Stevie Wonder

  • R&B singer/songwriter born Stevland Hardaway Judkins (legal name Stevland Hardaway Morris), from Saginaw Michigan, born in 1950.
  • He was born 6 weeks premature, and placed in an oxygen-rich chamber. This led to retinopathy of prematurity, a condition where growth of the eyes ends and the retinas become detached, causing blindness.
  • He played piano, drums and harmonica at an early age, and sang on the streets in Detroit.
  • At age 11, he sang his own composition, Lonely Boy, to Ronnie White of The Miracles. White had him audition for Barry Gordy of Motown Records, and Gordy signed him. One of the producers at Motown gave him the name Little Stevie Wonder. Since he was underage, his royalties were paid to a trust fund, while he received a weekly stipend of $2.50 to cover expenses. A tutor was provided while Wonder was on tour.
  • Two albums were released in 1962 – The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie and Tribute to Uncle Ray. Neither album, nor singles from them, were successful.
  • At the end of 1962, at 12 years old, he joined the Motortown Revue and performed at theaters. A 20 minute performance in Chicago was recorded and released in 1963. The album, Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius, had a single, Fingertips, that went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as well as the R&B chart. At 13, he was the youngest person to ever top the chart.
  • His next several records were not popular, as his voice was changing as he aged. In 1965, “Little” was dropped from his name, and he released Uptight (Everything’s Alright). It hit #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Over the next year, 2 more songs made it to the Top 10 – Blowin’ In the Wind (a cover of Bob Dylan’s song) and A Place in the Sun. 
  • By now, Wonder was producing more hits, though his albums were not major sellers. Top 5 songs from 1967 to 1970 were I Was Made to Love Her, For Once In My Life, My Cherie Amour, and Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours. 
  • In 1972, his albums began to sell well, peaking high on the charts. From 1972 to 1985, he had 8 consecutive albums that peaked at #5 or higher, with 2 albums hitting #1 – Fulfillingness’ First Finale, and the watershed album in his career, Songs in the Key of Life. The Songs album sold over 10 million copies in the U.S., is ranked #57 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and is preserved in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress.
  • The hit singles during this peak period of his career are all signature pieces – Superstition, You Are the Sunshine of My Life, Higher Ground, You Haven’t Done Nothin’, Boogie On Reggae Woman, I Wish, Sir Duke – all are Wonder masterpieces.
  • His career during the 80s continued its great success. Top 5 hits during this period included That Girl (1982), Ebony and Ivory (1982, performed with Paul McCartney), I Just Called to Say I Love You (1984), Part Time Lover (1985), and That’s What Friends are For (1985, performed with Dionne Warwick, Elton John, and Gladys Knight, a charity song for AIDS research). He also performed on the We Are The World charity single, singing as a duet with Bruce Springsteen.
  • Wonder continued to record and release music during the 90s, 00s, and 10s. Since 2000, most of his work are collaborations, guest appearances, and special events.
  • Wonder has won 25 Grammy awards in his career – the second most ever by a solo artist (behind Alison Krauss). He also has been awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.  He has won the Grammy for Album of the Year 3 times – that ties Frank Sinatra for the artist with the most wins. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and has 5 songs enshrined in the HOF as “Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.” He won an Academy Award in 1984 for Best Song for I Just Called to Say I Love You. Rolling Stone ranks him at #15 of the Greatest Artists of All Time.
  • Stevie Wonder has had an illustrious career, an amazing talent, beloved by his peers and his fans. Check out his Carpool Karaoke with James Corden – funny when they start out with Wonder in the driver’s seat! They cover lots of his hits here – try to make it through the whole clip.

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