When Stevie Wonder and Pavarotti sang an electrifying duet and brought the house down

26 May 2022, 11:37

The moment, which was broadcast live to millions across the world, saw Stevie Wonder introduce the song by first giving thanks to Pavarotti and his generosity.
The moment, which was broadcast live to millions across the world, saw Stevie Wonder introduce the song by first giving thanks to Pavarotti and his generosity. Picture: London Records/Decca/YouTube

By Giorgina Hamilton

When two of the world's biggest legends' voices get together you just know it's going to be something special and that's exactly what happened when Luciano Pavarotti invited Stevie Wonder on stage for a special duet.

In June 1998 Luciano Pavarotti hosted a benefit concert in his home town of Modena, Italy to raise money for the War Child charity and the orphans of war-torn Liberia.

The event saw an incredible line-up of talent descend on the small Italian city for a once-in-a-lifetime concert.

Singers on the night included the Spice Girls, Celine Dion, Jon Bon Jovi, Eros Ramazzotti and The Corrs, who each either sang renditions of their own hits or stunning duets with the operatic star.

"Maestro, I congratulate you for being such a wonderful spirit in this life of ours," Stevie Wonder said to Pavarotti ahead of their duet.
"Maestro, I congratulate you for being such a wonderful spirit in this life of ours," Stevie Wonder said to Pavarotti ahead of their duet. Picture: London Records/Decca/YouTube
A clearly moved Pavarotti stood by as Stevie Wonder introduced the song he'd written especially for the evening.
A clearly moved Pavarotti stood by as Stevie Wonder introduced the song he'd written especially for the evening. Picture: London Records/Decca/YouTube

However, none could quite match the breathtaking moment Stevie Wonder himself got up on stage to sing with the famous tenor.

The soul legend had composed 'Peace Wanted Just To Be Free' especially for the occasion and as he starts to introduce the song the look on Pavarotti's face says it all, he is clearly in awe of the 19 Grammy Award winner.

The moment, which was broadcast live to millions across the world, saw Stevie Wonder introduce the song by first giving thanks to Pavarotti and his generosity.

"When we are blessed with the gift of a talent of song, it is truly a gift from God," Stevie began.

Stevie Wonder and Pavarotti sing the newly-penned song 'Peace Wanted Just To Be Free' to the stunned audience in a moment that will go down forever in musical history.
Stevie Wonder and Pavarotti sing the newly-penned song 'Peace Wanted Just To Be Free' to the stunned audience in a moment that will go down forever in musical history. Picture: London Records/Decca/YouTube
"I wrote for this occasion, and I am honoured that you are singing it with me tonight," Stevie Wonder said to Pavarotti ahead of the perofmrnace.
"I wrote for this occasion, and I am honoured that you are singing it with me tonight," Stevie Wonder said to Pavarotti ahead of the perofmrnace. Picture: London Records/Decca/YouTube
Stevie Wonder was just one of the incredible stars to sing with Pavarotti on that special June evening in 1998.
Stevie Wonder was just one of the incredible stars to sing with Pavarotti on that special June evening in 1998. Picture: Youtube/Live in London/Sony Music

"But when one is so kind as to using their talent, that gift, to help others less fortunate, they are truly a child of God.

"Maestro, I congratulate you for being such a wonderful spirit in this life of ours."

A clearly moved Pavarotti then reaches out to touch Stevie in thanks, before the opera star turns to the crowd and thanks them in Italian.

Stevie Wonder then continues: "I wrote for this occasion, and I am honoured that you are singing it with me tonight. The song is called 'Peace Wanted Just To Be Free', thank you."

An awed Pavarotti kissed Stevie Wonder on the head and gave him a hug after their stunning performance together.
An awed Pavarotti kissed Stevie Wonder on the head and gave him a hug after their stunning performance together. Picture: London Records/Decca/YouTube

Stevie Wonder and Pavarotti then begin to sing the newly-penned song to the stunned audience in a moment that will go down forever in musical history.

Stevie starts the duet by playing the piano and singing the moving opening as the crowd scream, as Pavarotti looks to the heavens and closes his eyes, clearly overcome by the magical moment.

Pavarotti and Wonder then begin to sing in harmony before being joined by a choir of children for the grand crescendo of the song before the crowd erupts and gives the pair and standing ovation.

The benefit concert was broadcast live in various countries and the stunning duet between Pavarotti and Stevie Wonder was later released on DVD and as part of the night's live album.

The Spice Girls (pictured) performed two songs on the evening, 'Stop' and 'Viva Forever'
The Spice Girls (pictured) performed two songs on the evening in 1998, 'Stop' and 'Viva Forever'. Picture: Getty
1995 saw Princess Diana fly out to Modena as a special guest of Pavarotti in support of that year's cause, the children of Bosnia.
1995 saw Princess Diana fly out to Modena as a special guest of Pavarotti in support of that year's cause, the children of Bosnia. Picture: Alamy

The concert was just one in a series of benefit gigs between 1992 and 2003 to raise money for humanitarian causes.

Entitled 'Pavarotti & Friends' and performed each year in Pavarotti's hometown of Modena, money was raised for victims of war, with each year's proceedings dedicated to the victims of a different country's war including Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo.

Across eleven years, stars from stage and screen joined Pavarotti to raise money for the causes including George Michael, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Liza Minelli, U2, Meat Loaf and Lionel Richie to name just a few, and the concert became so huge that in 1995 Princess Diana even flew to Modena to lend her support to the operatic star.