Stevland Hardaway Morris, popularly known as Stevie Wonder, was born on May 13, 1950, and needs no introduction to music lovers at least. Born with a condition that rendered him blind from birth, Wonder was a child prodigy and went on to establish himself as a legend in the music industry. A man of many talents, he is known not just for his soothing deep voice but also for his innovations that shaped the genre of R&B. Over the years, he has released over 20 studio albums — winning awards from around the world. Let us celebrate the birthday of the legend with some trivia from his life.
The legendary Stevie Wonder has serenaded fans around the world with his magnificent voice. Born Stevland Hardaway Judkins in Saginaw Michigan, on May 13, 1950, to Lula Mae Hardaway, an American songwriter, and Calvin Judkins, a U.S. Army personnel, he was the third of his mother’s five children. Born premature, he was rendered blind in the hospital incubator. His mother divorced his father when he was four, and they moved to Detroit, where he went to the Fitzgerald Elementary School. It was here that he began to sing in the choir at the Whitestone Baptist Church. His mother later changed her surname to Morris and he retained the name for life. From an early age, he began playing the piano, harmonica, and drums and also formed a band with a friend, called “Stevie and John” — occasionally performing at parties and street corners.
In 1961 he was discovered by famous American musician Ronnie White, who took him to an audition at Motown — the record label of Universal Music Group. He was immediately signed on and given the stage name ‘Little Stevie Wonder.’ In 1962, his debut single, ‘I Call it Pretty, But the Old People Call It the Blues’ and his first album, titled “The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie,” was released to little success. The same year, he enrolled in Lansing’s Michigan School for the Blind. Continuing to tour, in 1963, his single ‘Fingertips’ from the album “Recorded Live: The 12-Year-Old Genius” became a hit, featuring at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. This made him the youngest artist ever to top the charts at a mere 13 years of age. However, his subsequent recordings did not attain as much success as his voice too began to change with age. He even appeared in two movies, which failed to make any mark. To break the lull in his career, he changed his professional name to ‘Stevie Wonder,’ dropping the ‘Little,’ and went on to record several hits in the mid-60s.
During this time, he also wrote songs for himself and other Motown artists. His 1968 album of instrumental soul and jazz tracks — “Eivets Rednow” — did not receive much attention, but singles from between 1968 to 1970, including ‘I Was Made to Love Her’ and ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours’ — the latter also being his first self-produced song. His next album “Where I’m Coming From” he wrote with his wife Syreeta Wright, who he married in 1970. The album was released in 1971. Later that year, owing to creative differences, he allowed his contract with Motown to lapse. Following two new albums, he signed a new contract with Motown, which gave him a higher royalty rate. His 1972 album with Motown, “Music of My Mind,” saw him diversify with songs discussing romance as well as social and political themes. The same year he also released the album “Talking Book,” which featured the hit songs ‘Superstition’ and ‘You Are the Sunshine of My Life.’ The songs won him three Grammy Awards.
His 1973 album “Innervisions” went on to establish his fame, winning him three more Grammy Awards, including one for Album of the Year. Seriously injured in an accident later in the year, he went into a coma for four days, but this did not stop him from performing for a homecoming benefit at Shaw University. In 1974, he went on a Europe tour and returned to play a sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden. In July of that year, he released the album “Fulfillingness’ First Finale,” which also went on to win three Grammys. His next album was released in 1976, “Songs in the Key of Life,” which is one of his most recognized albums worldwide. It was the first album to debut straight at Number one on Billboard for 14 non-consecutive weeks. It also included a song inspired by his newborn daughter Aisha. Then, in 1979, he released a largely instrumental soundtrack album titled “Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through The Secret Life of Plants,” which was his first digital recording. His first platinum album was “Hotter Than July,” released in 1980. He continued to release hit singles through the period, with the 1984 song ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’ from the album “The Woman in Red” becoming his best-selling single ever. The song also earned him an Oscar for ‘Best Song’ in 1985. In 1986, the song ‘Part-time Lover’ from his album “In Square Circle” became a top hit.
