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Profile: Stevie Wonder

By

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder

stevie-wonder.com

Born:

Stevland Hardaway Judkins, May 13, 1950, Saginaw, MI

Genres:

Motown, Soul, R&B, Pop, Funk, Jazz

Instruments:

Vocals, Keyboards, Harmonica, Drums, Bass, Guitar

Contributions to music:

  • A blind child prodigy who became a unique and visionary artist in his own right
  • A major celebratory life force running through many forms of 20th-century popular music
  • Helped bring Motown into a more adult, more socially conscious age
  • One of rock's great multiinstrumentalists
  • Created a politically-charged blend of soul, jazz, and funk that transformed R&B forever
  • An underrated producer and arranger in his own right
  • One of rock's most idiosyncratic and yet accessible songwriters

Early years:

Although not born blind, the boy who became Stevie Wonder might as well have been -- his eyes actually developed prematurely shortly after birth, causing permanent blindness. His family moved to Detroit when Stevie was 4; his mother, Lula Mae, kept him in the house, afraid that being poor, blind, and black wouldn't help him much on the streets. She gave him musical instruments to pass the time; harmonica first, then drums. A true child prodigy, Stevie was also active in his church's choir.

Success:

While performing for friends in 1961, Stevie (now with the last name Morris, for his mother had remarried) was discovered by the Miracles' Ronnie White; soon the boy had an audition with Berry Gordy himself. Originally, the newly-renamed Wonder was signed as a jazz artist of sorts, a child prodigy on harp and piano. When a live performance of "Fingertips" was released as a single in 1963, however, Little Stevie Wonder became the newest pop superstar. But following that novelty proved difficult.

Later years:

After a couple of years studying music, Stevie emerged as a star in Motown's stable, quickly maturing through the Sixties into one of its most important (and successful) artists. It was when he turned 21, however, that his greatest work began; forcing Motown to give him complete creative control in order to keep his contract through adulthood, he produced a series of early-Seventies albums that remain landmarks of R&B. Though his career faltered in the Nineties, he remains an important artist.

Other facts:

  • Was not blinded because of excessive oxygen in an incubator, despite the myth
  • His backing vocal trio "Wonderlove" included future stars like Minnie Riperton, Deniece Williams, and Lynda Laurence, as well as first wife Syreeta Wright
  • The 1980 single "Happy Birthday" is directly responsible for the creation of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • The 1976 song "Isn't She Lovely" is written about his newborn daughter, Aisha
  • The Jackson 5 appear on his 1974 single "You Haven't Done Nothin'"

Awards/Honors:

  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1989)
  • Songwriters Hall of Fame (1983)
  • Kennedy Center Honors (1999)
  • GRAMMY Awards (1973, 1974, 1976, 1985, 1986, 1995, 1998, 2002)
  • GRAMMY Hall of Fame (1998, 1999, 2002)

Songs, Albums, and Charts:


#1 hits:
Pop:
  • "Fingertips - Pt 2" (1963)
  • "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" (1973)
  • "Superstition" (1973)
  • "You Haven't Done Nothin" (1974)
  • "Sir Duke" (1977)
  • "I Wish" (1977)
  • "Ebony And Ivory" (1982)
  • "I Just Called to Say I Love You" (1984)
  • "Part-Time Lover" (1985)
R&B:
  • "Fingertips - Pt 2" (1963)
  • "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" (1966)
  • "I Was Made To Love Her" (1967)
  • "UShoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day" (1968)
  • "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" (1970)
  • "Superstition" (1973)
  • "Living For The City" (1973)
  • "Higher Ground" (1973)
  • "Boogie On Reggae Woman" (1974)
  • "You Haven't Done Nothin" (1974)
  • "Sir Duke" (1977)
  • "I Wish" (1977)
    six more

Top 10 hits:
Pop:
  • "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" (1966)
  • "A Place in the Sun" (1966)
  • "Blowin' In The Wind" (1966)
  • "I Was Made To Love Her" (1967)
  • "Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day" (1968)
  • "For Once In My Life" (1968)
  • "Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday" (1969)
  • "My Cherie Amour" (1969)
  • "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" (1970)
  • "Heaven Help Us All" (1970)
  • "If You Really Love Me" (1971)
  • "Higher Ground" (1973)
  • "Living For The City" (1974)
  • "Boogie On Reggae Woman" (1975)
  • "Send One Your Love" (1979)
  • "Master Blaster (Jammin')" (1980)
  • "That Girl" (1982)
  • "Go Home" (1985)
R&B:
  • "Nothing's Too Good For My Baby" (1966)
  • "With A Child's Heart" (1966)
  • "Hey Love" (1967)
  • "I'm Wondering" (1967)
  • "A Place in the Sun" (1967)
  • "You Met Your Match" (1968)
  • "For Once In My Life" (1969)
  • "My Cherie Amour" (1969)
  • "Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday" (1969)
  • "Heaven Help Us All" (1970)
  • "If You Really Love Me" (1971)
  • "We Can Work It Out" (1971)
  • "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" (1973)
  • "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing" (1974)
  • "Send One Your Love" (1980)
  • "I Ain't Gonna Stand For It" (1981)
  • "Do I Do" (1982)
  • "Ribbon In The Sky" (1982)
  • "Ebony And Ivory" (1982)
    eight more
Wrote or co-wrote: "Tears Of A Clown," Smokey Robinson and the Miracles; "It's A Shame," The Spinners; "Until You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)," Aretha Franklin; "Tell Me Something Good," Rufus; "I Can't Help It," Michael Jackson; "Let's Get Serious," Jermaine Jackson
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