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Holding onto his son Kwame Morris, the legendary Stevie Wonder took “both knees” Saturday night at the sixth annual Global Citizen Festival in New York City’s Central Park. “Tonight, I’m taking a knee for America,” the 67-year-old Wonder declared as he knelt down. “But not just one knee. Both knees. Both knees, in prayer for our planet, our future, our leaders of the world and our globe. Amen.”
The protest comes, of course, in solidarity with former NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s now-viral move to take a knee during the national anthem in 2016. But the statement also followed a bitter cry from President Donald Trump earlier in the day, when he stated that NFL players who protest should be “fired.”
Wonder’s rousing hour-and-a-half performance included him effortlessly belting out some of his greatest hits, including “Isn’t She Lovely” and “We Are the World,” and was punctuated by a shockingly uncomfortable cameo by Pharrell Williams (in which the singer arrived onstage around 15 minutes late, looking confused and starstruck and forgetting the words to all three of the songs he was supposed to perform: “Get Lucky,” “Happy” and Wonder’s “Superstition”).
But beyond the beginning prayer and Pharrell’s speechlessness, Wonder heavily politicized his set in other ways, nodding to Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s social media feud. “We must take care of each other and this planet. If we don’t, we could lose the ultimate video game of life,” said the singer and activist. “Weapons are real, and rhetoric is dangerous.” He also dedicated “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” to Republican Sen. John McCain, who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, in honor of McCain’s refusal to vote for Trump’s bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“Sing it for Sen. McCain,” said Wonder. “It’s about doing the right thing.”
A version of this article originally appeared on Billboard.com.
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