Stevie Wonder

Biography

Stevland Hardaway Judkins (born May 13, 1950), name later changed to Stevland Hardaway Morris, known by his stage name Stevie Wonder, is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and activist. Blind since shortly after birth, Wonder signed with Motown Records' Tamla label at the age of eleven and continues to perform and record for Motown to this day.

By age 13, Wonder had a major hit, "Fingertips (Pt. 2),” a 1963 single taken from a live recording of a Motor Town Revue performance, issued on his debut album “Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius.” The song, featuring Wonder on vocals, bongos, and harmonica, and a young Marvin Gaye on drums, was a #1 hit on the Hot 100 Singles and R&B charts and launched him into the public consciousness.

Wonder went on to have a number of other hits during the mid-1960s. His 1966 album “Up-Tight” included the hits, "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. Also in 1966 he released the album, “Down to Earth” featuring the hit single "A Place in the Sun." Another single, "Hey Love," would go on to become a hit for Detroit soul singer Betty Lavette the following year.

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 #1 hit performed by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.

He managed to score several hits between 1968 and 1970 with the title tracks to his albums, "I Was Made to Love Her," "For Once in My Life" “My Cherie Amour” and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours." Reaching his twenty-first birthday on May 13, 1971, he allowed his Motown contract to expire.

Wonder returned to Motown in March 1972 with the album “Music of My Mind.” Unlike most previous artist LPs on Motown (including his own), which usually consisted of a collection of singles, B-sides and covers, “Music of My Mind” was a full-length artistic statement with songs flowing together thematically. Standout tracks included "Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You)," "Happier Than The Morning Sun" and "I Love Every Little Thing About You."

Released in the fall of 1972, “Talking Book” featured the #1 hit "Superstition,” which is one of the most distinctive and famous examples of the sound of the Hohner clavinet keyboard. The song 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 #1. Between them, the two songs won three Grammy Awards.

“Innervisions,” released in 1973 featured "Higher Ground" which peaked at #4 on the Hot 100 chart as well as the trenchant "Living for the City" which reached #8. Both songs reached #1 on the R&B chart. 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.

The album “Fulfillingness' First Finale” appeared in July 1974, peaking at #1 on the Billboard 200 and featuring two hits high on the Hot 100 chart, the #1 "You Haven't Done Nothin'" and the Top Ten "Boogie On Reggae Woman.” The Album of the Year was again one of three Grammys won.

The double album-with-extra-EP “Songs in the Key of Life,” was released in September 1976 and Wonder became the first American artist to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart, where it remained for 14 non-consecutive weeks. Two songs became #1 Hot 100 and 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" and "Village Ghetto Land" reflected a far more pensive mood. “Songs in the Key of Life” won Album of the Year, his third in four years, and two additional Grammys.

1980’s “Hotter than July” became Wonder's first platinum-selling single album, peaking at #2 on the Billboard 200. 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'),” "I Ain't Gonna Stand for It” and the sentimental ballad, "Lately."

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 Hot 100 and R&B hit. It went on to win an Academy Award for Best Song in 1985.

The following year's “In Square Circle” featured the #1 Hot 100 hit "Part-Time Lover.” The album also had a Top 10 Hit with "Go Home." It also featured the ballad "Overjoyed.” He was also featured in Chaka Khan's cover of Prince's "I Feel For You,” alongside Melle Mel, playing his signature harmonica. 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."

He was in a featured duet with Bruce Springsteen on the 1985 all-star charity single for African Famine Relief, "We Are the World,” and he was part of another charity single in 1986, the AIDS-inspired "That's What Friends Are For."

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. “Conversation Peace” and the live album “Natural Wonder” were also released in the 1990s.

Wonder's first new album in ten years, “A Time to Love,” was released in October 2005 and peaked at #5 on the Billboard 200. The first single was "So What the Fuss,” and the 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.”

A prominent figure in popular music during the latter half of the 20th century, Wonder has recorded more than 30 Top 10 Hot 100 hits and 10 that went to #1. He has won 22 Grammy Awards (the most ever won by a solo artist) as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also won an Academy Award for Best Song, and been inducted into both the Rock and Roll and Songwriters Halls of Fame. He has also been awarded the Polar Music Prize. In June 2009 he became the fourth artist to receive the Montreal Jazz Festival Spirit Award.

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