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Preview: Stevie Wonder and Songs in the Key of Life

The legendary singer-songwriter comes to Smoothie King Center March 24

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Stevie Wonder was my first friend in Tampa, Florida. Stevie wasn't physically in Tampa from 2002-2003, but I was — a recent transplant experiencing adult life away from home for the first time, and all the thrills and fears that come with being alone, suddenly self-sufficient, in a foreign city. Music, from solo ventures to Ybor City rock venues and late-night listening sessions in that initial apartment shared with no roommates, stood in during the transitional gap between social circles. Certain artists and albums are forever connected to moments and eras in people's lives, and these are mine: Songs in the Key of Life blaring aural sunshine while flying down Bayshore Boulevard; Music of My Mind parked in the secret spot I found between office complexes and connecting bridges to catch sunsets on Old Tampa Bay, occasionally drowned out by 747 departures and arrivals at Tampa International Airport. Wonder's rightly characterized "classic period" (1972-1976) began with the latter and ended with the former — the quintessential double LP that dominates this 22-date anniversary tour — and there are those who, for equally personal reasons, may consider one of the records in between (Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness' First Finale) as superior. (They're wrong, but whatever.) For me, they are the bookends of another time and place, the twin soundtracks of forced independence and earned maturation, and their influence is still felt in many a brave artistic leap, from Andre 3000 (2002's The Love Below) to Kendrick Lamar (the new, wild To Pimp a Butterfly). Tickets $48.50-$167.80 (includes fees).

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