Most of our collective knowledge of Stevie Wonder colors him as a child prodigy who grew to become one of contemporary music's unmatched titans. But a pair of siblings who set him on that path are living their lives unrecognized, impoverished and out of touch with their famous friend.
Sometimes Mitch Albom gets it right, and this is one of those times. The ubiquitous author and columnist visited the home of Margaret and John Glover, a brother-sister duo whose family looked after young Stevie during his childhood in Detroit. Besides childhood games, Margaret Glover showed Wonder — then Steveland Judkins — how to work a piano.
"He played a lot with one finger, and I showed him how to use two hands to make it sound better," she says. "After that, all he wanted to do was music. He said if he could beat me playing piano one day, that would be the best thing in the world."
You know the rest of Wonder's story from here: He went on to Motown, became an international star and gave us some of pop music's definitive albums. To his credit, Wonder never forgot his friends along the way; he'd go on to acknowledge the Glovers in interviews and would visit them while they were in town.
But, as Albom writes, the Glovers were dealt bad hand after bad hand. John Glover also had a shot at stardom at Motown, but his career never took off. He ended up becoming a songwriter (including the Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. hit "You Don't Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show),") but he says reckless spending, bad contracts and child support drained whatever royalties he had.
Margaret Glover suffered two bad marriages, a slew of family tragedies and, like many Detroiters, the crumbling of the surroundings around her. Now living in a decrepit house in a once-thriving neighborhood, Margaret and John say the last time the spoke to Wonder was in 2007, when he played a local show.
Calls to Stevie Wonder's representatives for this story ultimately yielded a phone call to Wonder in Los Angeles from his agent, Brett Steinberg of Creative Artists Agency. Although not wishing to be directly quoted, Steinberg said Wonder expressed happiness that someone was bringing John and Margaret's story to light, that he acknowledged their long friendship and that he had helped John in the past, but lost his number after the 2007 concert and hadn't been able to contact him. He asked for (and was given) John and Margaret's phone information.
While John Glover believes Wonder will come to their aid someday, his sister is skeptical. "He ain't helping us," she told Albom.
Screenshot via Freep