The former first lady revealed to The Roots drummer that the first record she received as a gift was Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book, and she received not one, but two copies one Christmas morning.
“That’s how good an album it was,” she said in a clip that premiered on Billboard. The Illinois native was given one copy by her parents and a second copy by her maternal grandfather, Southside, whom she described as the “musical core of our family.” She also remembered that the record included a copy of the lyrics in braille, which she studied while listening to Wonder’s work.
“I remember spending time not only listening to the record over and over again, but trying to feel the braille and understand the words,” she said. “And I would memorize the cover because there’s something about that cover with Stevie without his glasses sitting, like, in a canyon area in that dashiki afghan sort of thing with the braids and all of that was … that cover to me was as much the experience of the album for me. I was really trying to figure out what goes on in his mind: What is he thinking? What does it feel like being blind? How does he feel music?”
Listen to the first preview clip below:
Obama went on to share that the first records she purchased with her own money belonged to the Jackson 5, buying 45 RPM singles of “ABC” and “The Love You Save” to listen and dance to while alone in her room.
“Those were the 45s that you played on your little makeshift record player thing — it wasn’t the big stereo that your parents allowed you to use but the thing you plugged in and you had to put that little round thing in the hole, you know,” she said. “That was the music that I was allowed to play on my own, keep the record in my bedroom kind of thing.
“We grew up imitating the Jackson 5 and putting the record on, and cousins would be Tito and I’d be Michael and my brother would be on the drums, you know. We spent the whole afternoon just shaping our performance to . . . ‘The Love You Save,’ so those were some of my first memories.”
Because her family was “too broke for concerts” when Obama was a child, she attended her first live show as a college student in the early 1980s, going to see, fittingly, Stevie Wonder in Philadelphia.
Listen to the second clip, in which Obama discusses her favorite musical memories below.
The full episode of Questlove Supreme featuring Michelle Obama will be released tomorrow, Dec. 12, on Pandora.
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Born and raised in Compton, California, Jessica Bennett began her career as an intern at The Oakland Post, and later, The Source Magazine. She went on to write for respected hip hop publications such as DJ Booth and Hip Hop DX before becoming the Urban Editor of pop culture website, Wetpaint.com. She joined Ebony as the Entertainment Editor August 2017. Bennett has interviewed such names as Vanessa Williams, Spike Lee, Tyra Banks, Forest Whitaker, Magic & Cookie Johnson and several others.