Stevie Wonder Explained

Stevie Wonder
Img Capt:Stevie Wonder at a conference in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
Birth Name:Stevland Hardaway Judkins
Alias:Stevland Hardaway Morris, Little Stevie Wonder, Eivets Rednow, El Toro Negro
Born:1950 5, mf=yes
Saginaw, Michigan, United States
Origin:Detroit, Michigan, United States
Instrument:Vocals, synthesizer, piano, harmonica, drums, bass guitar, congas, bongos, clavinet, melodica
Genre:R&B, soul, funk, psychedelic soul, Motown
Occupation:Singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, activist
Voice Type:Countertenor
Years Active:1961–present

Stevie Wonder (born Stevland Hardaway Judkins on May 13, 1950, name later changed to Stevland Hardaway Morris)[1] is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer. A prominent figure in popular music during the latter half of the 20th century, Wonder has recorded more than thirty US top ten hits, won twenty-two Grammy Awards[2] (a record for a solo artist), plus one for lifetime achievement, won an Academy Award for Best Song,[3] and been inducted into both the Rock and Roll[4] and Songwriters[5] halls of fame. He has also been awarded the Polar Music Prize.[6]

Blind from birth, Wonder signed with Motown Records at the age of eleven, and continues to perform and record for the label. He has ten US number-one hits on the pop charts as well as 20 R&B number one hits, 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 label mates and outside artists as well. Wonder plays the piano, synthesizer, harmonica, congas, drums, bass guitar, bongos, organ, melodica, and clavinet. In his childhood, he was best known for his harmonica work, but today he is better known for his keyboard skills and vocal ability. Wonder is the first Motown artist and second African American musician to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song for his 1984 hit single "I Just Called to Say I Love You" from the movie "The Woman in Red".

Early life

Stevie Wonder was born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1950 as the third of six brothers and sisters to Calvin Judkins and Lula Mae Hardaway. The product of a premature birth, the blood vessels at the back of his eyes had not yet reached the front, and an aborted growth spurt caused the retinas to detach.[7] The medical term for this condition is known as retinopathy of prematurity, or ROP, and while it may have been exacerbated by the oxygen pumped into his incubator, this treatment was not the primary cause of his blindness.

When Wonder was four, his mother left his father and moved herself and her children to Detroit. Wonder's mother eventually remarried and Wonder had his last name changed to Morris (the last name of his mother's new husband), a name he has kept since. Wonder took up piano at age seven, and had mastered it by age nine. During his early childhood he was active in his church choir. He also taught himself to play the harmonica and the drums, and had mastered both by age ten. Wonder also learned to play the bass during his early years.

Discovery and early Motown recordings

In 1961, at the age of eleven, Wonder was discovered singing outside a street corner by a relative of The Miracles' Ronnie White, who was later introduced to Wonder. White brought Wonder and his mother to Motown Records. Impressed by the young musician, Motown CEO Berry Gordy signed Wonder to Motown's Tamla label with the name Little Stevie Wonder.[1] Before signing, producer Mickey Stevenson gave Wonder his trademark name after remarking about him saying "that boy's a wonder". He then recorded the minor hit "I Call It Pretty Music, But the Old People Call It the Blues", which was released in late 1961. Wonder released his first two albums, The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie Wonder and Tribute to Uncle Ray, in 1962, to little success.

Music career

Early success: 1963–1971

By age thirteen, Wonder had a major hit, "Fingertips (Pt. 2)", a 1963 single taken from a live recording of a Motor Town Revue performance, issued on the album, . The song, featuring Wonder on vocals, bongos, and harmonica, and a young Marvin Gaye on drums, was a #1 hit on the U.S. pop and R&B charts and launched him into the public consciousness.

In 1964, Stevie Wonder made his film debut in Muscle Beach Party as himself, credited as "Little Stevie Wonder".

