Stevie Wonder

Active - 1964 - 2013  |   Born - May 13, 1950 in Saginaw, Michigan, United States  |   Genres - Music, Comedy

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When Stevland Hardaway Judkins was born prematurely in 1950, the infant's mother and father were no doubt very distraught when their son's retinas detached and he became blind within a few days. The boy's blindness would have no bearing on his future success, however, as he would become a famous, successful, and increasingly innovative musician later in life -- after he changed his name to Stevie Wonder.

Wonder's musical gift was apparent almost from the beginning, as he'd mastered the piano by age nine, and was also playing the drums, bass, and harmonica by ten. Raised in the middle of the Motown scene, Wonder soon caught the ear of Miracles vocalist Ronnie White, who brought the 11-year-old in to showcase his talents for label founder Berry Gordy. Wonder was signed, and subsequently began a successful recording career that would last for decades to come, releasing such classic songs as "Uptight (Everything's Alright)," "For Once in My Life," "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours," "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," "Isn't She Lovely," and countless others.

A legend in his industry, Wonder's creative, romantic, socially conscious style continued to inspire fans of subsequent generations. He would continue touring steadily through the 2000s, and ramped up his social and political activism for the 2008 election, advocating for democratic candidate Barack Obama, who would become the first African-American U.S. President.

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Factsheet

  • Was born prematurely and placed in an incubator; received too much oxygen, resulting in his blindness. 
  • Nicknamed Little Stevie Wonder because of his skills in songwriting and playing various instruments when he was only 9 years old.
  • Signed his first record contract with Motown Records at the age of 12. Reached No. 1 on the R&B and Billboard Hot 100 charts with the single "Fingertips Part 2."
  • Was involved in a near-fatal car crash in 1973 that left him in a coma for a week. After the accident, vowed to use his talents to spotlight political and social issues.  
  • Assisted in the 1980s campaign to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a federal holiday.
  • Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002.
  • Received an American Music Award of Merit in 1982 and was honored by the Kennedy Center in 1999. 
  • Performed at the opening ceremonies for the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece.