Stevie Wonder Overview
Stevie Wonder (born Stevland Hardaway Judkins on May 13, 1950; name later changed to Stevland Hardaway Morris) is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer. Blind from birth, Wonder signed with Tamla Records at the age of eleven and continues to perform and record for the label. He has recorded more than thirty U.S. top ten hits and won twenty-two Grammy Awards, the most ever won by a male solo artist.
Stevie Wonder was born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1950; being the third of six children to Calvin Judkins and Lula Mae Hardaway. Owing to his being born six weeks premature, the blood vessels at the back of his eyes had not yet reached the front and their aborted growth caused the retinas to detach. The medical term for this condition is retinopathy of prematurity, or ROP, and while it may have been exacerbated by the oxygen pumped into his incubator neonatal intensive care unit , this was not the primary cause of his blindness.
When Stevie Wonder was four, his mother left his father and moved herself and her children to Detroit. She changed her name back to Lula Hardaway and later changed her son's surname to Morris, partly because of relatives. Morris has remained Stevie Wonder's legal name ever since. He began playing instruments at an early age, including piano, harmonica, drums and bass bass guitar . During childhood he was active in his church choir.
Discovery and early Motown recordings
Ronnie White of The Miracles gives credit to his brother Gerald White for persistently nagging him to come to his friend's house in 1961 to check out Stevie Wonder. Afterward, White brought Wonder and his mother to Motown Records. Impressed by the young musician, Motown CEO Berry Gordy signed Wonder to Motown's Tamla label with the name 'Little Stevie Wonder'. Before signing, producer Clarence Paul gave Wonder his trademark name after stating "we can't keep calling him the eighth wonder of the world". He then recorded the regional Detroit single, "I Call It Pretty Music, But the Old People Call It the Blues", which was released on Tamla in late 1961. Wonder released his first two albums, The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie and Tribute to Uncle Ray, in 1962, to little success.
Early success: 1963–71
By age 13, Wonder had a major hit, "Fingertips (Pt. 2) Fingertips (song) ", a 1963 single taken from a live recording of a Motor Town Revue performance, issued on the album, Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius. The song, featuring Wonder on vocals, bongos, and harmonica, and a young Marvin***e on drums, was a #1 hit on the U.S. pop and R&B charts and launched him into the public consciousness.
In 1964, Stevie Wonder made his film debut in Muscle Beach Party as himself, credited as "Little Stevie Wonder". He returned in the sequel released five months later, Bikini Beach. He performed on-screen in both films, singing "Happy Street," and "Happy Feelin' (Dance and Shout)," respectively.
Dropping the "Little" from his moniker, Wonder went on to have a number of other hits during the mid-1960s, including
"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. 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 number one hit performed by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.
In 1968 he recorded an album of instrumental soul/jazz tracks, mostly harmonica solos, under the pseudonym (and title) Eivets Rednow Eivets Rednow (album) , which is "Stevie Wonder" spelled backwards. 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 U.S. Adult Contemporary charts. Nonetheless, he managed to score several hits between 1968 and 1970 such as "I Was Made to Love Her I Was Made to Love Her (song) "; "For Once in My Life" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours". In September 1970, at the age of 20, Wonder married Syreeta Wright, a former company secretary for Motown and songwriter. For his next album known as Where I'm Coming From, his newly-wed wife Syreeta gave him a helping hand with the writing and producing aspects, with the permission of Gordy. The album flopped in the charts. Reaching his twenty-first birthday on May 21, 1971, he allowed his Motown contract to expire. Between them, the two songs won three Grammy Awards. Wonder had become the most influential and acclaimed black musician of the early 1970s.
Despite the setback Wonder eventually recovered all of his musical faculties, and re-appeared in concert at Madison Square Garden in March 1974 in a performance that highlighted both up-tempo material and long, building improvisations on mid-tempo songs such as "Living for the City".
On October 4, 1975, Wonder performed at the historical "Wonder Dream Concert" in Kingston Kingston, Jamaica , Jamaica, a Jamaican Institute for the Blind benefit concert. Along with Wonder, the three original Wailers The Wailers (reggae) — Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer — performed together for the last time. a quip that proved prophetic.
The double album-with-extra-EP Extended Play 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 recognisable and accomplished albums in pop music history.
On September 8, 2008, Wonder 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, England. During the tour, Wonder played eight UK gigs; four at The O2 Arena The O2 arena (London) in London, two in Birmingham and two at the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester. Stevie Wonder's other stops in the tour's European leg also found him performing in Holland (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.
