Music Memory – Mark McLean

Music Memory is sponsored by the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, offering the “Music For Memory Project”: a program based on the effects of music and stimulation on people with dementia, by providing them with iPods containing personalized music. For more information, visit

This week, we hear from Mark McLean.

“My music memory dates back to November 17, 2014 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.

I was performing at a special event for ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) where songwriters and composers were awarded the Centennial Award for the “incomparable accomplishments” in their careers. The honorees were Billy Joel, Garth Brooks, Joan Baez, composer Stephen Sondheim and my musical hero, Stevie Wonder.

This gala also featured performances of award winners’ songs by other singers. For example, Sting sang Billy Joel’s “Big Man on Mulberry Street”. After each guest artist performance was the presentation to the honoree followed by a speech. Stevie Wonder was the last recipient and this was no surprise to anyone. After a wonderful tribute by India Arie, Stevie Wonder was lead to the stage and spoke for about five minutes. It was one of the most inspiring messages I’ve ever heard. Like his music, the message was timeless. He said things like, “Love is key”, “It feels better to love than to hate” etc. He praised his fellow songwriters and encouraged them to write songs that inspire love and encourage people from all walks of life to come together. Stevie Wonder then sat down at the piano and played three songs. “If it’s Magic”, “You Are The Sunshine of My Life” and “Superstition”. I’ve heard these songs thousands of times but on that night I experienced them like never before. His music and philosophy are one and the same.

I had the opportunity to speak with him after the show and was further inspired by his kindness and humility. It was incredible to finally meet him. Having said that, there was nothing final about it. It was the beginning of a new journey. One with a long road ahead and I’m on that path now hoping to become a better musician, a better songwriter and a better person.”