Thursday, April 21, 2011
Born May 13,1950 as Steveland Hardaway Judkins . Shortly after signing with Motown to the company's Tamla Label at the age of 11, his surname was legally changed to Morris. The stage name , Little Stevie Wonder" was given to him by producer Clarence Paul as a reference to the Seven Wonders Of The World. In 1963 he recorded "Fingertips Pt.2"
featuring himself on vocals , bongos and harmonica , along with a young Marvin Gaye on drums. The song hit #1 on the U.S. pop and r&b charts. He was 13 years old . He was born blind. He was exactly what one means when one uses the term "child prodigy". And he was barely getting started.
Dropping the "Little" from his stage name , he went on to record a number of hits during the mid sixties, as well as working in Motown's songwriting department supplying songs for other label artists , such as "Tears Of A Clown" for Smokey Robinson's Miracles. (writing a song for one of the greatest songwriters in pop history...an accomplishment indeed!)
He subsequently co-wrote and played several instruments on The Spinners' hit , "It's A Shame", and independently recorded two albums virtually single handedly. This made it clear that his talent was simply too huge to be part of the Motown machine , and enabled him to negotiate a precedent-shattering (for Motown) deal which left him with complete creative control and rights to all of his music as well as a higher royalty rate than anyone on the label had ever commanded . The aforementioned albums, "Music Of My Mind" and "Talking Book" were both released in 1972.
While going on to produce a massive catalog of classic music, Stevie Wonder won 22 Grammy Awards (the most by any artist) , an Academy Award for best song ("I Just Called To Say I Love You"-1985), induction in both the Rock And Roll and Songwriters Halls Of Fame, ten #1 pop and twenty #1 r&b singles, and quite a few other items of recognition.
He also participated in political activism , most notably at the forefront of the successful campaign to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. He raised funds and recognition for the plight of Haitian earthquake victims, and was honored by President Barack Obama with the Gershwin Award For Lifetime Achievement .