By June 2008 Wonder was working on two projects simultaneously: a new album titled 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 which Wonder 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 rumoured jazz album. If Wonder was to join forces with Bennett, it would not be for the first time. The couple's rendition of "For Once in My Life" earned them a Grammy for best pop collaboration with vocals in 2006.
Wonder performed on January 18, 2009 at the We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. On Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009, Wonder performed the song "Brand New Day Brand New Day (Sting album) " with musician Sting Sting (musician) . The song was part of the program for The Neighborhood Inaugural Ball, one of ten inaugural balls Barack_Obama_2009_presidential_inauguration#Inaugural_balls honoring President Barack Obama. He performed his new song "All About the Love Again" and, with other musical artists, "Signed, Sealed, and Delivered" in honor of the president. On February 23, 2009, Wonder became the second recipient of the Library of Congress's Gershwin Prize for pop music, honored by President Barack Obama at the White House.
On July 7, 2009, Wonder performed "Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer" and "They Won't Go When I Go" at the Staples Center for Michael Jackson's memorial service Funeral of Michael Jackson .
On January 22, 2010, Wonder performed Bridge Over Troubled Water Bridge over Troubled Water (song) for the Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief event to help victims of the earthquake in Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010.
On March 6, 2010, Wonder was awarded the Commander of the Arts and Letters by French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand who referred to him as "music's familiar genius". Wonder had been due to have received this award in 1981, but scheduling problems prevented this from happening. A lifetime achievement award was also given to Wonder, the same day, at France's biggest music awards.A prominent figure in po***r music during the latter half of the 20th century, Wonder has recorded more than thirty U.S. top ten hits and won twenty-two Grammy Awards (the most ever won by a solo artist) as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award . He has also won an Academy Award for Best Song, and been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Songwriters Hall of Fame halls of fame. He has also been awarded the Polar Music Prize. American music magazine Rolling Stone named him the ninth greatest singer of all time. In June 2009 he became the fourth artist to receive the Montreal Jazz Festival Spirit Award.
He has ten U.S. number-one hits on the pop charts Billboard Hot 100 as well as 20 R&B number one hits, and album sales totaling more than 100 million units. 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, bass guitar, bongos bongo drum , 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 is the first Motown Motown Records artist and second African American musician to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song Academy Award for Best Song for his 1984 hit single "I Just Called to Say I Love You" from the movie The Woman in Red.Wonder's success as a socially conscious musical performer influenced po***r music. Some major musicians and other public figures who cite Wonder as an idol or a major influence on them are Stevie Ray Vaughan, India.Arie, Barack Obama, Blackstreet, Gloria Estefan, Musiq Soulchild, George Michael, The Neptunes, Luciano Pavarotti, Tupac Shakur, Will Smith, Coolio, Snoop Dogg, Kirk Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Babyface Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds , Kelis, Donnell Jones, Jermaine Jackson, Janet Jackson, Luther Vandross, N'Sync, Glenn Lewis, Dru Hill, Boyz 2 Men, Alicia Keys, Eric Hutchinson, Carrie Underwood, Elton John, John Legend, Prince Prince (musician) , Anthony Kiedis (lead vocalist of Red Hot Chili Peppers), Sting Sting (musician) , Beyoncé Knowles, Aaliyah, Brandy Brandy Norwood , Justin Timberlake, Ashanti Ashanti (entertainer) , Shogo Hamada, Jason Kay (lead vocalist of Jamiroquai), Utada Hikaru, Ken Hirai, Whitney Houston, Wang Leehom, Lenny Kravitz, Glenn Hughes and Erykah Badu.
Wonder has appeared as guest musician/vocalist on numerous recordings by other artists, including Carly Simon, Busta Rhymes, Quincy Jones, Sting Sting (musician) , Pointer Sisters, Barbra Streisand, Andrea Bocelli, Jeff Beck, Snoop Dogg, Elton John, Lenny Kravitz, Billy Preston, James Taylor, Roberta Flack, Smokey Robinson, Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Queen Latifah, The Supremes, Babyface Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds , The Beach Boys, Chaka Khan, Herbie Hancock, Luther Vandross, The Temptations, Gloria Estefan, Andrae Crouch, Michael Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, John Denver, BeBe Winans, Julio Iglesias, Don Henley, Take 6, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Rod Stewart, The Gap Band, 'NSYNC, The Manhattan Transfer, Donna Summer, Eurythmics, B.B. King, Sergio Mendes, Jon Gibson Jon Gibson (Christian musician) ("Have a Talk With God"), Paula Abdul, and Whitney Houston.
