Profile of Stevie Wonder
Name at birth: Stevland JudkinsSongs like "Isn't She Lovely," "Superstition" and "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" won Stevie Wonder more than 20 Grammy Awards and made him one of the most popular rhythm and blues musicians of the 1960s and 1970s. Wonder grew up in Detroit, singing in church choirs and listening to early Motown music. In 1961 he was "discovered" and signed by Berry Gordy to a Motown contract himself, taking the stage name of Little Stevie Wonder. (Wonder's blindness led to inevitable comparisons with Ray Charles, at the time an R&B superstar.) Wonder went from wunderkind to groovy young man in the late 1960s, turning out cheerful and romantic pop hits along with protest songs about Vietnam and race relations while experimenting with funky, Moog-driven electronic sounds. From 1972-76 he released five albums that are regarded as his masterworks: Music of My Mind (1972), Talking Book (1972), Innervisions (1973), Fulfillingness' First Finale (1974) and Songs in the Key of Life (1976). In the 1980s he reached elder statesman status, winning an Oscar for the pop tune "I Just Called to Say I Love You" (from the Gene Wilder movie The Woman in Red). He also emerged as a steady advocate for making the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. a national holiday. (It became one in 1986.) Wonder's 2005 album A Time To Love won him six more Grammy nominations, and he win for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance ("From the Bottom of My Heart"). His other albums include The 12 Year Old Genius (his first album, 1963), For Once In My Life (1968), and the retrospective Original Musiquarium (1982). He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
Stevie Wonder co-wrote the music for the tune “The Tears of a Clown,” a #1 single for Smokey Robinson and The Miracles in 1970… Wonder’s birth name is the source of some confusion. His official site lists his birth name as Steveland Morris, but most sources agree his birth name was Steveland Judkins or Steveland Hardaway Judkins (his parents were Lula Hardaway and Calvin Judkins). Other sources spell it “Stevland,” without the second “e.” We have relied on his mother’s authorized biography, Blind Faith: The Miraculous Journey of Lula Hardaway, Stevie Wonder’s Mother (2002, Simon and Schuster). The book states, “Stevland Judkins was born on May 13, 1950.” Blind Faith also says that his surname was legally changed to Morris, “an old family name,” when he signed with Motown in 1961… Wonder has been blind almost since birth. According to Contemporary Black Biography, Wonder “was blinded by a surfeit of oxygen in his incubator shortly after his premature birth”… Wonder was comatose for nearly a week after a 1973 auto accident, but recovered and continued his career… The birth of his daughter, Aisha Morris, inspired the song “Isn’t She Lovely.”
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