Stevie Wonder

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Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder 1973.JPG
Wonder performing in August 1973
Born
Stevland Hardaway Judkins

(1950-05-13) May 13, 1950 (age 69)
Other namesLittle Stevie Wonder
Occupation
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • musician
  • record producer
  • multi-instrumentalist
Years active1961–present
Home town Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Spouse(s)
Syreeta Wright
(m. 1970;div. 1972)

Kai Millard
(m. 2001;div. 2012)

Tomeeka Bracy(m. 2017)
Children9
Musical career
Genres
Instruments
Labels
Associated acts
Website steviewonder.net

Stevland Hardaway Morris (Judkins; born May 13, 1950), better known by his stage name Stevie Wonder, is an American singer, songwriter, musician and record producer. A prominent figure in popular music, he is one of the most successful musicians of the 20th century. [1] Wonder's "classic period", between 1972 and 1977, is noted for his funky keyboard style, personal control of production, and series of songs integrated with one another to make a concept album. [2]

Popular music is music with wide appeal that is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. These forms and styles can be enjoyed and performed by people with little or no musical training. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional or "folk" music. Art music was historically disseminated through the performances of written music, although since the beginning of the recording industry, it is also disseminated through recordings. Traditional music forms such as early blues songs or hymns were passed along orally, or to smaller, local audiences.

Concept album album with a theme

A concept album is an album in which its tracks hold a larger purpose or meaning collectively than they do individually. This is typically achieved through a single central narrative or theme, which can be instrumental, compositional, or lyrical. Sometimes the term is applied to albums considered to be of "uniform excellence" rather than an LP with an explicit musical or lyrical motif. There is no consensus among music critics as to the specific criteria for what a "concept album" is.

Contents

Blind since shortly after his birth, Wonder was a child prodigy known as Little Stevie Wonder leading him to sign with Motown's Tamla label at the age of 11. [1] In 1963, the single "Fingertips" was a No. 1 hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 when Wonder was aged 13, making him the youngest artist ever to top the chart. [3] Wonder started his "classic period" with Music of My Mind and Talking Book (both 1972), the latter of which featured the No. 1 hit "Superstition". [4] It is one of the most distinctive and famous examples of the sound of the Hohner Clavinet keyboard. [5] Innervisions (1973) won Album of the Year at the 16th Grammy Awards. [6] Fulfillingness' First Finale (1974) also won Album of the Year at the 17th Annual Grammy Awards. Songs in the Key of Life (1976) won Album of the Year at the 19th Annual Grammy Awards, making Wonder, along with Frank Sinatra, the most Album of the Year's winner with three. He is also the only artist to have won the award with three consecutive album releases. Wonder's 1970s albums are regarded as very influential; the Rolling Stone Record Guide said they "pioneered stylistic approaches that helped to determine the shape of pop music for the next decade". [4]

Child prodigy person who, at an early age, develops one or more skills at a level far beyond the norm for their age

A child prodigy is defined in psychology research literature as a person under the age of ten who produces meaningful output in some domain to the level of an adult expert.

Motown Records is an American record label owned by Universal Music Group. It was originally founded by Berry Gordy Jr. as Tamla Records on January 12, 1959, and was incorporated as Motown Record Corporation on April 14, 1960. Its name, a portmanteau of motor and town, has become a nickname for Detroit, where the label was originally headquartered.

Fingertips 1963 single by Stevie Wonder

"Fingertips" is a 1963 hit single recorded live by "Little" Stevie Wonder for Motown's then Tamla label. Wonder's first hit single, "Fingertips" was the first live, non-studio recording to reach No.1 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart in the United States since Johnny Standley's 1952 comic monologue "It's in the Book".

Wonder has sold over 100 million records worldwide, which placed him among the best-selling music artists of all time. [7] He has won 25 Grammy Awards, making him one of the most awarded artists of all time. He was the first Motown artist and second African-American musician to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song, for the 1984 film The Woman in Red . Wonder was inducted into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. [8] [9] He is also noted for his work as an activist for political causes, including his 1980 campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a holiday in the United States. [10] In 2009, Wonder was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace. [11]

<i>The Woman in Red</i> (1984 film) 1984 film by Gene Wilder

The Woman in Red is a 1984 American romantic comedy film directed by and starring Gene Wilder. Wilder also wrote the script, adapting it from the Yves Robert film Pardon Mon Affaire. It co-stars Charles Grodin, Gilda Radner, Joseph Bologna, Judith Ivey and Kelly LeBrock. The film won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "I Just Called to Say I Love You", performed by Stevie Wonder.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Hall of fame located on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, United States

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, located in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, on the shore of Lake Erie, recognizes and archives the history of the best-known and most influential artists, producers, engineers, and other notable figures who have had some major influence on the development of rock and roll. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation was established on April 20, 1983, by Ahmet Ertegun, founder and chairman of Atlantic Records. In 1986, Cleveland was chosen as the Hall of Fame's permanent home.

The Songwriters Hall of Fame (SHOF) was founded in 1969 by songwriter Johnny Mercer and music publisher/songwriter Abe Olman and publisher/executive Howie Richmond to honor those whose work represents and maintains the heritage and legacy of a spectrum of the most beloved songs from the world's popular music songbook. It not only celebrates these established songwriters, but is also involved on the development of new songwriting talent through workshops, showcases and scholarships. There are many programs designed to teach and discover new songwriters. Nile Rodgers serves as the organization's chairman.