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, co-sung by his mentor, producer Clarence Paul. He also began to work in the Motown songwriting department, composing songs both for himself and his label mates, including "Tears of a Clown", a number one hit performed by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.

In 1968 he recorded an album of instrumental soul/jazz tracks, mostly harmonica solos, under the pseudonym (and title) Eivets Rednow, which is "Stevie Wonder" spelled backwards. The album failed to get much attention, and its only single, a cover of "Alfie", only reached number 66 on the U.S. Pop charts and number 11 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary charts. Nonetheless, he managed to score several hits between 1968 and 1970 such as "I Was Made to Love Her"; "For Once in My Life" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours". In September 1970, at the age of 20, Wonder married Syreeta Wright, a former company secretary for Motown and songwriter. For his next album known as Where I'm Coming From, his newly-wed wife Syreeta gave him a helping hand with the writing and producing aspects, with the permission of Gordy. The album flopped in the charts. Reaching his twenty-first birthday on May 21, 1971, he allowed his Motown contract to expire.[8]

In 1970, Wonder co-wrote, and played numerous instruments on, the hit "It's a Shame" for fellow Motown act The Spinners. His contribution was meant to be a showcase of his talent and thus a weapon in his on-going negotiations with Gordy about creative autonomy.[9]

Classic period: 1972–1976

Wonder independently recorded 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. 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 starting the so-called "classic period" of Wonder's career during the 1970s. Music of My Mind marked the beginning of a long collaboration with synthesiser pioneers Tonto's Expanding Head Band (Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil).[10]

Released in the fall of 1972, Talking Book featured the number-one hit "Superstition", which is one of the most distinctive and famous examples of the sound of the Hohner clavinet keyboard.[11] The song, originally intended for rock guitarist Jeff Beck, features a rocking groove that garnered Wonder an additional audience on rock radio stations. Talking Book also featured "You Are the Sunshine of My Life", which also peaked at number-one. It has been argued that Wonder touring with The Rolling Stones on their 1972 American Tour, was a major factor behind the success of both "Superstition" and "You Are the Sunshine of My Life".[12] Between them, the two songs won three Grammy Awards.[2] On an episode of the children's television show Sesame Street that aired in April 1973,[13] Wonder and his band performed "Superstition", as well as an original song called "Sesame Street Song", which demonstrated his abilities with the "talk box".

Political considerations were brought into greater focus than ever before on his next album, Innervisions, released in 1973. The album featured "Higher Ground" (#4 on the pop charts) as well as "Living for the City" (#8). Both songs reached number 1 on the R&B charts. 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. Innervisions generated three more Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year.[2] The album is ranked #23 on Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[14]

In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, shortly after the release of Innervisions, Wonder expressed a feeling that someone was going to kill or seriously injure him. Then on August 6, 1973, Wonder was in a serious automobile accident while on tour, when a log from a truck went through the windshield and struck him in the head. This left him in a coma for four days and resulted in a partial loss of his sense of smell and a temporary loss of sense of taste.[15]

Despite the setback Wonder eventually recovered all of his musical faculties, and re-appeared 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 appeared in July 1974 and set two hits high on the pop charts: the #1 "You Haven't Done Nothin'" (a political protest song aimed at Richard Nixon) and the Top Ten "Boogie On Reggae Woman". The Album of the Year was again one of three Grammys won.[2]

The same year Wonder took part in the bootleg album which would later be known as A Toot and a Snore in '74,[16] the only known post-Beatles recording of John Lennon and Paul McCartney playing together. He also co-wrote and produced the Syreeta Wright album .[17] [18]

On October 5, 1975 Wonder performed the historical "Wonder Dream Concert" in Kingston, Jamaica, a Jamaican Institute for the Blind benefit concert. Along with Wonder Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, the three original "Wailers", performed together for the last time.

