A prominent figure in popular music during the second-half of the 20th century, Wonder is one of the most successful songwriters and musicians. He also helped drive the genre into the album era , crafting his LPs as cohesive, consistent socially conscious statements with complex compositions. Wonder is often hailed as a " genius ", and has been credited as a pioneer and influence to musicians of various genres including rhythm and blues , pop , soul , gospel , funk and jazz.
Blind since shortly after his birth, Wonder was a child prodigy known as Little Stevie Wonder , leading him to sign with Motown 's Tamla label at the age of In , the single " Fingertips " was a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot when Wonder was 13, making him the youngest artist ever to top the chart.
Wonder's critical success was at its peak in the s. His "classic period" began in with the releases of Music of My Mind and Talking Book , the latter featuring " Superstition ", which is one of the most distinctive and famous examples of the sound of the Hohner Clavinet keyboard. He is also the only artist to have won the award with three consecutive album releases. Wonder's "classic period", which culminated in , was noted for his funky style of playing on the keyboard, personal control of production, and series of songs integrated with one another to make a concept album.
It was also his first digital recording , and one of the earliest popular albums to use the technology, which Wonder used for all subsequent recordings. Wonder's s albums are widely regarded by writers as very influential, as his pioneering stylistic approach to his music helped shaping the sound of pop music in the following decade.
Wonder has sold over million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. He has won 25 Grammy Awards , making him the Grammy's most awarded solo artist of all time. He is also noted for his work as an activist for political causes, including his campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr.
In , he was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace. In , he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was born six weeks premature which, along with the oxygen-rich atmosphere in the hospital incubator, resulted in retinopathy of prematurity , a condition in which the growth of the eyes is aborted and causes the retinas to detach, so he became blind. When Wonder was four, his mother divorced his father and moved with her children to Detroit, Michigan , where Wonder sang as a child in a choir at the Whitestone Baptist Church.
Wonder has retained Morris as his legal surname. He began playing instruments at an early age, including piano, harmonica, and drums. He formed a singing partnership with a friend; calling themselves Stevie and John, they played on street corners and occasionally at parties and dances. As a child, Wonder attended Fitzgerald Elementary School. After his first album was released, he enrolled in Michigan School for the Blind. Wonder was put in the care of producer and songwriter Clarence Paul, and for a year they worked together on two albums.
Tribute to Uncle Ray was recorded first, when Wonder was still 11 years old. The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie was recorded next, an instrumental album consisting mainly of Paul's compositions, two of which, "Wondering" and "Session Number ", were co-written with Wonder. At the end of , when Wonder was 12 years old, he joined the Motortown Revue , touring the " Chitlin' Circuit " of theatres across America that accepted black artists. What key? Dropping the "Little" from his name, Moy and Wonder worked together to create the hit " Uptight Everything's Alright ",  and Wonder went on to have a number of other hits during the mids, including "With a Child's Heart", and " Blowin' in the Wind ",  a Bob Dylan cover, co-sung by his mentor, producer Clarence Paul.
Pop charts and number 11 on the US Adult Contemporary charts. Between and he recorded four 45 rpm     and an Italian LP. In September , at the age of 20, Wonder married Syreeta Wright , a songwriter and former Motown secretary.
Wright and Wonder worked together on the next album, Where I'm Coming From , Wonder writing the music, and Wright helping with the lyrics. As both albums had similar ambitions and themes, they have been compared; in a contemporaneous review by Vince Aletti in Rolling Stone , Gaye's was seen as successful, while Wonder's was seen as failing due to "self-indulgent and cluttered" production, "undistinguished" and "pretentious" lyrics, and an overall lack of unity and flow.
His contribution was meant to be a showcase of his talent and thus a weapon in his ongoing negotiations with Gordy about creative autonomy. During this period, Wonder independently recorded two albums and signed a new contract with Motown Records. The page contract was a precedent at Motown and gave Wonder a much higher royalty rate.
Unlike most previous albums on Motown, which usually consisted of a collection of singles, B-sides and covers, Music of My Mind was a full-length artistic statement with songs flowing together thematically. Released in late , Talking Book featured the No. Innervisions , released in , featured " Higher Ground " No. Popular ballads such as "Golden Lady" and "All in Love Is Fair" were also present, in a mixture of moods that nevertheless held together as a unified whole.
On August 6, , Wonder was in a serious automobile accident while on tour in North Carolina , when a car in which he was riding hit the back of a truck. The Album of the Year was again one of three Grammys won.
The same year Wonder took part in a Los Angeles jam session that would become known as the bootleg album A Toot and a Snore in ' By , at the age of 25, Wonder had won two consecutive Grammy Awards : in for Innervisions and in for Fulfillingness' First Finale. Sprawling in style, unlimited in ambition, and sometimes lyrically difficult to fathom, the album was hard for some listeners to assimilate, yet is regarded by many as Wonder's crowning achievement and one of the most recognizable and accomplished albums in pop music history.
