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Stevie Wonder receives top French award

06 marca, 2010

US singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder was Saturday awarded one of France\'s top cultural honours, which he dedicated to his deceased mother 30 years after he was tapped to receive it.

"I receive this honour in memory of my mother and in memory of all of those that have made it possible for me to stand here today," said an emotional Wonder, clad in marine blue striped suit, as he received the Commander of Arts and Letters award from French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand.

"As I was... listening to what you were saying, I had a flash in my memory, the memory of 1964, when I came to Paris, France for the first time. I came with my mother," 59-year-old Wonder told Mitterrand. His mother died in 2006.

Standing next to Mitterrand was former culture minister Jack Lang, who first named Wonder for the medal that has been bestowed over the years to personalities ranging from South African writer Nadine Gordimer, British actor Roger Moore and Lebanese diva Fairuz.

"As citizen, administrator and culture minister I just called to say we love you," Mitterrand told Wonder, mixing French and English and referring to one of Wonder\'s biggest hits which featured in the film "The Woman in Red."

Mitterand praised Wonder as "music\'s familiar genius."

A political activist who fought for Martin Luther King day (signed into law in 1983) honouring the slain civil rights leader, Wonder more recently backed US President Barack Obama\'s run for office in 2008.

During the ceremony, he made a pitch for Obama\'s push to extend health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.

"I\'m very encouraged you have it here, in this country," he said, referring the France\'s near-universal coverage. "Don\'t change."

Wonder is expected to receive a lifetime achievement award at a French ceremony Saturday night.