Stevie Wonder

All About Stevie Wonder

Sujan Tamang 

Stevland Hardaway Morris has been an inspiration to people all across America. He has won over 20 major awards, had an impact on music from R&B to jazz, been able to play many different instruments—some of them simultaneously—and, to top it all off, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It makes sense that his stage name is Stevie Wonder.

Early Life

On May 13, 1950, in Saginaw, Michigan, Lula Mae Hardaway and Calvin Judkins welcomed Stevland Hardaway Judkins into the world. Stevland would go on to become one of the biggest sensations in American history. Retinopathy of prematurity was the outcome of Stevland’s early birth. Due to this ailment, his retinas detached, stunting the growth of his eyes and rendering him blind. This did not, however, discourage young Stevland. He had begun to play the drums, piano, and harmonica at the age of four. Having created a singing duo with a childhood friend named Stevie and John, and participating in school and church choirs, singing was also something that came naturally to him. This was the start of Stevland’s successful career.


When 11-year-old Stevie sang the song “Lonely Boy” to popular group The Miracles singer Ronnie White in 1961, White took him to an audition for Motown Records. Berry Gordy signed Stevie to Motown’s Tamla label, which at the time was one of the largest Black labels. Stevland evolved into “Little Stevie Wonder” at this point.

Stevie Wonder released the album Tribute to Uncle Ray, which featured theories of songs by well-known blind musician Ray Charles, with producer and songwriter Clarence Paul. The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie was the next CD, which came out not too long after. The bulk of the songs on this album are instrumental, with Little Stevie and Clarence Paul co-writing some of the tracks. Even though the sales of these CDs were below expectations, Stevie Wonder’s hit song “I Call it Pretty Music, But the Old People Call It the Blues” was a hit. When it was first released in the summer of 1962, this was his debut song and it did rather well, nearly hitting the Billboard 100.

Wonder gave one of his most well-known performances to date in May 1963, entitled Recorded Live: The 12-Year-Old Genius. Additionally, Stevie’s smash hit song “Fingertips” was published, and it became the first single to ever simultaneously peak at number one on the R&B charts and number one on the Billboard Top 100. Little Stevie Wonder became the youngest musician to ever reach the top of the chart at this time as a result.

Unfortunately, following this, Stevie Wonder’s voice began to change and he entered puberty, which made his songs less popular. That might have been Stevie’s last performance if composer and record producer Sylvia Moy hadn’t helped convince Berry Gordy to let him stay. It’s a good thing he stayed, though, because Stevie recorded more hits, including a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” called “With a Child’s Heart,” and songs he wrote, co-wrote, and produced himself, including “For Once in My Life,” “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” (which was his first self-produced song), and “My Cherie Amour.”

During this period, Stevie also rose to prominence as a composer for other Motown performers, scoring hits with Smokey Robinson and the Miracles on their number-one song, “The Tears of a Clown.” And all of this occurred before Stevie turning 20 years old! Not to be overlooked is his performance at the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which helped pave the way for the developments of the 1970s.

The Sizzlin’ 70’s

The 1970s are upon us, and if you thought the 1960s were fantastic for young Stevie, the 1970s have much more in store for him. In his private life, Stevie Wonder was married to songwriter and former Motown secretary Syreeta Wright. The two of them collaborated on the 1971 release of his album Where I’m Coming From. Due to Wonder’s employment of synthesizers, which began to alter the genre, this album turned out to be a landmark in the history of R&B. The lyrics of this album also reflected the Black empowerment theme that was popular among Black musicians in the 1970s.

Wonder said, “I wanted this album to mean something to people and touch on the global social problems.” McCarthy (2013). But this record also received a lot of flak since, in contrast to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, which was also released in the same year, some people felt that Stevie’s lacked coherence and flow. Wonder let his Motown contract expire in May 1971, recorded two more albums, and then re-signed with Motown to receive a greater royalty rate.

Wonder had put out another album in 1972, with the number-one songs “Sunshine of My Life” and “Superstition” on it. Because of its creative layering and usage of the Hohner Clavinet piano, which gives the song its distinctive, almost “electrified banjo”-like sound throughout, “Superstition” is still regarded as a masterpiece of art today.

One of his best-selling albums, Innervisions, came out in 1973. It included hits like “Living for the City” and “Higher Ground,” which both peaked at number one on the R&B charts and won three Grammys, including Album of the Year and a place on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Despite the impression that this was a significant achievement, Wonder’s hits from the 1970s did not end there. Along with a lesser-known song they composed together called “Take a Little Trip,” Stevie co-authored and produced the popular song “Lovin’ You” in 1975, which was performed and sung by none other than Minnie Riperton (Allmusic). Wonder released Songs in the Key of Life on September of 1976. This album, which included songs like “I Wish,” “Sir Duke,” and “Isn’t She lovely,” which Wonder composed for his baby Aisha, immediately rose to popularity as one of his best and most well-known albums.

This album became the first American album to ever debut at number one on the Billboard Top 100 charts, a feat it accomplished for 14 weeks in a row. Many claim that the diverse moods that each song adopted—some being more joyous, others being very reflective—was the reason this album succeeded so well. Still, it replaced the Beatles’ Abbey Road at number four on the Billboard Top 500 Albums of All Time list.