By 1975, in his 25th year, Stevie Wonder had won two consecutive Grammy Awards: in 1974 for Innervisions and in 1975 for Fulfillingness' First Finale. The following year, singer songwriter Paul Simon won the Grammy for Album of the Year for Still Crazy After All These Years. In his acceptance speech, Simon jokingly thanked Stevie Wonder for not releasing an album that year.[19] Simon's joke proved prophetic.

The double album-with-extra-EP Songs in the Key of Life, was released in September 1976. Sprawling in style, unlimited in ambition, and sometimes lyrically difficult to fathom, the album was hard for some listeners to assimilate, yet is regarded by many as Wonder's crowning achievement and one of the most recognisable and accomplished albums in pop music history. The album became the first of an American artist to debut straight at #1 in the Billboard charts, where it remained for 14 non-consecutive weeks. Two tracks, became #1 Pop/R&B hits "I Wish" and "Sir Duke". The baby-celebratory "Isn't She Lovely" was written about his newborn daughter Aisha, while songs such as "Love's in Need of Love Today" (which years later Wonder would perform at the post-September 11, 2001 "" telethon) and "Village Ghetto Land" reflected a far more pensive mood. Songs in the Key of Life won Album of the Year and two other Grammies.[2] The album ranks 56th on Rolling Stone Magazines 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[14] ‎ After such a concentrated and sustained level of creativity, Wonder stopped recording for three years, releasing only the 3 LP Looking Back, an anthology of his first Motown period.The albums Wonder released during this period were very influential on the music world; Rolling Stone Record Guide (1983) said that these albums "pioneered stylistic approaches that helped to determine the shape of pop music for the next decade"; Rolling Stone Magazines 2003 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time included four of the five, with three in the top 90[14] ; 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?"[20]

Commercial period: 1979–1990

It was in Wonder's next phase that he began to commercially reap the rewards of his legendary classic period. The '80s saw Wonder scoring his biggest hits and reaching an unprecedented level of fame evidenced by increased album sales, charity participation, high-profile collaborations, political impact, and television appearances.

This period had a muted beginning, for when Wonder did return, it was with the soundtrack album Journey through the Secret Life of Plants (1979), featured in the film The Secret Life of Plants. 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. In this year Wonder also wrote and produced the dance hit "Let's Get Serious", performed by Jermaine Jackson and (ranked by Billboard as the #1 R&B single of 1980).

Hotter than July (1980) became Wonder's first platinum-selling single 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, "All I Do", and the sentimental ballad, "Lately", which was later covered by Jodeci and S Club 7.

In 1982, Wonder released a retrospective of his '70s work with Stevie Wonder's Original Musiquarium, which included four new songs: 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), "Front Line", a narrative about a soldier in the Vietnam War that Stevie Wonder wrote and sang in the 1st person, 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 Ivory".

In 1983, Wonder performed the song "Stay Gold", the theme to Francis Ford Coppola's film adaptation of S.E. Hinton's novel The Outsiders. Often mistakenly attributed solely to Stevie Wonder, the music is by Carmine Coppola, while Wonder wrote the lyric.

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 United States and the United Kingdom, where it was placed 13th in the list of best-selling singles in the UK published 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". The album also has a Top 10 Hit with "Go Home." It also featured the ballad "Overjoyed" which was originally written for Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants but didn't make the album. He performed "Overjoyed" on Saturday Night Live when he was the host. 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)" and Elton John's "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues", both huge hits.

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. Wonder sometimes joined in the jokes himself; in The Motown Revue Smokey Robinson presented Wonder with an award plaque, which he pretended to read for the audience– and to notice a spelling mistake. He was in a featured duet with Bruce Springsteen on the all-star charity single for African famine relief, "We Are the World", and he was part of another charity single the following year, the AIDS-targeted "That's What Friends Are For". He also played the harmonica on the album Dreamland Express by John Denver in the song "If Ever", a song Wonder co-wrote with Stephanie Andrews. He also wrote the track "I Do Love You" for The Beach Boys' 1985 self-titled album. Stevie Wonder also played the harmonica on a track called "Can't Help Lovin' That Man" from "Showboat" on the "The Broadway Album" by Barbra Streisand.

