Stevie Wonder is the stage name of Stevland
Morris (born May 13, 1950 as Stevland Judkins), an American
singer, songwriter, record producer, musician, and social
activist. Wonder has recorded more than 30 Top 10 hits, won
21 Grammy Awards  (a record for a solo artist), also one
for lifetime achievement, he has won an Oscar for Best Song
and been inducted into both the Rock and Roll and Songwriters
halls of fame.
Blind from infancy, Wonder signed with Motown Records as an
adolescent, and continues to perform and record for the label
to this day. He has become one of the most successful and
well-known artists in the world, with nine U.S. number-one
hits to his name and album sales totaling more than 100 million
units. Wonder has recorded several critically acclaimed albums
and hit singles, and writes and produces songs for many of
his labelmates and outside artists as well. A multi-instrumentalist,
Wonder plays the drums, congas, bass guitar, organ and most
famously the piano, keyboard and harmonica. Critics and colleagues
have referred to the quality of Wonder's work and its versatility
as being indicative of musical genius.
Early career, 1962-1971
In 1962, at the age of 11, Stevland Morris was introduced
to Ronnie White of the popular Motown act The Miracles. White
brought Morris and his mother to Motown Records. Impressed
by the young musician, Motown CEO Berry Gordy signed Morris
to Motown's Tamla label as Little Stevie Wonder.
At the age of 13, Little Stevie Wonder had his first major
hit, "Fingertips (Pt. 2)", a 1963 single taken from
a live recording of a Motortown Revue performance. The song,
featuring Wonder on vocals, congas, and harmonica, and a young
Marvin Gaye on drums, was a #1 hit on the US pop charts and
launched him into the public consciousness. Dropping the "Little"
from his moniker, Wonder went on to have a number of other
hits during the mid-1960s, including "Uptight (Everything's
Alright)", "With a Child's Heart", and "Blowin'
in the Wind", a Bob Dylan cover which was one of the
first songs to reflect Wonder's social consciousness. He also
began to work in the Motown songwriting department, composing
songs both for himself and his labelmates.
By 1970, Wonder had scored more major hits, including "I
Was Made to Love Her", "For Once in My Life",
"My Cherie Amour", and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered
(I'm Yours)". Besides being one of the first songs on
which Wonder serves as both songwriter and producer, "Signed,
Sealed, Delivered" is one of the main showcases for his
backup group Wonderlove, a trio which included at various
times Minnie Riperton, Deniece Williams, Lynda Laurence, and
Syreeta Wright, whom Wonder married on September 14, 1970.
Wonder and Wright divorced eighteen months later, but they
continued to collaborate on musical projects.
Besides Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder was one of the few Motown
stars to contest the label's factory-like operation methods:
artists, songwriters, and producers were usually kept in specialized
collectives with little or no overlap, and artists had no
creative control. Wonder argued with Berry Gordy over creative
control a number of times. As a compromise, Motown released
an album under the name "Eivets Rednow" (Stevie
Wonder backwards). Arguments continued and Wonder allowed
his Motown contract to expire, leaving the label on his twenty-first
birthday in 1971. His final album before his departure was
Where I'm Coming From, which Gordy had strongly fought against
Classic period, 1972-1976
Wonder independently recorded and released two albums, which
he used as a bargaining tool while negotiating with Motown.
Eventually, the label agreed to his demands for full creative
control and the rights to his own songs, and Wonder returned
to Motown in March 1972 with Music of My Mind, an album which
is considered a classic of the era. Unlike most previous artist
LPs on Motown, which usually consisted of a collection of
singles, b-sides, and covers, Music of My Mind was an actual
LP, a full-length artistic statement, and began a string of
five albums released over a period of less than five years,
that make up what is generally considered Stevie Wonder's
October 1972's Talking Book featured the #1 pop and R&B
hit "Superstition", which is one of the most distinctive
examples of the sound of the clavinet. Featuring a rocking
groove that was partly inspired by and then covered by rock
guitarist Jeff Beck, "Superstition" gained Wonder
an additional audience on rock radio stations. That audience
was further exposed to Wonder when he opened for The Rolling
Stones on their much-heralded 1972 American Tour. Wonder's
pop following was not neglected, however, as "You Are
the Sunshine of My Life" followed to #1 on the pop charts
and has been a staple love song for the decades since. Between
them the songs won three Grammy Awards.
Wonder's critical and popular acclaim only increased less
than a year later, in August 1973, when Wonder released what
is often called his best album, Innervisions. Political considerations
were brought into greater focus than ever before, with the
driving, percolating "Higher Ground" (#4 on the
pop charts) followed by the memorable epic "Living for
the City" (#8), which found Wonder more evocatively describing
a time and place in American life than he would anywhere else
in his career. Popular ballads such as "Golden Lady"
and "All in Love is Fair" were also present, in
a mixture of moods that nevertheless held together as a unified
whole. The album generated three more Grammy Awards, including
Album of the Year.
On August 6, 1973, just days after the release of Innervisions,
Wonder was in a serious automobile accident while on tour,
when a log from a truck went through a passenger window and
struck him in the head. This left him in a coma for a while
and resulted in a permanent loss of his sense of smell.
Despite the setback, Wonder eventually recovered all of his
musical facilities, and reappeared in concert at Madison Square
Garden in March 1974 in a performance that highlighted both
up-tempo material and long, building improvisations on mid-tempo
songs such as "Living for the City". The album Fulfillingness'
First Finale then appeared in July 1974 with a more personal,
introspective outlook, but nevertheless sent two hits high
on the pop charts. The Album of the Year was again one of
three Grammys won.