Early life

Wonder was born Stevland Hardaway Judkins in Saginaw, Michigan, on May 13, 1950, [12] the third of six children born to Calvin Judkins and songwriter Lula Mae Hardaway. He was born six weeks premature which, along with the oxygen-rich atmosphere in the hospital incubator, resulted in retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a condition in which the growth of the eyes is aborted and causes the retinas to detach, so he became blind. [13] [14]

Saginaw, Michigan City in Michigan, United States

Saginaw is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan and the seat of Saginaw County. The city of Saginaw and Saginaw County are both in the area known as Mid-Michigan or Central Michigan. Saginaw is adjacent to Saginaw Charter Township and considered part of the Tri-City area, along with neighboring Bay City and Midland. The Saginaw County MSA had a population of 196,542 in 2013. The city is also the largest municipality in the Saginaw, Midland, and Bay City Metropolitan Area.

Lula Mae Hardaway was an American songwriter and the mother of soul musician Stevie Wonder. She spent her early adult life in Saginaw, Michigan, but from 1975 until her death in 2006, lived in Los Angeles, California. She died at age 76.

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), also called retrolental fibroplasia (RLF) and Terry syndrome, is a disease of the eye affecting prematurely born babies generally having received intensive neonatal care, in which oxygen therapy is used on them due to the premature development of their lungs. It is thought to be caused by disorganized growth of retinal blood vessels which may result in scarring and retinal detachment. ROP can be mild and may resolve spontaneously, but it may lead to blindness in serious cases. As such, all preterm babies are at risk for ROP, and very low birth-weight is an additional risk factor. Both oxygen toxicity and relative hypoxia can contribute to the development of ROP.

When Wonder was four, his mother divorced his father and moved with her children to Detroit, Michigan, where Wonder sang as a child in a choir at the Whitestone Baptist Church. [15] She changed her name back to Lula Hardaway and later changed her son's surname to Morris, partly because of relatives. Wonder has retained Morris as his legal surname. He began playing instruments at an early age, including piano, harmonica, and drums. He formed a singing partnership with a friend; calling themselves Stevie and John, they played on street corners and occasionally at parties and dances. [16]

As a child, Wonder attended Fitzgerald Elementary School. After his first album was released, he enrolled in Michigan School for the Blind. [17] [18]

Michigan School for the Blind United States national historic site

The Michigan School for the Blind is a former academic campus at 715 W. Willow Street in Lansing, Michigan. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018.

Career

1961–1969: Sixties singles

Wonder rehearsing for a performance on Dutch TV in 1967 Stevie Wonder 1967 (1).jpg
Wonder rehearsing for a performance on Dutch TV in 1967

In 1961, when aged 11, Wonder sang his own composition, "Lonely Boy", to Ronnie White of the Miracles; [19] [20] White then took Wonder and his mother to an audition at Motown, where CEO Berry Gordy signed Wonder to Motown's Tamla label. [12] Before signing, producer Clarence Paul gave him the name Little Stevie Wonder. [13] Because of Wonder's age, the label drew up a rolling five-year contract in which royalties would be held in trust until Wonder was 21. He and his mother would be paid a weekly stipend to cover their expenses: Wonder received $2.50 (equivalent to $20.96in 2018) per week, and a private tutor was provided for when Wonder was on tour. [20]

Wonder was put in the care of producer and songwriter Clarence Paul, and for a year they worked together on two albums. Tribute to Uncle Ray was recorded first, when Wonder was still 11 years old. Mainly covers of Ray Charles's songs, the album included a Wonder and Paul composition, "Sunset". The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie was recorded next, an instrumental album consisting mainly of Paul's compositions, two of which, "Wondering" and "Session Number 112", were co-written with Wonder. [21] Feeling Wonder was now ready, a song, "Mother Thank You", was recorded for release as a single, but then pulled and replaced by the Berry Gordy song "I Call It Pretty Music, But the Old People Call It the Blues" as his début single; [22] released summer 1962, [23] it almost broke into the Billboard 100, spending one week of August at 101 before dropping out of sight. [24] Two follow-up singles, "Little Water Boy" and "Contract on Love", both had no success, and the two albums, released in reverse order of recording—The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie in September 1962 and Tribute to Uncle Ray in October 1962—also met with little success. [21] [25]

At the end of 1962, when Wonder was 12 years old, he joined the Motortown Revue, touring the "Chitlin' Circuit" of theatres across America that accepted black artists. At the Regal Theater, Chicago, his 20-minute performance was recorded and released in May 1963 as the album Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius . [21] A single, "Fingertips", from the album was also released in May, and became a major hit. [26] The song, featuring a confident and enthusiastic Wonder returning for a spontaneous encore that catches out the replacement bass player, who is heard to call out "What key? What key?", [26] [27] was a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 when Wonder was aged 13, making him the youngest artist ever to top the chart. [28] The single was simultaneously No. 1 on the R&B chart, the first time that had occurred. [29] His next few recordings, however, were not successful; his voice was changing as he got older, and some Motown executives were considering cancelling his recording contract. [29] During 1964, Wonder appeared in two films as himself, Muscle Beach Party and Bikini Beach , but these were not successful either. [30] Sylvia Moy persuaded label owner Berry Gordy to give Wonder another chance. [29]

