Stevie Wonder (May 13, 1950)
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He was born Steveland Hardaway Judkins. His mother was Lula May Hardaway, who was 17 at the time of his birth, and his father was Calvin Judkins, a man who was nearly 30 years her senior. When he was four years old, Stevie, his mother, and his two older brothers moved from Saginaw to Detroit. It was then that Wonder's surname was legally changed to Morris, an old family name, as a preemptive strike against any attempt by Calvin Judkins to cut in on their sudden good fortune. Many say that Morris was Lula's married name, but this is clearly erroneous, as her second husband was a man named Paul Lynch.
According to his official biography, Wonder was born six weeks premature in a Saginaw Hospital. He was kept alive in an incubator for a month, and during this time, too much oxygen was pumped into the incubator, causing him to develop retrolental fibroplasia, now technically known as retinopathy of prematurity, which caused his blindness. Wonder says he tries to create "Sonic Pictures" with his songs. (thanks, Annabelle - Eugene, OR)
Eddie Murphy used to imitate him on Saturday Night Live. Wonder once appeared on the show in a skit with Murphy.
Motown Records signed him when he was 11 and released his first album when he was 12. He was billed as "Little" Stevie Wonder, the boy genius. His 1963 album Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius, went to #1.
In 1976, Wonder signed what was the biggest record deal ever, for $13 million over 7 years.
In 1973, he was in a coma for four days after getting in a car accident (someone else was driving). His vehicle hit a logging truck, and one of the logs went through the windshield and struck Stevie as he was listening to a mix of his Innervisions album. He lost his sense of smell for a while, but it gradually returned, along with the higher consciousness that comes with a near-death experience. "I was definitely in a much better spiritual place that made me aware of a lot of things that concern my life and my future," Wonder said.
Stevie took a year off when he was 14 because his voice was changing.
He graduated from the Michigan State School For The Blind.
He plays most of the instruments on his albums. He is skilled on the keyboard, bass, drums and harmonica.
In 1969, Motown gave him complete control of his recordings. He was one of the first artists to write, produce, arrange, and perform his own songs.
In 1968, Stevie Wonder wrote the music to Smokey Robinson's #1 hit, "Tears Of A Clown." Then in 1970, with the help of Lee Garrett, another blind songwriter, Stevie produced and wrote the 1970 hit, "It's A Shame", for a local band in Michigan, The Spinners. Lee Garrett soon became friends with Stevie, and before long, they were songwriting partners. (thanks, Annabelle - Eugene, OR)
Minnie Riperton and Deniece Williams use to sing backup for Stevie Wonder. After they would both pursue solo careers. Minnie Riperton is most remembered for the song "Lovin' You" and Williams is famous for singing "Let's Hear It For The Boy" on the Footloose Soundtrack. Both were also famous for their use of the whistle register. (thanks, Jordan - Brooklyn, NY)
Motown head Berry Gordy said Wonder was, "The most innovative person that I've ever known. But also unique with his tones and his voice quality."
In his early years, Stevie wanted other people in the studio with him when he recorded his vocals so he could feel their presence, which made him more comfortable. There were times when workers and people hanging around the studio were summoned to join Stevie while he tracked his vocals.
Wonder doesn't see his blindness as a liability. "Being blind, you don’t judge books by their covers," he said. "You go through things that are relatively insignificant, and you pick out the things that are more important."
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