In 1986, Stevie Wonder appeared on The Cosby Show as himself in the episode "A Touch of Wonder".

In 1987, Wonder appeared on Michael Jackson's Bad album on the duet "Just Good Friends". The song was performed live on one occasion in Sydney, Australia when Wonder made a surprise appearance at Jackson's show at the Parramatta Stadium. Michael Jackson also sang a duet with him titled "Get It" on Wonder's 1987 album Characters. This was a minor hit single as were "Skeletons" and "You Will Know". In the fall of 1988, Wonder dueted with Julio Iglesias on the hit single "My Love", which appeared on Iglesias' album Non Stop and was a hit single on both sides of the Atlantic.

Wonder has recorded with Jon Gibson, a Christian Soul musician, in a remake of his own song, "Have a Talk With God", covered by Gibson on which Wonder plays harmonica. The two men met in the early 1980s through a shared music agent.

Later career: 1991–2001

After 1987's Characters LP, Wonder continued to release new material, but at a slower pace. He recorded a soundtrack album for Spike Lee's film Jungle Fever in 1991. From this album, singles and videos were released for "Gotta Have You" and "These Three Words". The B-side to the "Gotta Have You" single included a recording of "Feeding Off The Love Of The Land", the song that was played during the end credits of the movie "Jungle Fever", but was not included on the soundtrack. A piano and vocal version of "Feeding Off The Love Of The Land" was also released on the compilation. It is rumored that "Feeding Off The Love Of The Land" was originally intended for release on Fulfillingness' First Finale Volume Two, a project that has never been confirmed as completed. Conversation Peace and the live album Natural Wonder were also released in the 1990s.

In 1994, Wonder made a guest appearance on the KISS cover album , playing harmonica and supplying background vocals for the song "Deuce", performed by Lenny Kravitz.

In 1996, Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life was selected as a documentary subject for the Classic Albums documentary series. This series dedicates 60 minutes to one groundbreaking record per feature. The same year, he performed John Lennon's song "Imagine" in the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games, held at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.[21] The same year, Wonder performed in a remix of "Seasons of Love" from the Jonathan Larson musical Rent which is part of the original Broadway cast recording.[22]

In 1997, Wonder collaborated with Babyface for an emotionally-charged song about spousal abuse (domestic violence) called "How Come, How Long" which was nominated for an award.

In December 1999, Wonder announced that he was interested in pursuing an intraocular retinal prosthesis to partially restore his sight.[23] That same year, Wonder was featured on harmonica in the Sting hit "Brand New Day".[24]

In 2000, Stevie Wonder contributed two new songs to the soundtrack for Spike Lee's satire based on minstrelsy, Bamboozled: "Misrepresented People" and "Some Years Ago".[25]

Current career: 2002–2009

In March 2002, Wonder performed at the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Paralympics in Salt Lake City.[26]

On July 2, 2005, Wonder performed in the USA part of the "Live 8" series of concerts in Philadelphia.[27]

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. 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" was a hit on adult-contemporary R&B radio. The album also featured a duet with India.Arie on the title track "A Time to Love".

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. Wonder also performed "My Love Is on Fire" (from A Time To Love) live on the show itself. Most recently, in June 2006, Stevie Wonder made 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. He appeared again on the last track of Snoop Dogg's new album Tha Blue Carpet Treatment;"Conversations". The song is a remake of "Have a Talk with God" from Songs in the Key of Life.

In 2006 duet with Andrea Bocelli in his album Amore with harmonica and additional vocals on "Canzoni Stonate".

Stevie Wonder also performed at Washington, D.C.'s 2006 "A Capitol Fourth" celebration, which was hosted by actor star Jason Alexander.

