Singer/songwriter activist, Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder
Sat, 1950-05-13

This date marks the birth of Stevie Wonder in 1950. He is an African American singer and songwriter, who had his first success on the Motown label at age 13.

He was born Steveland Morris in Saginaw, MI. Blind since infancy, Wonder began playing the piano at the age of 4 and was a proficient singer and instrumentalist by the age of 13, when his first hit, "Fingertips Part 2" in 1963, was released by Motown, at which time he was given his professional name. He produced the albums "Signed, Sealed and Delivered" (1970) and "Where I'm Coming From" (1971), the latter written entirely by Wonder and his wife, Syreeta Wright.

On the album "Music of the Mind" (1972) he used modern recording technology to allow him to play most of the instrumental accompaniments. Wonder experimented with synthesizers and was one of the first musicians to make extensive use of electronic music in Black American song. A multi-instrumentalist, Wonder plays the piano, synthesizer, talk box, harmonica, congas, drums, bongos, bass guitar, organ, melodica, and clarinet. "Talking Book" (1972), an album on which he played all the instruments and sang all the vocal parts, contained the hit singles "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," and "Superstition," and he won several Grammy Awards for "Talking Book" and his next album, "Innervisions "in 1973.

The same year he survived a near-fatal automobile accident. More Grammy Awards followed for the albums "Songs in the Key of Life" (1976), which contains the hit song "Sir Duke," a celebratory tribute to American jazz composer Duke Ellington; and "In Square Circle" (1985). Wonder's other albums include "Looking Back" (1977); "Hotter than July" (1980); "Characters" (1987); "Jungle Fever" (1991); the sound track to a motion picture by American director Spike Lee; and "Conversation Peace" (1995). In 1996 Wonder won three more Grammy Awards: for best male rhythm-and-blues vocalist, best song, and for lifetime achievement.

Wonder has also been active in such social causes as the anti-apartheid movement, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation. An advocate of Black civil rights, Wonder spearheaded the effort to institute a national holiday in honor of the birthday of clergyman and civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr.

ACSAP Biographical Dictionary
R. R. Bowker Co., Copyright 1980
ISBN 0-8351-1283-1

Heart & Soul
A Celebration of Black Music Style in America 1930-1975
by Merlis Davin Seay, Forward by Etta james
Copyright 2002, Billboard Books
ISBN 0-8230-8314-4

To Become a Musician or Singer

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Wonder, Stevie