Stevland Hardaway Morris (born May 13, 1950), known professionally as Stevie Wonder, is an American singer-songwriter and musician, who is credited as a pioneer and influence by musicians across a range of genres that includes rhythm and blues, pop, soul, gospel, funk, and jazz. A virtual one-man band, his use of synthesizers and other electronic musical instruments during the 1970s reshaped the conventions of R&B. He also helped drive the genre into the album era, crafting his LPs as cohesive, consistent socially conscious statements with complex compositions.
Blind since shortly after his birth, Wonder was a child prodigy who signed with Motown‘s Tamla label at the age of 11, where he was given the professional name Little Stevie Wonder. In 1963, the single “Fingertips” was a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 when Wonder was 13, making him the youngest artist ever to top the chart. Wonder’s critical success was at its peak in the 1970s. His “classic period” began in 1972 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. His works Innervisions (1973), Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974) and Songs in the Key of Life (1976) 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. He is also the only artist to have won the award with three consecutive album releases. Wonder began his “commercial period” in the 1980s; he achieved his biggest hits and highest level of fame, had increased album sales, charity participation, high-profile collaborations (including Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson), political impact, and television appearances. Wonder has continued to remain active in music and political causes.
Wonder is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with sales of over 100 million records worldwide. He has won 25 Grammy Awards (the most by a solo artist) and one Academy Award (Best Original Song, for the 1984 film The Woman in Red). Wonder has been inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame. He is also noted for his work as an activist for political causes, including his 1980 campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr.‘s birthday a federal holiday in the U.S. In 2009, he was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace, and in 2014, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Wonder was born Stevland Hardaway Judkins in Saginaw, Michigan, on May 13, 1950, the third of five children born to Lula Mae Hardaway, and the second of Hardaway’s two children with Calvin Judkins. 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.