On August 2, 2007, Stevie Wonder announced the "A Wonder Summer's Night" 13 concert tour — his first U.S. tour in over ten years. This tour was inspired by the recent passing of his mother, as he stated at the conclusion of the tour on December 9 at the Arena in Glendale, near Phoenix. Boxer Mike Tyson appeared briefly on stage at the end of the musical program.

Stevie Wonder's current musical director is UAB professor Dr. Henry Panion. Panion is a renowned arranger, composer and conductor, and a pioneer in the development of college music technology programs.

On Thursday August 28, 2008 — the day Barack Obama accepted his party's nomination to run for President of the United States - Wonder performed at Invesco Field at Mile High, at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. Songs included were a previously unreleased song, "Fear Can't Put Dreams to Sleep," and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours", a song that was used regularly during the Obama campaign.[28]

On Monday September 8, 2008, Stevie Wonder started the European leg of his "Wonder Summer's Night Tour", the first time he has toured Europe in over a decade. His opening show was at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, England. During the tour, Wonder played eight UK gigs; four at The O2 Arena in London, two in Birmingham and two at the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester. Stevie Wonder's other stops in the tour's European leg also found him performing in Holland (Rotterdam), Sweden (Stockholm), Germany (Cologne, Mannheim and Munich), Norway (Hamar), France (Paris), Italy (Milan) and Denmark (Aalborg). Wonder also toured Australia (Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane) and New Zealand (Christchurch, Auckland and New Plymouth) in October and November.[29]

Stevie Wonder is currently (June 2008) working on two projects simultaneously: a new album titled The Gospel Inspired By Lula which will deal with the various spiritual and cultural crises facing the world, and Through The Eyes Of Wonder, an album which Wonder has described as a performance piece that will reflect his experience as a blind man. Wonder is also keeping the door open for a collaboration with Tony Bennett and Quincy Jones concerning a rumoured jazz album.[30] If Wonder was to join forces with Bennett, it would not be for the first time. The couple's rendition of "For Once in My Life" earned them a Grammy for best pop collaboration with vocals in 2006.[2] . They also performed "Everyday (I Have The Blues)" together on one of Bennett's previous albums. Wonder's harmonica playing can be heard on the 2009 grammy nominated 'Never Give You Up' featuring CJ Hilton & Raphael Saadiq.[31]

Wonder performed on January 18, 2009 at the Lincoln Memorial festivities in honor of the inauguration of Barack Obama.
On Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009, Wonder performed the song "Brand New Day" with musician Sting. The song was part of the program for The Neighborhood Inaugural Ball, one of ten inaugural balls honoring President Barack Obama. He also performed his new song "All About the Love Again" and, with other musical artists, "Signed, Sealed, and Delivered" in honor of the president. On February 23, 2009, Wonder became the second recipient of the Library of Congress's for Popular Song, honoured by President Barack Obama at the White House. [32]


Wonder's success as a socially conscious musical performer influenced popular music. Some major musicians and other public figures who cite Wonder as a major influence, inspiration or idol on themselves are Stevie Ray Vaughan, India.Arie, Barack Obama, Blackstreet, Gloria Estefan, Musiq Soulchild, George Michael, The Neptunes, Luciano Pavarotti, Tupac Shakur, Will Smith, Coolio, Snoop Dogg, Kirk Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Babyface, Kelis, Donnell Jones, Jermaine Jackson, Janet Jackson, Luther Vandross, N'Sync, Glenn Lewis, Dru Hill, Boyz 2 Men, Alicia Keys, Eric Hutchinson, Carrie Underwood, Elton John, John Legend, Prince, Anthony Kiedis (lead vocalist of Red Hot Chilli Peppers), Sting, Beyonce, Aaliyah, Brandy, Justin Timberlake, Ashanti, Shogo Hamada, bassist Tim Foreman (from Switchfoot), Jason Kay (lead vocalist of Jamiroquai), Utada Hikaru, Kentarō Kobuchi (instrumentalist of J-pop duo Kobukuro, Ken Hirai, Whitney Houston, Wang Leehom, Lenny Kravitz, Glenn Hughes, and Erykah Badu.