The baby-celebratory " Isn't She Lovely? The s saw Wonder achieving his biggest hits and highest level of fame; he had increased album sales, charity participation, high-profile collaborations, political impact, and television appearances. Wonder toured briefly with an orchestra in support of the album, and used a Fairlight CMI sampler on stage. Hotter than July became Wonder's first platinum-selling single album, and its single " Happy Birthday " was a successful vehicle for his campaign to establish Dr. Martin Luther King 's birthday as a national holiday.
He also gained a No. Hinton 's novel The Outsiders. Wonder wrote the lyrics. In , he scheduled an album to be entitled People Work, Human Play. The album never surfaced and instead saw the release of Wonder's soundtrack album for The Woman in Red. It went on to win an Academy award for best song in Wonder accepted the award in the name of Nelson Mandela and was subsequently banned from all South African radio by the Government of South Africa.
Following the success of the album and its lead single, Wonder made an appearance on The Cosby Show , in the episode "A Touch of Wonder" where he demonstrated his ability to sample.
The following year's In Square Circle featured the No. The album also has a Top 10 Hit with "Go Home. He performed "Overjoyed" on Saturday Night Live when he was the host. This was a minor hit single, as were "Skeletons" and "You Will Know". After 's Characters album, Wonder continued to release new material, but at a slower pace.
He recorded a soundtrack album for Spike Lee 's film Jungle Fever in Conversation Peace and the live album Natural Wonder were released in the s. Among his other activities he played harmonica on one track for the tribute album Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved ;  sang at the Summer Olympics closing ceremony ;  collaborated in with Babyface on " How Come, How Long ", a song about domestic violence that was nominated for a Grammy award;  and played harmonica on Sting 's " Brand New Day ".
He sings the refrain and plays the piano on the Dr. Dre - and Sha Money XL —produced track. In , Wonder staged a duet with Andrea Bocelli on the latter's album Amore , offering harmonica and additional vocals on "Canzoni Stonate".
Wonder also performed at Washington, D. Wonder's first new album in ten years, A Time to Love , was released in October to lower sales than previous albums, and lukewarm reviews—most reviewers appearing frustrated at the end of the long delay to get an album that mainly copied the style of Wonder's "classic period" without doing anything new.
By June , Wonder was working on two projects simultaneously: a new album called The Gospel Inspired By Lula , which will deal with the various spiritual and cultural crises facing the world, and Through The Eyes Of Wonder , an album he has described as a performance piece that will reflect his experience as a blind man. Wonder was also keeping the door open for a collaboration with Tony Bennett and Quincy Jones concerning a rumored jazz album. Arena in Manchester. He sang at the Michael Jackson memorial service in ,  at Etta James ' funeral, in ,  and a month later at Whitney Houston 's memorial service.
He was also featured on two tracks on Mark Ronson 's album Uptown Special. In , Wonder revealed that he had been recording new material for two albums, When the World Began and Ten Billion Hearts , in collaboration with producer David Foster , to be released in Often labelled as a genius by critics,    Wonder is one of the most notable popular music figures of the second-half of the 20th century.
He is one of the most successful songwriters and musicians. In his childhood, he was best known for his harmonica work, but today he is better known for his keyboard skills and vocal ability. He also plays the piano, synthesizer, harmonica, congas , drums, bongos , organ, melodica and Clavinet. Wonder has been credited as a pioneer and influence to musicians of various genres including pop , rhythm and blues , soul , funk and rock.
Wonder's "classic period" is generally agreed to be between and Wonder's albums during his "classic period" were considered very influential in the music world: the Rolling Stone Record Guide said they "pioneered stylistic approaches that helped to determine the shape of pop music for the next decade";  Rolling Stone 's list of the Greatest Albums of All Time included four of the five albums, with three in the top I'm really trying to compete with Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life. It sounds musically blasphemous to say something like that, but why not set that as your bar?
For me, it's the best album ever made, and I'm always left in awe after I listen to it. When people in decades and centuries to come talk about the history of music, they will talk about Louis Armstrong , Duke Ellington , Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder [ He's so multitalented that it's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes him one of the greatest ever.
But first, there's that voice. Wonder has recorded more than 30 U. He has sold over million records, Wonder won 25 Grammy Awards  the most ever won by a solo artist as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award.
His albums of the "classic period", Innervisions , Fulfillingness' First Finale and Songs in the Key of Life , all won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year , making him the tied-record holder for the most Album of the Year wins , with three.
Wonder is also noted for his work as an activist for political causes, including his campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr. Wonder has been married three times. He was married to Motown singer-songwriter and frequent collaborator Syreeta Wright from until their amicable divorce in From until he was married to fashion designer Kai Millard.