Most of these songs hit the charts in a big way before Stevie turned twenty-one [in 1971]. Because he's grown up fast, the love lyrics are less teen-specific than a lot of early Smokey, say, but the music is pure puberty. Stevie's rockers are always one step ahead of themselves—their gawky groove is so disorienting it makes you pay attention, like a voice that's perpetually changing. The ballads conceive coming of age more conventionally, and less felicitously. But he sure covered Tony Bennett better than the Supremes or the Tempts could have, now didn't he?

–Review of Stevie Wonder's Greatest Hits Vol. 2 in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981) [31]

Dropping the "Little" from his name, Moy and Wonder worked together to create the hit "Uptight (Everything's Alright)", [29] and Wonder went on to have a number of other hits during the mid-1960s, including "With a Child's Heart", and "Blowin' in the Wind", [27] a Bob Dylan cover, co-sung by his mentor, producer Clarence Paul. [32] He also began to work in the Motown songwriting department, composing songs both for himself and his label mates, including "The Tears of a Clown", a No. 1 hit for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (it was first released in 1967, mostly unnoticed as the last track of their Make It Happen LP, but eventually became a major success when re-released as a single in 1970, which prompted Robinson to reconsider his intention of leaving the group). [33]

In 1968 he recorded an album of instrumental soul/jazz tracks, mostly harmonica solos, under the title Eivets Rednow , which is "Stevie Wonder" spelled backwards. [34] 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 US Adult Contemporary charts. Nonetheless, he managed to score several hits between 1968 and 1970 such as "I Was Made to Love Her", [32] "For Once in My Life" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours". A number of Wonder's early hits, including "My Cherie Amour", "I Was Made to Love Her", and "Uptight (Everything's Alright)", were co-written with Henry Cosby. The hit single "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" was his first ever self-produced song. [35]

1970–1979: Seventies albums and classic period

In September 1970, at the age of 20, Wonder married Syreeta Wright, a songwriter and former Motown secretary. Wright and Wonder worked together on the next album, Where I'm Coming From (1971), Wonder writing the music, and Wright helping with the lyrics. [36] Around this time, Wonder became interested in utilizing synthesizers after hearing albums by electronic group Tonto's Expanding Head Band. [37] Wonder and Wright wanted to "touch on the social problems of the world", and for the lyrics "to mean something". [36] The album was released at around the same time as Marvin Gaye's What's Going On . As both albums had similar ambitions and themes, they have been compared; in a contemporaneous review by Vince Aletti in Rolling Stone, Gaye's was seen as successful, while Wonder's was seen as failing due to "self-indulgent and cluttered" production, "undistinguished" and "pretentious" lyrics, and an overall lack of unity and flow. [38] Also 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 ongoing negotiations with Gordy about creative autonomy. [39] Reaching his 21st birthday on May 13, 1971, he allowed his Motown contract to expire. [40]

During this period, Wonder independently recorded two albums and signed a new contract with Motown Records. The 120-page contract was a precedent at Motown and gave Wonder a much higher royalty rate. [41] Wonder returned to Motown in March 1972 with Music of My Mind . Unlike most previous albums on Motown, 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. [41] Wonder's lyrics dealt with social, political, and mystical themes as well as standard romantic ones, while musically he began exploring overdubbing and recording most of the instrumental parts himself. [41] Music of My Mind marked the beginning of a long collaboration with Tonto's Expanding Head Band (Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil). [42] [43]

Released in late 1972, Talking Book featured the No. 1 hit "Superstition", [44] which is one of the most distinctive and famous examples of the sound of the Hohner Clavinet keyboard. [45] Talking Book also featured "You Are the Sunshine of My Life", which also peaked at No. 1. During the same time as the album's release, Wonder began touring with the Rolling Stones to alleviate the negative effects from pigeonholing as a result of being an R&B artist in America. [19] Wonder's touring with the Stones was also a factor behind the success of both "Superstition" and "You Are the Sunshine of My Life". [41] [46] Between them, the two songs won three Grammy Awards. [6] On an episode of the children's television show Sesame Street that aired in April 1973, [47] Wonder and his band performed "Superstition", as well as an original called "Sesame Street Song", which demonstrated his abilities with television.