Wonder has appeared as guest musician/vocalist on numerous recordings by other artists, including Carly Simon, Busta Rhymes, Quincy Jones, Sting, Pointer Sisters, Barbra Streisand, Andrea Bocelli, Jeff Beck, Snoop Dogg, Elton John, Lenny Kravitz, Billy Preston, James Taylor, Roberta Flack, Smokey Robinson, Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Queen Latifah, The Supremes, Babyface, The Beach Boys, Chaka Khan, Herbie Hancock, Luther Vandross, The Temptations, Gloria Estefan, Andrae Crouch, Michael Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, John Denver, BeBe Winans, Julio Iglesias, Don Henley, Take 6, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Rod Stewart, The Gap Band, 'NSYNC, The Manhattan Transfer, Donna Summer, Eurythmics, B.B. King, Jon Gibson ("Have a Talk With God"), Paula Abdul, and Whitney Houston.[33]

Vocalists Minnie Riperton, Deniece Williams and Angela Winbush all began their careers in the 1970s as backup vocalists for Wonder as part of "Wonderlove".[34]

Wonder's songs are renowned for being quite difficult to sing. He has a very developed sense of harmony and uses many extended chords utilizing tensions such as 9ths, 11ths, 13ths, b5s, etc. in his compositions. Many of his melodies make abrupt, unpredictable changes. Many of his vocal melodies are also melismatic, meaning that a syllable is sung over several notes. In the American Idol Hollywood Performances, judge Randy Jackson repeatedly stated the difficulty of Wonder's songs. Some of his best known and most frequently covered songs are played in keys which are more often found in jazz than in pop and rock. For example, "Superstition", "Higher Ground" and "I Wish" are in the key of E flat minor, and feature distinctive riffs in the E flat minor pentatonic scale (i.e. largely on the black notes of the keyboard).

Wonder played a large role in bringing synthesizers to the forefront of popular music. With the help of Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil, he developed many new textures and sounds never heard before. In 1981, Wonder became the first owner of an E-mu Emulator.[35] It was Wonder's urging that led Raymond Kurzweil to create the first electronic synthesizers that realistically reproduced the sounds of orchestral instruments; Wonder had become acquainted with the inventor as an early user and evangelist of his reading machine, the technology for which would prove instrumental in the success of the Kurzweil K250.

During the 2008 United States Presidential Election, Wonder was a strong supporter of Barack Obama's candidacy for President.

Songs sampled by other musicians

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble covered "Superstition" and Wonder makes a cameo appearance in the official music video for the song. The elements of "Love's In Need of Love Today" were used by 50 Cent in the song "Ryder Music", and Warren G sampled "Village Ghetto Land" for his song "Ghetto Village." "Pastime Paradise" would become an interpolation for Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" while Will Smith would use "I Wish" as the basis for the theme song to his movie, Wild Wild West. George Michael and Mary J. Blige covered "As" in the late 90's. In 1999, Salome De Bahia made a Brazilian version of "Another Star". Tupac Shakur sampled "That Girl" for his hit song "So Many Tears". Red Hot Chili Peppers covered "Higher Ground" in 1989 on their "Mother's Milk" album.

Additional songs by Stevie Wonder have also been sampled or re-made. Wonder is one of the most sampled artists/singers ever, and many of his songs are also sung by American Idol contestants.

