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Stevie Wonder is a legend in rock and pop music history.
Stevie Wonder (born May 13, 1950) is an African-American singer, songwriter, producer, musician, humanitarian and social activist. Although his name at birth was Steveland Judkins, he later changed his name to Steveland Morris, his mother's maiden name.
Wonder has recorded more than 30 Top 10 hits, won nearly two dozen Grammys, including one for lifetime achievement, and been inducted into both the Rock and Roll and Songwriters halls of fame.
Blind from infancy, Wonder has become one of the most successful and well-known artists on the Motown label, with nine U.S. #1 hits to his name and album sales totaling more than 70 million units. He 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, guitar, synthesizers, congas, and most famously the piano, harmonica and keyboard. Many critics refer to the quality of his work and its versatility as being indicative of musical genius.
Artist career history
Steveland Judkins was born prematurely in Saginaw. Common belief is that he became blind after being exposed to excessive oxygen levels in his incubator, but the oxygen saved his life. The actual cause was premature development of his eye, causing the blood vessels to detach from the retina. He learned to play a number of instruments, most notably the piano, congas, and harmonica, at an early age. In 1962, at the age of eleven, Morris was brought to Motown by Ronnie White of The Miracles, and 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 "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. After a number of arguments with Berry Gordy over allowing Wonder to have his own creative control, Wonder allowed his Motown contract to expire, and he left 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 releasing.
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 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. The critical and commercial successes Talking Book and Innervisions continued Wonder's critical and popular acclaim, addressing more and more political issues as his music progressed. 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. (Wonder performed "Superstition" on the children's television show Sesame Street in 1973.) Wonder's artistic growth continued on Fulfillingness' First Finale (1974) and his magnum opus, Songs in the Key of Life (1976).
Wonder's next album was a soundtrack album for the film Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants. The album was panned at the time of its release but has come to be regarded as a classic album. 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 '90s 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.
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 the US; it is Motown's biggest-selling single ever in the United Kingdom. It was placed 13th in the all-time list of best-selling singles in the UK issued in 2002, and it won an Academy Award for "Best Song" in 1985. The following year's In Square Circle featured the #1 pop hit "Part-Time Lover".
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.
In addition, the public will have the opportunity to listen to other new material from Stevie, as it was announced he will be featured on Busta Rhymes' highly anticipated Aftermath debut; "The Big Bang". The album will feature many explosive guest appearences by the likes of Rick James, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Ol' Dirty Bastard and more. "The Big Bang" is scheduled for a late March of 2006 release.
Producer and songwriter
Besides creating his own material, Stevie Wonder has written and produced a number of songs for other artists. Among his most significant compositions or co-compositions are "The Tears of a Clown" by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, "It's a Shame" by The Spinners, " "I Can't Help It" by Michael Jackson, and "You Are My Heaven" by Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway. He has also collaborated with Quincy Jones, Barbara Streisand, B.B. King, The Supremes, The Temptations, Dionne Warwick, Julio Iglesias, and former Musical Youth lead singer Dennis Seaton.
Stevie Wonder's success as a socially conscious musical performer was significantly influential to both R&B; and pop music. Among the musicians and performers who list Wonder as one of their major influences are Mariah Carey, Nik Kershaw, India.Arie, Musiq Soulchild, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Jay Kay, and the members of Jodeci, Maroon 5, and Dru Hill. Kanye West was once quoted saying that to create a better record than Stevie's Innervisions was "blasphemous".
Awards and recognition
Stevie has received 22 Grammy Awards and one Academy Award over the course of his career. In 1989, Wonder was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is also an inductee to the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Wonder also received Kennedy Center Honors in 1999, and was awarded the highest honor to be received at the Billboard Music Award for the Century Award in 2004.
Wonder has seven children. His last child, Mandla Kadjay Carl Steveland Morris, was born on May 13, 2005, and is the second child of Wonder and his current wife, Kai Milla Morris. Most of his previous wives were said to be "gold diggers." He is a supporter of the Democratic Party.
For a full discography, see Stevie Wonder discography
US and UK Top Ten singles
Twenty-six of Stevie Wonder's singles, listed below, reached the Top Ten in either the United States or the United Kingdom.
1963: "Fingertips (Pt. 2)" (US #1)
1965: "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" (US #3)
1966: "Blowin' In The Wind" (US #9)
1966: "A Place in the Sun" (US #9)
1967: "I Was Made to Love Her" which he wrote at the age of 17(US #2)
1968: "For Once In My Life" (US #2)
1968: "Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day" (US #9)
1969: "My Cherie Amour" (US #4)
1969: "Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday" (US #7)
1970: "Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours)" (US #3)
1970: "Heaven Help Us All" (US #9)
1971: "If You Really Love Me" (US #8)
1972: "Superstition" (US #1)
1973: "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" (US #1)
1973: "Higher Ground" (US #4)
1974: "Living for the City" (US #9)
1974: "You Haven't Done Nothin'" (with The Jackson 5) (US #1)
1974: "Boogie On Reggae Woman" (US #3)
1977: "I Wish" (US #1)
1977: "Sir Duke" (US #1)
1979: "Send One Your Love" (US #4)
1980: "Master Blaster (Jammin)" (US #5)
1982: "Ebony and Ivory" (duet with Paul McCartney) (US #1)
1982: "That Girl" (US #4)
1984: "I Just Called to Say I Love You" (US #1, UK #1)
1985: "Part-Time Lover" (US #1)
1985: "Go Home" (US #10)
1962: The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie Wonder
1962: Tribute To Uncle Ray
1963: Pre-Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius
1964: Stevie at the Beach
1966: Down to Earth
1967: I Was Made to Love Her
1968: For Once in My Life
1968: Eivets Rednow (featuring "Alfie")
1969: My Cherie Amour
1970: Signed, Sealed, and Delivered
1971: Where I'm Coming From
1972: Music of My Mind
1972: Talking Book
1974: Fulfillingness' First Finale
1976: Songs in the Key of Life
1979: Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants Soundtrack
1980: Hotter than July
1982: Original Musiquarium
1984: The Woman in Red Soundtrack
1985: In Square Circle
1991: Jungle Fever Soundtrack
1995: Conversation Peace
2005: A Time 2 Love
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