All You Need To Know About American Singer, Stevie Wonder

 

At the age of 11, Stevie Wonder made his recording debut. By the success of songs like “Fingertips, Part. 2,” “I Was Meant to Love Her,” and “My Cherie Amour,” he established himself as a major force in the 1960s. Wonder had other No. 1 songs on the mainstream and R&B charts throughout the following ten years, including “Superstition,” “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” and “Higher Ground.” He continued to release successful songs into the 1980s, such as “Part-Time Lover” and “I Just Called to Say I Love You.”

Early Life

Stevland Hardaway Judkins was given the name Wonder on May 13, 1950 in Saginaw, Michigan. He had retinopathy of prematurity when he was born six weeks early; this eye condition was made worse when he was given too much oxygen in an incubator, which caused him to go blind.

In Detroit, Michigan, where he and his family had relocated when he was four years old, Wonder first demonstrated his musical talent in a church choir. Later, he demonstrated his talent on a variety of instruments, including the harmonica, piano, and drums, all of which he self-taught before the age of ten.

Motown Discovery

When Wonder was found by Ronnie White of the Motown group The Miracles, he was just 11 years old. Berry Gordy Jr., the father of Motown, invited the young artist for an audition and immediately offered him a record deal.

The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie Wonder, a first instrumental album that showcased the youngster’s exceptional musicianship, was released in 1962 by the newly renamed Little Stevie Wonder, who collaborated with Motown songwriter Clarence Paul and other artists.

In the same year, he also released Tribute to Uncle Ray, an album of Wonder’s interpretations of Ray Charles’ classic soul tunes. The album Little Stevie Wonder the 12 Year Old Genius, which was recorded live, helped Wonder gain a significant following.

The trimmed version of the set’s first single, “Fingertips, Part. 2,” became Wonder’s first No. 1 single, topping the R&B and pop charts.

Songs and Albums

“Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”

The diligent Wonder, who would later pursue a degree in classical piano, refused to sit back and take it easy, instead pushing himself to develop his musicianship and songwriting skills.

Midway through the 1960s, he dropped the word “Little” from his stage name and went on to produce the top 5 pop single “Uptight (Everything’s Okay),” which peaked at No. 1 on the R&B charts.

‘For Once In My Life

With a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and the joyous “I Was Meant to Love Her,” which later peaked at No. 2 on the pop charts, Wonder scored two more No. 1 R&B successes.

The title tune, “Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day,” and “You Meet Your Mate,” all of which Wonder co-wrote, were released as singles from the 1968 album For Once in My Life.

‘Signed Sealed Delivered’

My Cherie Amour, with the top 5 pop/R&B title ballad and the top 5 R&B “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday,” was released the next year. Over the following two decades, Wonder would continue to produce successful singles. Wonder co-produced the 1970 album Signed, Sealed, Delivered, which featured the No. 1 R&B title tune and a top 5 R&B cover of the Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out.”

The ’70s: An Acclaimed Decade

Wonder struggled to remain relevant as a musician as he grew from a boy to a man and his voice developed into a sparkling tenor, in part due to intrinsic talent but also because of his intense devotion to his work.

Wonder and Motown came to an agreement in 1971 that granted him nearly complete control over his recordings and significantly raised his royalty percentage. Gordy made a hitherto unheard-of concession, but Wonder required it from an aesthetic standpoint.

The musician experienced an unequaled period of productivity as the 1970s came to a close. Wonder received composition or co-writing credits for every song on an album for the first time on 1971’s Where I’m Coming From, which featured the cool top 10 single “If You Really Love Me.”

The top 20 R&B/top 40 pop single “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)” from the 1972 album Music of My Mind showcased Stevie Wonder’s groundbreaking work with synthesized and electronic sounds.

“Superstition” and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”

The upbeat funk tune “Superstition” and the heartwarming hymn to love “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” were both No. 1 successes from Stevie Wonder’s 1972 album Talking Book.

‘Innervisions’

Innervisions, a contemplative concept album that was at once introspective, political, critical, and witty, came next. The album included the comical “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing,” which peaked at No. 2 on the R&B chart, as well as the socially concerned No. 1 R&B songs “Higher Ground” and “Living for the City.” On the pop charts, each of the three singles performed well.

‘Fulfillingness’ First Finale’

The First Finale from Fulfillingness featured Wonder’s signature odes to romance and beauty as well as direct examinations of spirituality and mortality. It was published after Wonder had recovered from a serious vehicle accident that had put him in a coma. “You Haven’t Done Nothing,” a song by Wonder featuring The Jackson 5 that decried President Richard Nixon, peaked at No. 1 on both the pop and R&B charts.

The album tracks “Creepin'” and “They Won’t Go When I Go” were ultimately performed by Luther Vandross and George Michael, respectively. The sensual “Boogie on Reggae Woman” also reached No. 1 on the pop chart.

‘Songs in the Key of Life’

Even with this impressive list of achievements, Songs in the Key of Life has been recognized by many as Wonder’s most illustrious work and one of the all-time great albums. Songs explored a wide range of topics, from ethnic diversity in the United States and wonderful utopian towns to spiteful relationships and sublime love.

Songs has two uptempo pop/R&B No. 1 singles: the Duke Ellington tribute “Sir Duke” and the “I Wish” ode to bygone days. The harmonica-heavy “Isn’t She Beautiful,” though not a successful single, nevertheless became a radio regular as it announced the cherished birth of a daughter. Wonder also scored top 40 singles with “Another Star” and “As.”