Personal life

Wonder has been married twice—to Motown singer Syreeta Wright from 1970 until their divorce in 1972; and since 2001, to fashion designer Kai Milla Morris.[36] He has seven children from his two marriages and several relationships.[36]

His daughter, Aisha Morris, was the inspiration for his hit single "Isn't She Lovely." Aisha Morris is a singer who has toured with her father and accompanied him on recordings, including his 2005 album, A Time 2 Love. Wonder has two sons with Kai Milla Morris; the older is named Kailand and he occasionally performs as a drummer on stage with his father. The younger son, Mandla Kadjay Carl Stevland Morris, was born May 13, 2005, his father's 55th birthday.

In May 2006, Wonder's mother died in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 76. During his September 8, 2008 UK concert in Birmingham he spoke of his decision to begin touring again following his loss. "I want to take all the pain that I feel and celebrate and turn it around".

Wonder is an activist for civil rights and endorsed 2008 United States Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama, who would later be elected 44th President of the United States, the first African American to do so. Apparently, the respect is more than mutual, as Obama responded to a Rolling Stone interview question that asked him who his musical heroes are by saying: "If I had one, it would have to be Stevie Wonder. When I was just at that point where you start getting involved in music, Stevie Wonder had that run with Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Fulfillingness' First Finale and Innervisions, and then Songs in the Key of Life. Those are as brilliant a set of five albums as we've ever seen."[37]


Wonder's children are by wife Kai Milla Morris, Yolanda Simmons and Melody McCulley. He never married Yolanda Simmons or Melody McCulley.

He cheated on his beautiful, young girlfriend named Brenda, with a younger lady named Vanessa. The two girls then went on to be lovers and both stongly agreed that men were no longer needed in their life.


See main article: Stevie Wonder discography.

U.S. and U.K. Top Ten singles

Thirty-four of Stevie Wonder's singles, listed below, reached the Top Ten on Billboard's Hot 100 chart in the United States, or in the United Kingdom.

Top Ten U.S. and UK Albums

Twelve of Stevie Wonder's albums, listed below, reached the Top Ten in either the United States or the United Kingdom.

Awards and recognition

Grammy Awards

Wonder has received 25 Grammy Awards:[2] including a Lifetime Achievement Award

1973Best Rhythm & Blues Song"Superstition"
1973Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male"Superstition"
1973Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male"You are the Sunshine of My Life"
1973Album of the YearInnervisions
1973Best Producer*Innervisions
1974Best Rhythm & Blues Song"Living for the City"
1974Best Male R&B Vocal Performance"Boogie On Reggae Woman"
1974Best Male Pop Vocal PerformanceFulfillingness' First Finale
1974Album of the YearFulfillingness' First Finale
1974Best Producer*Fulfillingness' First Finale
1976Best Male R&B Vocal Performance"I Wish"
1976Best Male Pop Vocal PerformanceSongs in the Key of Life[38]
1976Best Producer of the YearN/A
1976Album of the YearSongs in the Key of Life
1985Best Male R&B Vocal PerformanceIn Square Circle
1986Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal
(awarded to Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Wonder)
"That's What Friends Are For"
1995Best Rhythm & Blues Song"For Your Love"
1995Best Male R&B Vocal Performance"For Your Love"
1996Grammy Lifetime Achievement AwardGeneral
1998Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocal(s)
(awarded to Herbie Hancock, Robert Sadin, and Wonder)
"St. Louis Blues"
1998Best Male R&B Vocal Performance"St. Louis Blues"
2002Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals
(awarded to Wonder and Take 6)
"Love's in Need of Love Today"
2005Best Male Pop Vocal Performance"From the Bottom of My Heart"
2005Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals
(awarded to Beyoncé and Wonder)
"So Amazing"
2006Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals (awarded to Tony Bennett and Wonder)"For Once In My Life"