On October 5, 1975, Wonder performed the historical Wonder
Dream Concert in Kingston, Jamaica, a benefit concert for
the Jamaican Institute for the Blind. Along with Wonder Bob
Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, the three original "Wailers",
performed together for the last time.
Wonder then focused his attentions on what he intended as
his magnum opus, the double album-with-extra-EP Songs in the
Key of Life, released in September 1976. Sprawling in style,
unlimited in ambition, and sometimes lyrically difficult to
fathom, the album was hard for some listeners to fully assimilate.
Two tracks fairly jumped out of the radio with energy, however,
becoming the #1 hits "I Wish" and "Sir Duke".
"Isn't She Lovely" was a future wedding and bat
mitzvah fixture, while songs such as "Love's in Need
of Love Today" (which years later Wonder would perform
at the post-September 11 America: A Tribute to Heroes telethon)
and the classical "Village Ghetto Land" reflected
a far more pensive mood. "Pastime Paradise" would
become an interpolation for Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise"
(one of the most popular hits of the 1990s). Yet again Wonder
was awarded Album of the Year, along with two other Grammys.
Possibly exhausted by this concentrated and sustained level
of creativity, Wonder was not heard from again for three years.
Nevertheless his output during this stretch had left its mark:
the 1983 Rolling Stone Record Guide said that these albums
"pioneered stylistic approaches that helped to determine
the shape of pop music for the next decade"; Rolling
Stone's 2003 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time included
four of the five, with three in the top 90; while in 2005
Kanye West said of his own work, "I'm not trying to compete
with what's out there now. I'm really trying to compete with
Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life. It sounds musically
blasphemous to say something like that, but why not set that
as your bar?"
Later career, 1979-present
When Wonder did return, it was with a soundtrack album for
the never-finished film Journey through the Secret Life of
Plants (1979). Mostly instrumental, the album was panned at
the time of its release but has come to be regarded by some
critics as an unusual classic. Hotter than July (1980) became
Wonder's first platinum selling album, and its single "Happy
Birthday" was a successful vehicle for his campaign to
establish Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday as a national
holiday. The album also included "Master Blaster (Jammin')",
his tribute to Bob Marley, and the sentimental ballad, "Lately",
which was later covered by 1990s R&B act Jodeci.
In 1982, Wonder released a retrospective of his '70s work
with Original Musiquarium and included three more hit singles
in his catalogue, including the ten-minute funk classic "Do
I Do" (which included legendary jazz trumpeter Dizzy
Gillespie), "That Girl" (one of the year's biggest
singles to chart on the R&B side) and "Ribbon in
the Sky", one of his many classic compositions. Wonder
also gained a #1 hit that year in collaboration with Paul
McCartney in their paean to racial harmony, "Ebony and
1984 saw the release of Wonder's soundtrack album for The
Woman in Red. The lead single, "I Just Called to Say
I Love You", was a #1 pop and R&B hit in both the
US and UK, where it was placed 13th in the all-time list of
best-selling singles in the UK issued in 2002. It went on
to win an Academy Award for "Best Song" in 1985.
The following year's In Square Circle featured the #1 pop
hit "Part-Time Lover". He was also featured in Chaka
Khan's cover of Prince's "I Feel For You", alongside
Melle Mel, playing his signature harmonica, which was a huge
hit. In roughly the same period he was also featured on harmonica
on Eurythmics' single, "There Must Be An Angel (Playing
With My Heart)."
By 1985 Stevie Wonder was an American icon, the subject of
good-humored jokes about blindness and affectionately impersonated
by Eddie Murphy on Saturday Night Live. Thus it was only natural
that he was in a featured duet with Bruce Springsteen on the
all-star charity single for African famine relief, "We
Are the World", and that he was part of another charity
single the following year, the AIDS-targeted "That's
What Friends Are For".
After 1987's Characters LP, Wonder continued to release new
material, albeit at a slower pace. He recorded a soundtrack
album for Spike Lee's film Jungle Fever in 1991, and released
both Conversation Peace and the live album Natural Wonder
during the same decade. In December 1999, Wonder announced
that he was interested in pursuing an intraocular retinal
prosthesis to partially restore his sight.
Wonder's first new album in ten years, A Time to Love, was
released on October 18, 2005, after having been pushed back
from first a May, and then a June release. The album was released
electronically on September 27, 2005, exclusively on Apple's
iTunes Music Store; see External links below. The first single,
"So What the Fuss", was released in April and features
Prince on guitar and background vocals from En Vogue. A second
single, "From the Bottom of My Heart" is a current
hit on adult-contemporary R&B radio. The album also features
a duet with India Arie on the title track "A Time to
Wonder performed at the pre-game show for Super Bowl XL in
Detroit in early 2006, singing various hit singles (with his
four-year-old son on drums) and accompanying Aretha Franklin
during "The Star Spangled Banner".
In March 2006, Wonder received new national exposure on the
top-rated American Idol television program. Each of 12 contestants
were required to sing one of his songs, after having met and
received guidance from him. (Some of the contestants idolized
Wonder, while others showed little familiarity with his work.)
Wonder also performed "My Love Is on Fire" live
on the show itself. Most recently, in June 2006, Stevie Wonder
will make a guest appearance on Busta Rhymes' new album, The
Big Bang on the track "Been through the Storm" he
sings the refrain and plays the piano on the Dr. Dre and Sha
Money XL produced track. --Bio Courtesy of wikipedia
Visit the official Stevie Wonder Web Site StevieWonder.com