Vocalists Minnie Riperton, Deniece Williams, Carl Anderson, and Angela Winbush all began their careers in the 1970s as backup vocalists for Wonder as part of "Wonderlove".
Wonder's songs are renowned for being quite difficult to sing. He has a very developed sense of harmony and uses many extended chords utilizing extensions such as 9ths, 11ths, 13ths, b5s, etc. in his compositions. Many of his melodies make abrupt, unpredictable changes. Many of his vocal melodies are also melismatic, meaning that a syllable is sung over several notes. In the American Idol Hollywood Performances, judge Randy Jackson repeatedly stated the difficulty of Wonder's songs. Some of his best known and most frequently covered songs are played in keys which are more often found in jazz than in pop and rock. For example, "Superstition Superstition (song) ", "Higher Ground Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder song) " and "I Wish I Wish (Stevie Wonder song) " are in the key of E flat minor, and feature distinctive riffs in the E flat minor pentatonic scale (i.e. largely on the black notes of the keyboard).
Wonder played a large role in bringing synthesizers to the forefront of po***r music. With the help of Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil, he developed many new textures and sounds never heard before. In 1981, Wonder became the first owner of an E-mu Emulator.
It was Wonder's urging that led Raymond Kurzweil to create the first electronic synthesizers that realistically reproduced the sounds of orchestral instruments; Wonder had become acquainted with the inventor as an early user and evangelist of his reading machine, the technology for which would prove instrumental in the success of the Kurzweil K250.
During the 2008 United States Presidential Election, Wonder was a strong supporter of Barack Obama's candidacy for President.
Songs sampled by other musicians
Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble covered "Superstition" and Wonder makes a cameo appearance in the official music video for the song. The elements of "Love's In Need of Love Today" were used by 50 Cent in the song "Ryder Music", and Warren G sampled "Village Ghetto Land" for his song "Ghetto Village." "Pastime Paradise" would become an interpolation for Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise Gangsta's Paradise (song) " while Will Smith would use "I Wish" as the basis for the theme song to his movie, Wild Wild West Wild Wild West (film) . George Michael and Mary J. Blige covered "As" in the late 90's. In 1999, Salome De Bahia made a Brazilian version of "Another Star". Tupac Shakur sampled "That Girl" for his hit song "So Many Tears". Red Hot Chili Peppers covered "Higher Ground" in 1989 on their "Mother's Milk" album. John Legend covered his song "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing" for the 2005 film, Hitch. Mary Mary, did a cover of his song, "You Will Know" on their 2002 album, Incredible.
Additional songs by Stevie Wonder have also been sampled or re-made. Wonder is one of the most sampled artists/singers ever.Wonder has been married twice—to Motown singer Syreeta Wright from 1970 until their divorce in 1972; and since 2001, to fashion designer Kai Milla Morris. He has seven children from his two marriages and several relationships.
*Aisha Morris (born April 1975) (by Yolanda Simmons)
*Keita Morris (by Yolanda Simmons)
*Mumtaz Morris (by Melody McCulley)
*Kailand Morris (by Kai Milla Morris)
*Mandla Kadjay Carl Stevland Morris (born May 13, 2005) (by Kai Milla Morris)
Wonder's children are by wife Kai Milla Morris, Yolanda Simmons and Melody McCulley. He never married Simmons or McCulley.
U.S. and UK albums
Wonder has received 25 Grammy Awards:
* 2006: was inducted, as one of the first inductees, into the Michigan Walk of Fame. The same year, Wonder received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.
* 2008: Ranked at number five on "The Billboard Hot 100 Top All-Time Artists Billboard_Hot_100_50th_Anniversary_Charts#All-Time_top_artists ", making him as the third most successful male artist in the history of Billboard Hot 100 Billboard Hot 100 chart after Elton John and Elvis Presley.
* 2009: Recipient of the second Gershwin Prize For Po***r Song.
* 2009: Recipient of the Montreal Jazz Festival Spirit Award. This special award underlines a po***r artist’s extraordinary contribution to the musical world. The Montreal Jazz Festival Spirit Award is in bronze, and was inspired by a self-portrait that Miles Davis presented to the Festival in 1988.
* 2009: Named a Messenger of Peace United Nations Messengers of Peace by the United Nations.
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