He also performed with Elton John and Bruce Springsteen that year, while also singing for charity causes. In 1987, he featured on Michael Jackson’s album “Bad.” Thereafter, Wonder slowed down, releasing his next album in 1991 for Spike Lee’s movie “Jungle Fever.” In 1996, he performed at the closing ceremony of the Summer Olympics. In 2000, he recorded two songs for Spike Lee’s black comedy “Bamboozled.” He continued to perform as a guest artist on shows, and went on tours, performing with other artists, including Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg, Andrea Bocelli, and others. His first new album in 10 years was “A Time to Love,” released in 2005 to a lukewarm response. He appeared in the 2013 album of Celine Dion and also in Mark Ronson’s 2015 album. In October 2020, he released music for the first time through a vanity label not associated with Motown Records. He has also been working on two albums which have been in the works since 2008. In 2014, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
A successful singer-songwriter, he is known for being a one-man band, playing synthesizers and other electronic instruments that made up the background for his songs. He has been married thrice, most recently to Tomeeka Bracy in 2017, and has nine children. As a public figure of repute, Wonder has also been active against racism, being one of the major celebrities voicing their opinion against apartheid in South Africa. He was also at the forefront of a campaign to declare Martin Luther King’s birthday as a federal holiday in the United States. He continues to inspire and entertain millions worldwide with his magical voice which is incomparable, to say the least.
Singing ‘Lonely Boy’ — a song he wrote himself — Wonder secures an audition with Motown and earns the stage name ‘Little Stevie Wonder.’
His single ‘Fingertips’ from the 1963 album “Recorded Live: The 12-Year-Old Genius” features on top of the Billboard Hot 100, making him the youngest artist on the list.
The historic album “Talking Book” becomes a massive hit, earning three Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year.
For his album “Innervisions,” he earns three more “Grammy Awards” including one for ‘Album of the Year.’
He releases the album “Fulfillingness First Finale,” which also goes on to win three Grammys.
His next album, “Songs in the Key of Life,” debuts straight at Number one on Billboard for 14 non-consecutive weeks.
For the song ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You,’ from the movie “The Woman in Red,” Wonder earns an Academy Award for Best Song.
The album “A Time to Love” — his first in 10 years — is released.
Why We Love Stevie Wonder
He never let his blindness get in the way of success
Blind since birth, Wonder has never let his disability get in the way of his talents. He was a child prodigy and from an early age learned to play various musical instruments as well.
He has been a vocal champion for race rights
Over the years, Wonder has been an active champion of race rights, protesting against discrimination in South Africa. He was also instrumental in having Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday declared a federal holiday in the United States.
He never takes himself too seriously
Despite his celebrity status, Wonder has always been known to be down-to-earth and humble in his personal and professional life. He has won numerous awards and yet remains a likable person.
5 Surprising Facts
‘I Wish’ is an autobiographical song
The award-winning composition from his 1976 album “Songs in the Key of Life” is based on his own life experiences.
The 60 best-selling music artists
With over 100 million records sold, he is one of the 60 best-selling music artists from the second half of the 20th century.
He was banned in South Africa
For accepting his 1985 Academy Award in the name of Nelson Mandela, he was banned by the South African government and radio channels.
He won for three consecutive albums
Wonder is the only musician to have received the Grammy Award for Album of the Year three times in a row.
He also has partial loss of smell
Owing to a car crash in 1973, he also partially lost his sense of smell.
Stevie Wonder FAQs
Is Stevie Wonder deaf?
No. Wonder was rendered blind from premature birth and later, in 1973, suffered a partial loss of the sense of smell.
How many times did Stevie Wonder get married?
He has been married thrice, first to Syreeta Wright in 1970, then to Kai Millard from 2001 to 2012, and most recently to Tomeeka Bracy in 2017.
What was Stevie Wonder's biggest accomplishment?
Over the years Wonder has delivered 32 Number one R&B and Pop singles, 49 Top 40 R&B and Pop singles, and garnered 25 Grammy Awards, as well as the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996. He collected an Academy Award for the 1984 hit ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’ from the film “The Woman in Red.”
Stevie Wonder’s birthday dates