Other awards and recognition

See also

External links

Notes and References

  1. Love, Dennis & Brown, Stacy Blind Faith: The Miraculous Journey of Lula Hardaway, Stevie Wonder's Mother. Simon & Schuster, 2007 ISBN 1416577858, 9781416577850
  2. Search for "Stevie Wonder" at
  3. Academy Awards Database
  4. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - Inductee list
  5. Songwriters Hall of Fame - Stevie Wonder
  6. Polar Music Prize
  7. Web site: Stevie Wonder: Blind faith. The Independent. 2008-07-12. 2008-07-29.
  8. Posner, Gerald Motown: Music, Money, Sex and Power p.254.
  9. The Very Best of Spinners. The Spinners. 1993. Kevin. Phinney. p. 3. CD booklet. Rhino Records.
  10. Tonto's Expanding Head Band
  11. The history of the Höhner Clavinet
  12. Web site: Stevie Wonder - Biography. 2008-10-13. The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll.
  13. "Sesame Street" Episode #4.109 (1973) Retrieved on 13 October 2008
  14. Web site: The Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. 2008-10-05. 2003-11-18. Rolling Stone.
  15. Web site: I heard that Stevie Wonder lost his sense of smell. Is that true?. 2008-10-22. Gavin Edwards. Rule Forty Two.
  16. BootlegZone: John Lennon & Paul McCartney - A Toot And A Snore In 74
  17. Web site: Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta. 2008-10-30. allmusic.
  18. Web site: Stevie Wonder Biography. 2008-10-30.
  19. Web site: GRAMMY's Best Albums, 1970-1979. 2008-01-31. 2008-10-20.
  20. Jones, Steve (August 21, 2005). "West hopes to register with musical daring". "USA Today".
  21. Web site: A Curtain Call in Atlanta. 2008-11-17. Jennifer Frey. 1996-08-05.
  22. Web site: Discography - Original Broadway Cast Recording - Rent [Original Broadway Cast]]. 2008-11-17.
  23. Web site: Stevie Wonder hoping for experimental eye surgery. 2007-06-04. 1999-12-03.
  24. Web site: Brand New Day (Import) (CD). 2008-11-17.
  25. Web site: Bamboozled - Overview. 2008-11-17. allmusic.
  26. Web site: Opening Ceremony Kicks Off Paralympics. 2008-10-12. 2002-03-07.
  27. Web site: Soulful Stevie Wonder closes massive Philadelphia concert. 2008-11-17. 2005-07-02.
  28. Web site: Full musical menu soothes long wait at Invesco Field. Rocky Mountain News.
  29. Web site: Stevie Wonder - Tours/Appearances. 2008-11-17.
  30. Graff, Gary (June 24, 2008). "Stevie Wonder Pressing On With New Albums".
  31. Dodds, Dan (November 17, 2008) "Call me Stevie!" Raphael Saadiq talks to Soul Jones
  32. Web site: Wonder receives award. BBC News. 26 February 2009. 2009-02-27.
  33. - The Session Man
  34. - Deniece Williams
  35. Book: Chadabe, Joel. Joel Chadabe

    . Joel Chadabe. Electric Sound. Prentice Hall. 1997. 188. 0133032310.

  36. Web site: Stevie Wonder's birthday present: a baby boy. 2007-06-04. Associated Press. 2005-06-15.
  38. Grammy Awards Website
  39. Web site: Lifetime Achievement Award. 2008-10-30.
  40. The Kennedy Center - Past Honorees
  41. Web site: Gershwin Award Winners. 2008-10-12.
  42. Web site: Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award. 2008-10-30. Songwriter's Hall of Fame.
  43. Web site: Stevie Wonder Billboard's 2004 Century Award Honoree. 2008-10-12. Gail Mitchell.
  44. Web site: The Immortals: The First Fifty. Rolling Stone Issue 946. Rolling Stone.
  45. Web site: MI Walk of Fame Announces First Inductees. 2008-10-12. 2006-03-14. Michigan Walk of Fame.
  46. Web site: Stevie Wonder Gets Lifetime Achievement Award. 2008-10-21. 2006-10-20. Soulshine.
  47. Web site: Stevie Wonder to Receive Gershwin Prize for Song. 2008-12-13. 2008-09-03.