Innervisions , released in 1973, featured "Higher Ground" (No. 4 on the pop charts) as well as the trenchant "Living for the City" (No. 8). [44] Both songs reached No. 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. [48] Innervisions generated three more Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. [6] The album is ranked No. 23 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. [49] Wonder had become the most influential and acclaimed black musician of the early 1970s. [41]

On August 6, 1973, Wonder was in a serious automobile accident while on tour in North Carolina, when a car in which he was riding hit the back of a truck. [41] [50] 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. [51] Despite the setback, Wonder re-appeared for a European tour in early 1974, performing at the Midem convention in Cannes, at the Rainbow Theatre in London, and on the German television show Musikladen . [52] On his return from Europe, he played a sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden in March 1974, highlighting both up-tempo material and long, building improvisations on mid-tempo songs such as "Living for the City". [41] The album Fulfillingness' First Finale appeared in July 1974 and set two hits high on the pop charts: the No. 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. [6]

The same year Wonder took part in a Los Angeles jam session that would become known as the bootleg album A Toot and a Snore in '74 . [53] [54] He also co-wrote and produced the Syreeta Wright album Stevie Wonder Presents: Syreeta . [55] [56]

On October 4, 1975, Wonder performed at the historic "Wonder Dream Concert" in Kingston, Jamaica, a benefit for the Jamaican Institute for the Blind. [57] In 1975, he played harmonica on two tracks on Billy Preston's album It's My Pleasure .

By 1975, at the age of 25, Wonder had won two consecutive Grammy Awards: in 1974 for Innervisions and in 1975 for Fulfillingness' First Finale. [58] In 1976, when Paul Simon won the Album Of The Year Grammy for his Still Crazy After All These Years , he wryly noted, "I'd like to thank Stevie Wonder, who didn't make an album this year." [59] [60]

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 recognizable and accomplished albums in pop music history. [41] [44] [61] The album became the first by an American artist to debut straight at No. 1 in the Billboard charts, where it stood for 14 non-consecutive weeks. [62] Two tracks became No. 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" and "Village Ghetto Land" reflected a far more pensive mood. Songs in the Key of Life won Album of the Year and two other Grammys. [6] The album ranks 57th on Rolling Stone 's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. [49]

Until 1979's Stevie Wonder's Journey Through "The Secret Life of Plants" his only release was the retrospective three-disc album Looking Back , an anthology of his early Motown period.

1980–1990: Commercial period

The 1980s saw Wonder achieving his biggest hits and highest level of fame; he had increased album sales, charity participation, high-profile collaborations, political impact, and television appearances. The 1979 mainly instrumental soundtrack album Stevie Wonder's Journey Through "The Secret Life of Plants" was composed using an early music sampler, a Computer Music Melodian. [63] Wonder toured briefly in support of the album, and used a Fairlight CMI sampler on stage. [64] 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 No. 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')", "I Ain't Gonna Stand for It", and the sentimental ballad, "Lately".

In 1982, Wonder released a retrospective of his 1970s work with Stevie Wonder's Original Musiquarium , which included four new songs: the ten-minute funk classic "Do I Do" (which featured 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 Wonder wrote and sang in the first person, and "Ribbon in the Sky", one of his many classic compositions. He also gained a No. 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 . Wonder wrote the lyrics. In 1983, he scheduled an album to be entitled People Work, Human Play. The album never surfaced and instead 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 No. 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. (The single was also a hit in lots of other countries as well). It went on to win an Academy award for best song in 1985. Wonder accepted the award in the name of Nelson Mandela and was subsequently banned from all South African radio by the Government of South Africa. [65] Incidentally, on the occasion of his 35th birthday, Stevie Wonder was honored by the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid for his stance against racism in South Africa that same year (1985). [66] The album also featured a guest appearance by Dionne Warwick, singing the duet "It's You" with Stevie and a few songs of her own. Following the success of the album and its lead single,Wonder made an appearance on The Cosby Show,in the episode "A Touch of Wonder" where he demonstrated his ability to sample. The following year's In Square Circle featured the No. 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 did not 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. 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".

Wonder 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 (1986), the AIDS-inspired "That's What Friends Are For". He played harmonica on the album Dreamland Express by John Denver in the song "If Ever", a song Wonder co-wrote with Stephanie Andrews; wrote the track "I Do Love You" for the Beach Boys' 1985 self-titled album; and played harmonica on "Can't Help Lovin' That Man" on The Broadway Album by Barbra Streisand. In 1987, Wonder appeared on Michael Jackson's Bad album, on the duet "Just Good Friends". Michael Jackson also sang a duet with him entitled "Get It" on Wonder's 1987 album Characters . This was a minor hit single, as were "Skeletons" and "You Will Know".

1991–1999: Continued released new material, 1996 Summer Olympics

Wonder in 1990 StevieWonderGrammyAwards.jpg
Wonder in 1990

After 1987's Characters album, 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", "Fun Day" (remix only), "These Three Words" and "Jungle Fever" . The B-side to the "Gotta Have You" single was "Feeding Off The Love of the Land", which 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 Nobody's Child: Romanian Angel Appeal compilation. Conversation Peace and the live album Natural Wonder were released in the 1990s. [67]

Among his other activities he played harmonica on one track for the 1994 tribute album Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved ; [68] sang at the 1996 Summer Olympics closing ceremony; [69] collaborated in 1997 with Babyface on "How Come, How Long", a song about domestic violence that was nominated for a Grammy award; [70] and played harmonica on Sting's 1999 "Brand New Day". [71] In December 1999, Wonder announced that he was interested in pursuing an intraocular retinal prosthesis to partially restore his sight. [72]

