Stevie Wonder performs the Miles Davis composition, All Blues
Stevie Wonder is an American musician and a former child prodigy who became one of the most creative musical figures of the late 20th century. His multi-generational hit songs include “My Cherie Amour,” “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “Superstition,” “Living in the City,” “Boogie on Reggae Woman,” “Sir Duke,” “That Girl” and “Part-Time Lover.”
Born on May 13, 1950, in Saginaw, Michigan, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Stevie Wonder made his recording debut at age 11, becoming a 1960s force to be reckoned with via chart hits like “Fingertips, Pt. 2,” “I Was Made to Love Her” and “My Cherie Amour.” Over the next decade, Wonder had an array of No. 1 songs on the pop and R&B charts, including “Superstition,” “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “Higher Ground,” “Boogie on Reggae Woman,” “Sir Duke” and “I Wish” from the albums Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness’ First Finale and Songs in the Key of Life.
Wonder continued to churn out hits into the 1980s, including “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” the Paul McCartney duet “Ebony and Ivory” and “Part-Time Lover.” He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and has continued to record and tour.
Stevie Wonder was born Stevland Hardaway Judkins on May 13, 1950, in Saginaw, Michigan. He was born six weeks early with retinopathy of prematurity, an eye disorder which was exacerbated when he received too much oxygen in an incubator, leading to blindness. Wonder showed an early gift for music, first with a church choir in Detroit, Michigan, where he and his family had moved to when he was four years old, and later with a range of instruments, including the harmonica, piano and drums, all of which he taught himself before age 10.
tevie Wonder was just 11 years old when he was discovered by Ronnie White of the Motown band the Miracles. An audition followed with Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr., who didn’t hesitate to sign the young musician to a record deal. In 1962, the newly renamed Little Stevie Wonder, working with Motown songwriter Clarence Paul, among others, released his debut The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie Wonder, an instrumental album that showed off the youngster’s remarkable musicianship.
The same year he also released Tribute to Uncle Ray, where Wonder covered the songs of soul icon Ray Charles. Wonder then developed a major audience with Little Stevie Wonder the 12 Year Old Genius, an album recorded live. The set’s edited single “Fingertips, Pt. 2” became Wonder’s first No. 1 song, reaching the top of both the R&B and pop charts.
Rather than rest on his laurels, the hard-working Wonder, who would go on to study classical piano, pushed to improve his musicianship and songwriting capabilities. After dropping “Little” from his stage name in the mid-1960s, he churned out the top 5 pop single “Uptight (Everything’s Alright),” which reached No. 1 R&B.
Wonder scored two more No. 1 R&B hits with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and the jubilant “I Was Made to Love Her,” with the latter reaching No. 2 on the pop charts. The 1968 album For Once in My Life offered even more successful singles with the title track, “Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day” and “You Met Your Match,” with Wonder serving as co-writer on all three songs.
The following year saw the release of My Cherie Amour, with the romantic top 5 pop/R&B title ballad as well as the top 5 R&B “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday.” Wonder would remain a consistent hit-maker over the next two decades, with the artist co-producing 1970’s Signed, Sealed and Delivered; the album featured the No. 1 R&B title track and a top 5 R&B cover of the Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out.”
Due in part to innate talent, but also because of his deep commitment to his craft, Wonder faced the difficulty of staying relevant as a musician as he grew from boy to man, and his voice matured into a shining tenor. In 1971, Wonder negotiated a new contract with Motown that gave him almost total control over his records and greatly increased his royalty rate.
It was an unprecedented concession by Gordy, but, artistically, just what Wonder needed. As the 1970s unfolded, the musician went through an unrivaled period of production. 1971’s Where I’m Coming From, with its groovy top 10 single “If You Really Love Me,” marked the first time Wonder had writing or co-writing credits for every song on an album. 1972’s Music of My Mind offered the top 20 R&B/top 40 pop single “Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You),” an emotionally rich jazz-soul opus that highlighted Wonder’s pioneering work in synthesized/electronic sounds.
Yet these two works were just hints of what was to come. Over the course of four outstanding albums—Talking Book (1972), Innervisions (1973), Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974) and Songs in the Key of Life (1976)—Wonder created some of the most indelible songs in popular music history.