Stevie Wonder ranks as one of the definitive R&B/soul artists of the twentieth century. Never afraid to musically experiment, he is acclaimed for blending elements of rock, jazz, pop, funk and reggae into an innovative and harmonious sound.
Born six weeks premature on May 13, 1950 in Saginaw, Michigan, birth complications caused Stevland Hardaway Morris to go permanently blind early in childhood. Nonetheless, “Little Stevie” Wonder taught himself, at an early age, to play drums, bass, harmonica and piano.
After signing a major record deal with Motown at the tender age of 12, the blind child prodigy scored instant success with his first single, "Fingertips," a 1963 best seller. As a key member of the Motown roster, the multitalented singer-songwriter, producer and instrumentalist quickly ascended to become the label’s most significant R&B artist of the 1960s, which ultimately allowed him to secure creative control of his music.
R&B revolutionary turns hit maker
Wonder’s growth as an artist in the 1970s spawned many critically acclaimed albums (Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Songs in the Key of Life), seminal works that still stand today as revolutionary R&B. His 1980 platinum-selling album Hotter Than July launched his most commercially successful decade. The soundtrack Wonder did for the 1984 movie The Woman in Red is best known for the lead single "I Just Called to Say I Love You," which was a #1 hit in North America and Europe and garnered an Academy Award for best song. Other key hits in the 1980s included "Overjoyed," "Part Time Lover" and "Ribbon in the Sky."
Considering such memorable top 40 singles as "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours," "My Cherie Amour" and "Lately," Wonder’s hit songs are as many as they are classic. He’s also written or co-written songs for other artists, including Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin and the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson. The ’90s and early years of the twenty-first century weren’t as commercially successful for Wonder, but extensive touring and collaborations and guest album appearances kept him in the spotlight.
Wonder collaborates with Canada’s Drake
One of popular music’s greatest visionaries, Wonder’s musical and cultural significance cannot be understated. Naming a contemporary recording artist of any musical genre who hasn’t been influenced by Stevie Wonder is perhaps an exercise in futility.
As a solo pop and R&B artist, Wonder has recorded more than 30 U.S. top 10 hits, won 22 Grammy Awards, including one for lifetime achievement, and is ranked #5 on Billboard magazine’s list of 100 all-time artists. In 1989, Wonder was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2009, he received the Montreal Jazz Festival Spirit award, as only the fourth artist honoured.
Wonder is responsible for shaping, and making mainstream, the classic Motown sound. Hs political activism and social conscience resonate throughout his deep discography and, even at the age of 61, he shows no signs of slowing down.
Wonder continues to make music, tour and collaborate with established and emerging artists. Most recently, he performed with Canada’s own Aubrey “Drake” Graham on the Toronto-based hip-hop artist’s Take Care album, playing harmonica for the track "Doing It Wrong."
"Stevie Wonder even talking to me at first was obviously one of the most surreal things in the world,” Drake told Rolling Stone magazine. “Then being willing to make music with me, it’s very, very flattering, very surreal. And he’s such a great guy. When you really get around him, just the life that he emits – it’s energizing."
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Ryan B. Patrick
on Mar 07, 2012