2000–present: Later career

Into the 21st century, Wonder contributed two new songs to the soundtrack for Spike Lee's Bamboozled album ("Misrepresented People" and "Some Years Ago"). [73] Wonder continues to record and perform; though mainly occasional appearances and guest performances, he did do two tours, and released one album of new material, 2005's A Time to Love . In June 2006, Wonder made a guest appearance on Busta Rhymes' 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 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, Wonder staged a duet with Andrea Bocelli on the latter's album Amore , offering harmonica and additional vocals on "Canzoni Stonate". Wonder also performed at Washington, D.C.'s 2006 "A Capitol Fourth" celebration. His key appearances include performing at the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Paralympics in Salt Lake City, [74] the 2005 Live 8 concert in Philadelphia, [75] the pre-game show for Super Bowl XL in 2006, the Obama Inaugural Celebration in 2009, and the opening ceremony of the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece. [76]

Wonder in 2006 Stevie Wonder 2.jpg
Wonder in 2006

Wonder's first new album in ten years, A Time to Love , was released in October 2005 to lower sales than previous albums, and lukewarm reviews—most reviewers appearing frustrated at the end of the long delay to get an album that mainly copied the style of Wonder's "classic period" without doing anything new. [77] The first single, "So What the Fuss", was released in April. 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". By June 2008, Wonder was working on two projects simultaneously: a new album called 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 he has described as a performance piece that will reflect his experience as a blind man. Wonder was also keeping the door open for a collaboration with Tony Bennett and Quincy Jones concerning a rumored jazz album. [78] If Wonder were to join forces with Bennett, it would not be for the first time; their rendition of "For Once in My Life" earned them a Grammy for best pop collaboration with vocals in 2006. [6] Wonder's harmonica playing can be heard on the 2009 Grammy-nominated "Never Give You Up", featuring CJ Hilton and Raphael Saadiq. [79]

Barack Obama presenting Wonder with the Gershwin Prize in 2009 Barack Obama presents Stevie Wonder with Gershwin Award crop.jpg
Barack Obama presenting Wonder with the Gershwin Prize in 2009

Wonder did a 13-date tour of North America in 2007, starting in San Diego on August 23; this was his first U.S. tour in more than 10 years. [80] On September 8, 2008, he started the European leg of his Wonder Summer's Night Tour, the first time he had toured Europe in over a decade. His opening show was at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham in the English Midlands. During the tour, he played eight UK gigs; four at the O2 Arena in London (filmed in HD and subsequently released as a live in-concert release on DVD and Blu-Ray, Live At Last [81] ), two in Birmingham and two at the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester. Wonder's other stops in the tour's European leg also found him performing in the Netherlands (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. [82] His 2010 tour included a two-hour set at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, a stop at London's "Hard Rock Calling" in Hyde Park, and appearances at England's Glastonbury Festival, Rotterdam's North Sea Jazz Festival, and a concert in Bergen, Norway, and a concert in Dublin, Ireland, at the O2 Arena on June 24. [82]

He sang at the Michael Jackson memorial service in 2009, [83] at Etta James' funeral, in 2012, [84] and a month later at Whitney Houston's memorial service. [85]

Wonder appeared on singer Celine Dion's studio album Loved Me Back to Life performing a cover of his 1985 song "Overjoyed". [86] The album was released in October 2013. He was also featured on two tracks on Mark Ronson's album Uptown Special .

In 2013, Wonder revealed that he had been recording new material for two albums, When the World Began and Ten Billion Hearts, in collaboration with producer David Foster, to be released in 2014. [87] The albums were never released.

Legacy

Wonder street art in Amsterdam, Netherlands GEB, Hemonystraat 4, Stevie Wonder.jpg
Wonder street art in Amsterdam, Netherlands

A prominent figure in popular music during the latter half of the 20th century, Wonder has recorded more than 30 U.S. top ten hits and won 25 Grammy Awards [6] (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, [88] and been inducted into both the Rock and Roll [8] and Songwriters [89] halls of fame. He has also been awarded the Polar Music Prize. [90] American music magazine Rolling Stone named him the ninth greatest singer of all time. [91] [92] In June 2009 he became the fourth artist to receive the Montreal Jazz Festival Spirit Award. [93]

He has had ten U.S. number-one hits on the pop charts as well as 20 R&B number one hits, and has sold over 100 million records, 19.5 million of which are albums; [94] he is one of the top 60 best-selling music artists with combined sales of singles and albums. [95] 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, 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 was the first Motown artist and second African-American musician to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song, which he won for his 1984 hit single "I Just Called to Say I Love You" from the movie The Woman in Red .

Wonder receiving a standing ovation in the East Room of the White House in 2011 Stevie Wonder receives a standing ovation in the East Room of the White House, 2011.jpg
Wonder receiving a standing ovation in the East Room of the White House in 2011

Wonder's "classic period" is generally agreed to be between 1972 and 1977. [96] [97] [2] Some observers see in 1971's Where I'm Coming From certain indications of the beginning of the classic period, such as its new funky keyboard style which Wonder used throughout the classic period. [2] Some determine Wonder's first "classic" album to be 1972's Music of My Mind, on which he attained personal control of production, and on which he programmed a series of songs integrated with one another to make a concept album. [2] Others skip over early 1972 and determine the beginning of the classic period to be Talking Book in late 1972, [98] the album in which Wonder "hit his stride". [2]

