Flashback Friday: Stevie Wonder

Flashback Friday: Stevie Wonder
ESSENCE.COM Jun, 17, 2010

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Stevie Wonder was born Stevland Hardway Judkins on May 13, 1950 in Saginaw, Michigan. Wonder was several weeks premature and complications with his birth led to his blindness. At the age of four, Wonder’s mother moved her six children to Detroit.

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Stevie Wonder picked up music at an early age, gravitating towards the piano and harmonica. As a young boy, Wonder was also an active member of his church choir. Ronnie White of the Miracles discovered the little genius when he was merely 11 years old and brought him straight to Berry Gordy at Motown Records, which is the record label which Wonder is still signed with.

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Clarence Paul, a producer at Motown, gave Wonder his name. He said, “We can’t keep calling him the eighth wonder of the world.” Wonder’s first track was called “I Call It Pretty Music, but the Old People Call it the Blues.” At age 13, a song with a young Marvin Gaye on the drums was Wonder’s #1 hit on the charts.

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Throughout the 1960s, Wonder had several hits, like “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” and “I Was Made to Love Her.” In 1972, Wonder released two important albums: “Music of My Mind” and “Talking Book,” which features two of his greatest hits, “Superstition” and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.” The two songs earned him three Grammys. That year, he joined the Rolling Stones on the US leg of their tour.

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Stevie Wonder met his first wife, Syreeta Wright, at Motown. The two were married for two years before they divorced. Wonder remarried in 2001 to fashion designer Kai Milla Morris. He has 7 children.

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Stevie Wonder paid a visit to Grover on Sesame Street in 1973, where he played “Superstition.”

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Stevie Wonder has received 22 Grammy awards to date, more than any other male solo artist. Here, he stands next to Lionel Ritchie.

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Host Samuel L. Jackson® and musician Stevie Wonder perform onstage during the 2009 ESPY Awards held at Nokia Theatre LA Live on July 15, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The 17th annual ESPYs will air on Sunday, July 19 at 9PM ET on ESPN. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

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Stevie Wonder performed at the funeral of civil rights leader Percy Sutton at Riverside Church in New York City.

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Stevie Wonder has had more the 30 top ten hits through his career, ten of which were #1 on the Pop chart, and 20 were #1 on the R&B charts. Here, Wonder plays with the younger generation he influenced with his genius: Trey Songz and India Arie.

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Wonder’s wealth of accomplishments speak volumes on the artist’s influence on pop music throughout his lifetime. Stevie Wonder was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. He was the youngest recipient of the Kennedy Awards lifetime achievement award — at 49 years old. He received an Academy Award for “I Just Called to Say I Love You.”

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Stevie Wonder performed last weekend at the 2010 Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, sharing the bill with the likes of Jay-Z. How’s that for keeping relevant.


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