremony at the Knesset (Israel´s Parliament), in Jerusalem.
Wonder has received countless awards and honors, both for his music and for his civil rights work. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. He received a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy in 1996 and a Kennedy Center Honor in 1999.
He has also received a lifetime achievement award from the National Civil Rights Museum, was named one of the United Nations Messengers of Peace, and received a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2014.
Listen to the best of Stevie Wonder here.