His classic 1970s albums were considered very influential in the music world: the 1983 Rolling Stone Record Guide said they "pioneered stylistic approaches that helped to determine the shape of pop music for the next decade"; [44] Rolling Stone's 2003 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time included four of the five albums, with three in the top 90; [49] and 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?" [99]

Personal life

Marriages

Wonder has been married three times. He was married to Motown singer-songwriter and frequent collaborator Syreeta Wright from 1970 until their amicable divorce in 1972. From 2001 until 2012 he was married to fashion designer Kai Millard. [100] In October 2009, Wonder and Millard separated; Wonder filed for divorce in August 2012. [101] In 2017 he married Tomeeka Bracy. [102]

Children

Wonder has nine children by five different women. [103] The mother of Wonder's first child is Yolanda Simmons, whom Wonder met when she applied for a job as secretary for his publishing company. [104] Simmons gave birth to Wonder's daughter Aisha Morris on February 2, 1975. [105] [106] After Aisha was born, Wonder said "she was the one thing that I needed in my life and in my music for a long time". [104] Aisha was the inspiration for Wonder's hit single "Isn't She Lovely?" She is now a singer who has toured with her father and accompanied him on recordings, including his 2005 album A Time to Love . Wonder and Simmons also had a son, Keita, in 1977. [107]

In 1983, Wonder had a son named Mumtaz Morris with Melody McCulley. [108] He also has a daughter, Sophia, and a son, Kwame, with a woman whose identity has not been publicly disclosed. [107] Wonder has two sons with second wife Kai Millard Morris; the elder 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 on May 13, 2005, his father's 55th birthday. [100]

Wonder's ninth child, his second with Tomeeka Robyn Bracy, was born in December 2014, amid rumors that he would be the father to triplets. [109] This turned out not to be the case, and the couple's new daughter was given the name Nia, [110] meaning "purpose"–one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. [109] The name of Wonder's first child with Bracy is unknown.

Other

In May 2006, Wonder's mother Lula Mae Hardaway died in Los Angeles 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." [111]

Wonder was introduced to Transcendental Meditation through his marriage to Syreeta Wright. [112] Consistent with that spiritual vision, Wonder became vegetarian, and later a vegan, singing about it in October 2015 on The Late Late Show with James Corden during the show's "Carpool Karaoke" segment. [113] [114] [115]

Wonder joined Twitter on April 4, 2018, and his first tweet was a five-minute video honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Dozens of famous personalities were rounded up in the video, which was titled "The Dream Still Lives". Each person involved shared their dream, calling back to King's popular speech in 1963. Wonder's very first tweet took the Internet by storm, and he also encouraged viewers to share their own videos about their dreams with the hashtag #DreamStillLives. [116]

Wonder has been a longtime Baptist affiliated with black churches. [117] [118] [119]

On August 31, 2018, Wonder performed at the funeral of Aretha Franklin at Detroit’s Greater Grace Temple. He closed the ceremony with a rendition of the Lord's Prayer and his song "As". [120]

At a concert in London's Hyde Park on July 6, 2019, Wonder announced that he would be undergoing a kidney transplant in September. [121]

Awards and recognition

Grammy Awards

Wonder has won 25 Grammy Awards, [6] as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996. [122] He is one of only two artists and groups who have won the Grammy for Album of the Year three times as the main credited artist, along with Frank Sinatra. Wonder is the only artist to have won the award with three consecutive album releases.

YearNominee / workAwardResult
1967 "Uptight" Best Rhythm & Blues Recording Nominated
Best Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Performance, Male or Female Nominated
1969 "For Once in My Life" Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance, Male Nominated
1971 "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" Best Rhythm & Blues Song Nominated
Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male Nominated
1972 "We Can Work It Out"Nominated
1974 "Superstition"Won
Best Rhythm & Blues SongWon
"You Are the Sunshine of My Life" Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male Won
Record of the Year Nominated
Song of the Year Nominated
Innervisions Album of the Year Won
1975 Fulfillingness' First Finale Won
Best Pop Vocal Performance, MaleWon
"Boogie On Reggae Woman"Best R&B Vocal Performance, MaleWon
"Living for the City"Best Rhythm & Blues SongWon
"Tell Me Something Good"Nominated
Stevie Wonder Best Producer of the Year Nominated
1977 Won
"Contusion" Best Pop Instrumental Performance Nominated
Best Instrumental Composition Nominated
"Have A Talk With God" Best Inspirational Performance Nominated
Songs in the Key of Life Album of the YearWon
Best Pop Vocal Performance, MaleWon
"I Wish"Best R&B Vocal Performance, MaleWon
1981 "Master Blaster (Jammin')"Nominated
Stevie Wonder's Journey Through The Secret Life Of Plants Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special Nominated
Stevie Wonder Producer of the Year (Non-Classical) Nominated
"Let's Get Serious"Best Rhythm & Blues SongNominated
1983 "That Girl"Nominated
"Do I Do"Nominated
Best R&B Vocal Performance, MaleNominated
Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocal(s) Nominated
"Ebony and Ivory"Record of the YearNominated
Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal Nominated
"What's That You're Doing" Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal Nominated
1985 "I Just Called to Say I Love You"Song of the YearNominated
Best Pop Vocal Performance, MaleNominated
"I Just Called To Say I Love You (Instrumental)"Best Pop Instrumental PerformanceNominated
The Woman In Red Best R&B Vocal Performance, MaleNominated
1986 In Square Circle Won
"Part-Time Lover"Best Pop Vocal Performance, MaleNominated
1987 "That's What Friends Are For"Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with VocalWon
Record of the YearNominated
1988 "Skeletons"Best Rhythm & Blues SongNominated
Best R&B Vocal Performance, MaleNominated
1989 Characters Nominated
1992 "Gotta Have You"Nominated
Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television Nominated
"Jungle Fever"Nominated
1996 "For Your Love" Best Male R&B Vocal Performance Won
Best Rhythm & Blues SongWon
1997 "Kiss Lonely Goodbye (Harmonica with Orchestra)"Best Pop Instrumental PerformanceNominated
1998 "How Come, How Long" Best Short Form Music Video Nominated
Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals Nominated
1999 "How Come, How Long" (Live)Nominated
"St. Louis Blues"Best Male R&B Vocal PerformanceWon
Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocal(s)Won
2003 "Love's In Need Of Love Today"Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with VocalWon
"Christmas Song"Best Pop Collaboration with VocalsNominated
2005 "Moon River"Nominated
2006 "A Time To Love"Nominated
A Time To Love Best R&B Album Nominated
"So What the Fuss"Best Male R&B Vocal PerformanceNominated
"How Will I Know"Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with VocalsNominated
"So Amazing"Won
"From The Bottom Of My Heart" Best Male Pop Vocal Performance Won
2007 "For Once in My Life"Best Pop Collaboration with VocalsWon
2009 "Never Give You Up"Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with VocalsNominated
2010 "All About the Love Again"Best Male Pop Vocal PerformanceNominated