Around this time, Wonder also collaborated with other musicians, such as Minnie Riperton (Maya Rudolph’s mother) and the band Rufus. Chaka Khan’s vocals can be heard on the top 5 tune “Tell Me Something Good,” which Wonder wrote.

As seen by Aretha Franklin’s No. 1 R&B cover of “Till You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do),” other musicians have had success with Wonder remakes over the years. Wonder won 15 Grammy Awards over the course of the ten years, with Innervisions, Fulfillingness’ First Finale, and Songs in the Key of Life all being named album of the year.

‘Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants’

By such incredibly high standards, Wonder’s 1980s weren’t even close to being as successful. He nevertheless remained a powerful musical force. With the avant-garde double album Journey Through the Hidden Life of Plants, which featured the top 5 pop/R&B song “Give One Your Love,” he brought an end to the decade of the 1970s.

‘Hotter Than July’

With the disco song “All I Do,” the No. 1 R&B hit “Master Blaster (Jammin’),” a reggae-influenced ode to Bob Marley, and the top 5 R&B, country-influenced ballad “I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It,” 1980’s Hotter Than July was a more condensed, commercial affair.

“Ebony and Ivory”

In 1982, Wonder and ex-Beatle Paul McCartney collaborated on the racial harmony-promoting song “Ebony and Ivory,” which peaked at No. 1 in the United States and the United Kingdom. The song was included on the McCartney album Tug of War.

‘Original Musiquarium I’

The No. 1 R&B/top 5 pop single “That Girl,” as well as further singles “Ribbon in the Sky” and “Do I Do,” which featured Dizzy Gillespie, were all included on Wonder’s greatest hits collection Original Musiquarium I, which was also published in the same year.

“I Just Called to Say I Love You

Dionne Warwick contributed to the 1984 Wonder soundtrack for the Gene Wilder movie The Woman in Red, which also included the No. 1 pop single “I Just Called to Say I Love You” and the top 5 R&B smash “Love Light in Flight.” The song, like so much of Wonder’s music, had a broad appeal, which helped it become Motown’s largest ever foreign hit. Wonder received an Oscar Award for best original song for the song’s success.

“Part-Time Lover”

The historical track “Part-Time Lover,” the first song to ever achieve No. 1 on the pop, R&B, adult contemporary, and dance charts, was featured on Wonder’s subsequent album Square Circle, which was released in 1985.

‘Characters’

Two years later, the album Characters was made available, and it included the No. 1 R&B singles “You Will Know” and “Skeletons.” Wonder was admitted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

‘Jungle Fever’

With his work for the 1991 Spike Lee picture Jungle Fever, starring Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra, Wonder continued his soundtrack contributions. Wonder produced three further top 10 R&B hits for the Jungle Fever album: “Gotta Have You,” “Fun Day,” and “These Three Words.”

‘Conversation Peace’

A few years later, Wonder put out Talking Peace; its upbeat lead single, “For Your Love,” hit the top 20 R&B charts and won two Grammy Awards in 1996, the same year he was given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Advocacy Work

Together with his acknowledged artistic abilities, Wonder frequently addresses social issues in his music and public appearances.

He led the successful effort to have Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday recognized as a national holiday, which he sang about in the song “Happy Birthday” from Hotter Than July. (‘Happy Birthday’ went on to become a No. 2 hit in the United Kingdom.)

Wonder had performed on the No. 1 charity singles “That’s What Friends Are For,” with Warwick, Elton John, and Gladys Knight, benefiting the American Foundation for AIDS Research, and had dedicated his Oscar win to anti-apartheid campaigner and future president Nelson Mandela (amfAR).

Moreover, Wonder has long been a champion for bettering services for the disabled and the blind. He was designated a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2009 in recognition of the International Day of People with Disabilities.

Wonder continued his advocacy work in June 2013 when he declared he would fulfill a promise to give a concert in Marrakech for World Intellectual Property Organization negotiators when they reached an agreement on a global treaty expanding access to books for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Honors

After a ten-year break, Wonder returned in 2005 with the well-received A Time to Love, which featured Indian guests. Among others, Arie, Doug E. Fresh, McCartney, Bonnie Raitt, and Prince. In 2009, Wonder released the concert DVD Live At Last: A Wonder’s Summer Night.

President Barack Obama awarded Wonder the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014. The next year, on the telecast Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Lifeā€”An All-Star Grammy Tribute, the singer, composer, and guitarist was honored in honor of his seminal 1976 album.

Later Music

Until his late 60s, Wonder periodically released new music. In 2016, he collaborated with Ariana Grande on the Golden Globe-nominated track “Faith,” and in 2018, he wrote the song “Future Bright Days” especially for the Scandal season finale.

Personal Life

In 1970, Wonder wed Syreeta Wright, a fellow Motown musician; they divorced two years later. She collaborated with Wonder on songs like “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” and “If You Truly Love Me,” and he collaborated with Wright on her albums Syreeta (1972) and Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta. Wright was a talented lyricist (1974). In 2004, Wright succumbed to cancer.

In 1975, Wonder and Yolanda Simmons gave birth to their first child, Aisha. “Isn’t She Beautiful” was inspired by his daughter. Keita, the son of the couple, was born in 1977. He had Mumtaz, a son, in 1983 with Melody McCulley. Wonder had a son, Kwame, and a daughter, Sophia, with a woman whose name has not been made public.

In 2001, Wonder wed Karen Millard Morris. Kailand and Mandla were the couple’s two sons before divorcing amicably in 2015. As everything was going on, Wonder started dating Tomeeka Robyn Bracy. The two eventually got married in 2017.

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