Oprah: When you performed at my 50th birthday party, people were on their feet, singing every word to every song. Do you think the days of your kind of music—music that touches our soul and creates memories—are finished?

Stevie: What we hear today is real music.

Oprah: Rap is real music?

Stevie: When we were growing up and listening to our music, the older people said, "That's horrible!"

Oprah: So we've become our parents?

Stevie: Well, to some degree. People who feel that way have. Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories. And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it. But the songs today reflect a different reality. We didn't grow up in a September 11 world.

Oprah: We also didn't grow up with videos. What happens to a generation bombarded with images of mansions and diamonds, Rolls-Royces, and scantily clad girls—and the idea of life as one big party?

Stevie: I hold the United States highly responsible for that. We have choices. We can decide what we'll broadcast. And let me be straight about something else: I'm appalled at how a lot of people have handled the Janet Jackson situation. I prefer seeing—you know I've got to touch something to really see it—a breast than a bunch of people sticking their tongues down each other's throats.

Oprah: You would also prefer a breast to gratuitous violence.

Stevie: Of course. And while the world focuses on Janet, you don't hear anyone talking about this: Three years from now, we have to get the president to sign [provisions of] the Voting Rights Act. [Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act forbids altering voting procedures without first proving that the changes don't discriminate against minorities. Unless it's extended, this provision will expire in 2007.] Ridiculous! Some leader should be so bold as to say, "Listen, every single American should have the right to vote. Forever."

Oprah: Period.

Stevie: Without question. So the promiscuity and violence are results of what we haven't resolved as a society, as Americans. And though I love cable, especially HBO, it has brought us a genre of shows that would have never been broadcast on network television. Our children are the products of media that was once taboo.


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