Other awards and recognition

Wonder has been given a range of awards for his music, and for his civil rights work, including induction into the Songwriters and the Rock and Roll halls of fame; gaining a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Civil Rights Museum, being named one of the United Nations Messengers of Peace, and earning a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2014.

In December 2016, the City of Detroit recognized Wonder's legacy by renaming a portion of his childhood street, Milwaukee Avenue West, between Woodward Avenue and Brush Street, as "Stevie Wonder Avenue". He was also awarded an honorary key to the city, presented by Mayor Mike Duggan. [124]

Honorary degrees

Stevie Wonder has received many honorary degrees in recognition of his music career. These include:

StateDateSchoolDegree
Flag of Alabama.svg AlabamaJune 2, 1996 University of Alabama at Birmingham Doctor of Music (D.Mus.) [140]
Flag of Connecticut.svg ConnecticutMay 22, 2017 Yale University Doctor of Music (D.Mus.) [141]

Discography

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Songs in the Key of Life</i> 1976 studio album by Stevie Wonder

Songs in the Key of Life is the eighteenth album by American recording artist Stevie Wonder, released on September 28, 1976, by Motown Records, through its division Tamla Records. It was the culmination of his "classic period" albums. The album was recorded primarily at Crystal Sound studio in Hollywood, with some sessions recorded at the Record Plant in Hollywood, the Record Plant in Sausalito, and The Hit Factory in New York City. Final mixing was performed at Crystal Sound.

<i>Talking Book</i> 1972 studio album by Stevie Wonder

Talking Book is the fifteenth studio album by Stevie Wonder, released on October 28, 1972. He is said to have "hit his stride" in this signal recording of his "classic period". The album's first track, "You Are the Sunshine of My Life", hit #1 on Billboard's Hot 100 and Easy Listening charts, then earned Wonder his first Grammy Award, for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. The album's first single, "Superstition", also hit #1 on Billboard's Hot 100 and Hot Soul Singles charts. The album was certified Gold in Canada and the United States.

<i>Stevie Wonders Journey Through "The Secret Life of Plants"</i> 1979 soundtrack album by Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder's Journey Through "The Secret Life of Plants" is an album by Stevie Wonder, originally released on the Tamla Motown label on October 30, 1979. It is the soundtrack to the documentary The Secret Life of Plants, directed by Walon Green, which was based on the book of the same name by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird.

<i>Innervisions</i> 1973 studio album by Stevie Wonder

Innervisions is the 16th studio album by American musician Stevie Wonder, released August 3, 1973, on the Tamla label for Motown Records, a landmark recording of his "classic period". The nine tracks of Innervisions encompass a wide range of themes and issues: from drug abuse in "Too High", through inequality and systemic racism in "Living for the City", to love in the ballads "All in Love Is Fair" and "Golden Lady". The album's closer, "He's Misstra Know-It-All", is a scathing attack on then-US President Richard Nixon, similar to Wonder's song a year later, "You Haven't Done Nothin'".

Syreeta Wright American singer-songwriter

Syreeta Wright, who recorded professionally under the single name Syreeta, was an American singer-songwriter, best known for her music during the early 1970s through the early 1980s. Wright's career heights were songs in collaboration with her ex-husband Stevie Wonder and musical artist Billy Preston.

<i>Hotter than July</i> 1980 studio album by Stevie Wonder

Hotter than July is the nineteenth album by American recording artist Stevie Wonder, originally released on Motown's Tamla label on September 29, 1980. It was certified platinum and reached number three on the US Billboard chart. This was his most successful album in the UK, peaking at number two and producing four top ten singles. The first, third and fourth single were released with music videos.

