Sunday, December 12, 2004

Apple #8: Stevie Wonder


Out and about this evening, I heard "Superstition" playing. Man, that's a good song. Here's some info about Stevie Wonder:

  • He identifies Ray Charles as his inspiration (I liked Ray)
  • Regarded as one of R&B's most original artists, in league with Marvin Gaye and Prince
  • Born Steveland Hardaway Judkins in Saginaw, Michigan in 1950. He later changed his name to Steveland Morris when his mother married.
  • Born prematurely and put on oxygen in an incubator. Speculation has it that it was excess oxygen that worsened the condition he was born with, retinopathy, and led to his blindness.
  • Having been discovered by Ronnie White of The Miracles, Little Stevie released his first two albums in 1962, at the age of 12. One was a tribute to Ray Charles.
  • In his teen years, as his voice changed, he studied classical piano at the Michigan School for the Blind
  • Re-emerged in 1964 without the "Little" in front of his name and released a number one R&B hit
  • Co-wrote "Tears of a Clown" with Smokey Robinson and The Miracles
  • Co-wrote and produced "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" in 1970 and married his co-singer, Syreeta Wright later that same year
  • Pioneered the use of the synthesizer in R&B music, an innovation he later used as leverage to improve his contracts
  • In 1971, his contract with Motown expired. He enrolled in classical music training, renegotiated his contract for significantly higher royalties, built his own recording studio, and established his own music publishing company. He was 21 years old.
  • In 1972, he toured with the Rolling Stones and got a divorce. Also released "Superstition" and "You Are the Sunshine of My Life."
  • In 1973, he won a Grammy for Album of the Year, and then while being driven to a concert in North Carolina, a large hunk of timber fell on his car and he sustained serious head injuries and lapsed into a coma. But he made a full recovery.
  • He released his next record a year later, which contained a critique of Richard Nixon and won a Grammy.
  • Many regard Wonder's 1976 album, Songs in the Key of Life, as his consummate production.
  • Since then, he has continued to release numerous chart-topping songs, many of them duets (with Paul McCartney, Dionne Warwick, Babyface, and others).
  • He was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, at age 39.


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