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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Member
Blind since birth, Stevie Wonder (whose real name is Steveland Judkins) was born on May 13, 1950, in Michigan. A choir singer, little Stevie was taken to meet Berry Gordy the president of the famous 'black' label Motown. Gordy immediately signed him. The first single released in August 1962 credited to 'Little Stevie Wonder' was entitled "I Call It Pretty Music But The Old People Call It The Blues." It featured the legendary Marvin Gaye on drums. The single failed to hit the charts.
But thereafter success was his, almost overnight. Stevie Wonder's first album recorded live, "The 12 Year Old Genius," topped the Hot 100, R&B singles and album charts in the US. By 1965 Stevie Wonder became resentful of Motown's stranglehold over his career. Efforts to renegotiate his career were constantly stonewalled. Years later Stevie performed a skit about his career-crisis on the popular American show Saturday Night Live. In the skit Wonder approached a record company executive with a request for artistic freedom. The executive replied, "Don't get arty on me. Boy geniuses are a dime a dozen."
Stevie Wonder had to push really hard to exercise creative freedom. In 1966, he succeeded in having his say through "Uptight," the song that came to be identified as Stevie's mainstay. Several successful albums followed. But it wasn't until "Talking Book" in 1972 that Wonder finally managed to become independent of what Motown needed and demanded from him.
Right from the way the title was written in Braille on the cover of the album to the shape, placing and suggestions of individual tracks, "Talking Book" was Stevie Wonder's most personal album. The single "Superstition" became his first No. 1 hit in ten years. With "Talking Book," Stevie Wonder crossed over from a predominantly black audience to a mainstream listening public. Or perhaps the word for Stevie Wonder's listeners should be 'innerviewership.' The incandescent images in his songs paint perfect pictures of landscapes laden with sentimentality, salvation and poetry.
"Innervisions" in 1973 coincided with Stevie Wonder's serious road accident in which he suffered multiple head injuries and lay in a coma for four days. His popularity seemed to multiply with every album that hit the market. Both "Innervisions" (1973) and "Fulfillingness" (1975) won him four Grammys each. In 1975 Wonder was awarded in tribute to "a man who embodies every facet of the complete musical artiste: composer, writer, performer, recording artiste, musician and interpreter through his music of the culture of his time."
With other artists it is fashionable to say that the best is always ahead of them. In Stevie Wonder's case this is the reality. "Songs In The Key Of Life" in 1976 and "Hotter Than July" in 1980 are regarded by many Wonder-struck fans as his two best albums to date. The latter album dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr., was accompanied by a campaign by the musician to have King's birth-date as a national holiday. The American government complied in 1983. Wonder's success story got bigger and brighter with each passing year. In 1984 Wonder crooned what came to be his most beloved love ballad, "I Just Called To Say I Love You" contained in the film "The Woman In Red." It topped the UK chart for six weeks. It was Wonder's first solo no. 1 hit in Britain and one of the ten largest-selling singles in the UK of all times.
More record breaking success came Wonder's way with the zingy twist-and-slouch dancers' special "Part Time Lover." It became the first US single to top the US pop, R&B, adult contemporary and dance-disco charts.
The distinctive aspect of the Wonder phenomenon is that each generation has its own numbers with which to identify the singer-songwriter.
With startling smoothness Stevie Wonder glides from the flouncy can't-take-my-eyes-off-you ballads to numbers that signify a deep-rooted commitment to bettering the world in which we live.
Stevie Wonder has no match. In every decade since the sixties he has created tracks that have stood the test of time. The sixties had "Uptight." The seventies spawned the enigmatic "Superstition." The eighties shall be measured by Wonder's "I Just Called To Say I Love You." The nineties are processed by Wonder's "Kiss Lonely Goodbye." As the next century approaches, Stevie Wonder prepares to expand his innervision to include a future generation.
Hit songs include --
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