Reaching Up and Reaching Out

Many have referred to the 1980s as Stevie Wonder’s pinnacle on all media. Not only did his chart sales rise, but he also became more involved in charitable work, collaborated with well-known musicians, increased his political influence, and appeared more frequently on television, including Saturday Night Live and The Cosby Show, in addition to writing soundtracks.

As previously indicated, Stevie Wonder began collaborating with more well-known musicians during this period. Among them were the Beach Boys, Michael Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Barbara Streisand, Melle Mel, Chaka Khan, and the Eurythmics. He composed and produced the highly acclaimed song “Let’s Get Serious” for Jermaine Jackson. Moreover, Stevie released “Do I Do” in 1982 as a result of her collaboration with the legendary jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie. Along with Paul McCartney of The Beatles, he also recorded the number-one hit song “Ebony and Ivory,” which promoted racial peace and unity.

This paved the way for some of Stevie’s subsequent political engagement. Wonder’s 1980 album Hotter Than July included the song “Happy Birthday,” which was written in favor of declaring Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday. Comparably, Wonder recorded the song “Front Line” in 1982, which narrated the tale of a soldier fighting in Vietnam. Beyond that, Stevie Wonder’s involvement continued when he was recognized by the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid for his opposition to racism in South Africa and accepted an award on Mandela’s behalf.

Slowing Down

Stevie Wonder decided in the 1990s that, going forward, he still intended to put out new songs, but at a considerably slower clip. The soundtrack to Spike Lee’s film Jungle Fever was one of his few albums released in 1991. The music made it into the top 50 US R&B/Hip Hop albums of the year, and the film did extremely well at the box office. Stevie had already collaborated with Spike Lee on songs for the 2000 film Bamboozled, thus this was not their only collaboration.

Stevie Wonder rose to fame with hip-hop musicians like Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, and Dr. Dre due to these soundtracks. Additionally, he went on to sing at other significant occasions, including the Super Bowl XL, “A Capitol Fourth” celebration in 2006, his longtime friend Michael Jackson’s tragic death, and Barack Obama’s inaugural celebration in 2009, the first Black president’s inaugural address.

Even though Stevie Wonder’s last album, A Time to Love, was released in 2005, he has continued to travel and play live, as well as collaborating with more recent musicians like Ariana Grande, Tori Kelly, and HER, to mention a few. It’s unclear when exactly he will release a new album, but the albums he has previously released are classic pieces of Black history that will be appreciated for many years to come.


It’s important to give credit to the people who inspired Stevie Wonder and helped him inspire others before delving into his career. One of Stevie Wonder’s greatest inspirations and primary collaborators was the blind Black artist Ray Charles, who paved the path for the next generation of musicians like Stevie Wonder.

Legacy & Philanthropy

Undoubtedly, one of the most significant and illustrious musicians of our era is Stevie Wonder. Being Black and disabled in America is itself an amazing achievement, but what truly inspires me about him is how he used his skills to realize his full potential and inspired others by demonstrating to the world that everyone can achieve anything they set their minds to. Being the youngest musician to ever have a number-one hit on the Billboard 100, he was already breaking new ground at the age of 13.

He has written and produced hits for hundreds of musicians besides himself throughout his prime, consistently turning up number-one hits. Furthermore, he pioneered the use of synthesizers and electronic instruments in his songs, paving the way for many of the intricate sounds heard in songs during the 1970s, and he made significant progress in the R&B genre during that decade. Wonder was not just a synthesizer player; he was also skilled with the piano, harmonica, congas, drums, bongos, organ, melodica, and clarinet. By skillfully fusing numerous instruments into his work, Wonder improved the sound of pop, soul, and funk music.

He stands out from other musicians thanks to his unique tone and intricate lyrics, which also contribute to the everlasting quality of his work.

“As an artist, my purpose is to communicate the message that can better improve the lives of all of us. I’d like to ask all of you just for one moment, if you will, to be silent and just to think and hear in your mind the voice of our Dr. Martin Luther King.” -Wonder ’81

Wonder never allowed his success or accomplishments to consume him; instead, he kept giving back to the community. Global Citizen (2021) claims that Stevie Wonder began his commitment to equality at the age of eleven. He first met Martin Luther King Jr. when he was fifteen years old. Following King’s death, he halted his musical career to organize protests and convince Congress to pass legislation designating King’s birthday as a national holiday. To fight starvation and generate money for AIDS awareness and research, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson organized and sang “We Are the World” and “That’s What Friends are For” in the 1980s.

Wonder’s music was outlawed in South Africa shortly after he won an Academy Award for the movie The Woman in Red in 1984 and dedicated it to Nelson Mandela (even though South Africa had earlier acknowledged him to the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid). Wonder had been a Democratic Party and Barack Obama campaigner in 2008, and as previously reported, she sang at the 2009 inauguration. In addition, President Obama bestowed upon him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award, and the Gershwin Award for Lifetime Achievement. In addition to these awards, Wonder has contributed to some causes, including fundraising for bind children and children with disabilities, anti-apartheid campaigns, and AIDS awareness.

To help in the integration of blind individuals into the workforce, he even founded the Wonder Vision Awards Program. These are just a handful of Stevie Wonder’s numerous awards and charitable activities; in addition to being a fantastic artist, he has also been a messenger of equality and peace.


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