Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder is an internationally renowned singer, song writer and musician. He was born on May 13, 1950, in Saginaw, Michigan. His birth name was Steveland Hardaway Judkins and as a result of being born premature, he was kept in the incubator where an over exposure to oxygen caused him to lose his eyesight. The family moved to Detroit when Stevie was 4 years old. He was interested in music from an early age and taught himself to play several instruments, including the harmonica, piano, drums, keyboards, bass guitar and bongos, a few of them even before the age of 10. He also sang in his local church choir in Detroit.

Stevie was nothing short of a child prodigy, and at the age of 11, he was discovered by a Motown artist named Ronnie White. White arranged for Stevie to audition for Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records. Gordy was duly impressed, offered Stevie a recording contract and changed his stage name to “Little Stevie Wonder”. He released his first album titled “12 Year Old Genius” in 1962. The song “Fingertips” was the biggest hit on this album. Over the next few years, Stevie studied classical piano and worked on improving his songwriting skills. He was a dedicated and successful artist, not solely due to his natural musical talent but also because of his dedication to his work.

As Stevie grew older and reached his twenties, he overhauled his music and his image by dropping the “Little” from his name and then re-negotiated his contract with Motown. The new contract gave him a much larger degree of control over his records and also greatly enhanced the royalty rate he received. This was a very unusual move for Gordy but he was sure that Stevie needed this independence in order to work. Sure enough, the 1970s brought him unprecedented success. He released one hit album after the other, including  “Talking Book” in 1972, “Innervisions” in 1973, “Fulfillingness’ First Finale” in 1974 and “Songs in the Key of Life” in 1976. Just this decade alone earned him 15 Grammy Awards.

The 1980s was also a fruitful time, although much less so than the previous decade. The song “I Just Called to Say I Love You” for the 1984 film “The Woman in Red” won Stevie an Academy Award. This track later became the biggest ever international hit by Motown Records. In 1982, Stevie and Paul McCartney from the Beatles, teamed up to create the hit single “Ebony and Ivory”. The song brought a message of peace, and called for an end to racial discrimination. Stevie also started a successful movement to declare a national holiday in honor of the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Stevie’s long and illustrious career has won him 25 Grammy Awards including a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, an Academy Award and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He has been married twice and has seven children, both from marriages and from other relationships. He continues to record and perform, but of late his pace has considerably slowed. In 2005, he released his album “A Time to Love” and followed it up 5 years later with a concert DVD titled “Live At Last: A Wonder’s Summer Night”. He campaigns for the rights of blind people, including access to more books and libraries. He has announced the release of two new albums in 2014, titled “When the World Began” and “Ten Billion Hearts”.

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