Superstition (song) single by Stevie Wonder

"Superstition" is a song by American singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder. It was released on October 24, 1972, as the lead single from his fifteenth studio album, Talking Book (1972), by Tamla. The lyrics describes popular superstitions and their negative effects.

<i>Music of My Mind</i> 1972 studio album by Stevie Wonder

Music of My Mind is the fourteenth studio album by American soul musician Stevie Wonder. It was released on March 3, 1972, by Tamla Records. Wonder used synthesizers for many musical parts on this album. It was a modest commercial success, but critics found the record representative of Wonder's artistic growth, and many contemporary critics consider it the first album of his classic period.

Uptight (Everythings Alright) 1965 single by Stevie Wonder

"Uptight " is a 1965 hit single recorded by American singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder for the Tamla (Motown) label. One of his most popular early singles, "Uptight " was the first Stevie Wonder hit single to be co-written by the artist.

Kim Owens, better known by his stage name Kem is an American R&B/Soul singer–songwriter, and producer. Born in Nashville, Tennessee, KEM was raised in Detroit, Michigan.

Hal Davis African American songwriter and record producer

Harold Edward Davis was an American songwriter and record producer. Davis was a producer and writer for Motown Records for nearly thirty years, and was a key figure in the latter part of the Motown career of The Jackson 5. Arthur G. Wright was used in several sessions but not listed in most articles. The "Love Hangover" recording features an extended guitar performance by Arthur which added much to the recording.

Stevie Wonder discography discography

American musician Stevie Wonder has released 23 studio albums, three soundtrack albums, four live albums, 11 compilations, one box set, and 98 singles. His first album, The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie, was released in 1962 when he was 12 years old, and his most recent, A Time to Love, was released in 2005.

<i>Fulfillingness First Finale</i> 1974 studio album by Stevie Wonder

Fulfillingness' First Finale is a 1974 album by Stevie Wonder; widely considered one of the albums from his "classic period". Released on July 22, 1974 on the Tamla label, it is Wonder's nineteenth album overall, and seventeenth studio album. According to Billboard magazine, it was Wonder's first studio album to top the Pop Albums chart where it remained for two weeks, while it was his third album to top the R&B/Black Albums chart where it spent nine non-consecutive weeks.

<i>Where Im Coming From</i> 1971 studio album by Stevie Wonder

Where I'm Coming From is a 1971 album by Stevie Wonder. The album was released by Motown Records on April 12, 1971 and peaked on the Billboard Pop Albums at #62, and on the Billboard R&B Albums Chart at #7. All nine songs were written by Wonder and Motown singer-songwriter Syreeta Wright, his first wife. It was the last album produced under his first contract with Motown Records. Including live albums, this is Stevie Wonder's fifteenth album overall, and thirteenth studio album.

For Once in My Life 1968 single by Stevie Wonder

"For Once in My Life" is a swing song written by Ron Miller and Orlando Murden for Motown Records' Stein & Van Stock publishing company, and first recorded in 1965.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered Im Yours Stevie Wonder song

"Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" is a soul song, by American musician Stevie Wonder, released as a single on Motown's Tamla label and released in June 1970. It spent six weeks at number one on the U.S. R&B chart and peaked at number three on the U.S. Pop chart. In the same year, the song was also released on the album Signed, Sealed & Delivered.

<i>Signed, Sealed & Delivered</i> 1970 studio album by Stevie Wonder

Signed, Sealed & Delivered is a studio album by American recording artist Stevie Wonder, released on August 7, 1970, by Tamla Records. Along with the hit title track, the album also featured the hits "Heaven Help Us All", "Never Had a Dream Come True" and Wonder's cover of The Beatles' "We Can Work It Out". The album hit #25 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart as well as #7 on the R&B Albums chart.

<i>Looking Back</i> (Stevie Wonder album) 1977 compilation album by Stevie Wonder

Looking Back, also later known as Anthology, is a triple LP anthology by American soul musician Stevie Wonder, released in 1977 on Motown Records. Since its release in 12-inch triple LP format, it has not been reissued and is considered a limited edition. The album chronicles 40 songs from Wonder's first Motown period, which precedes the classic period of his critically acclaimed albums.

Living for the City 1973 single by Stevie Wonder

"Living for the City" is a 1973 single by Stevie Wonder from his Innervisions album. It reached number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 1 on the R&B chart. Rolling Stone ranked the song number 105 on their list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".

All in Love Is Fair song by Stevie Wonder, covered by Barbra Streisand

"All in Love Is Fair" is a song by American singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder recorded for his sixteenth studio album, Innervisions (1973). Written and produced by Wonder, it was released as a 7" single in Brazil in 1974. The song is a pop ballad with lyrics that describe the end of a relationship through the use of clichés. Critical reaction to the song was varied: Matthew Greenwald of AllMusic wrote that it was among Wonder's "finest ballad statements", but Robert Christgau felt that the singer's performance was "immature". Wonder has included it on several of his greatest hits albums, including the most recent, 2005's The Complete Stevie Wonder.

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