May 13: Happy birthday Stevie Wonder (born 1950)
Do you know, it’s funny, but I never thought of being blind as a disadvantage, and I never thought of being black as a disadvantage.
“If anybody can be called a genius, he can be. I think it has something to do with his ear, not being able to see or whatever. I go back with him to about the early ‘60s, when he was playing at the Apollo with all that Motown stuff. If nothing else, he played the harmonica incredible, I mean truly incredible. Never knew what to think of him really until he cut Blowin’ In The Wind. That really blew my mind, and I figured I’d better pay attention. I was glad when he did that Rolling Stones tour, cuz it opened up his scene to a whole new crowd of people, which I’m sure has stuck with him over the years. I love everything he does. It’s hard not to. He can do gut-bucket funky stuff really country and then turn around and do modern-progressive whatever you call it. In fact, he might have invented that. he is a great mimic, can imitate everybody, doesn’t take himself seriously and is a true roadhouse musician all the way, with classical overtones, and he does it all with drama and style. I’d like to hear him play with an orchestra. He should probably have his own orchestra.”
~Bob Dylan (Feb 1989, Rolling Stone Mag. – featurette on Stevie Wonder)
|Birth name||Stevland Hardaway Judkins|
|Also known as||Stevland Hardaway Morris (legal)
Little Stevie Wonder (stage)
|Born||May 13, 1950
Saginaw, Michigan, U.S.
|Genres||Soul, pop, R&B, funk, jazz|
|Occupations||Musician, singer-songwriter, record producer, multi-instrumentalist|
|Instruments||Vocals, keyboards, harmonica,drums, bass guitar, congas,bongos, keytar|
Stevland Hardaway Morris (born May 13, 1950, as Stevland Hardaway Judkins), known by his stage name Stevie Wonder, is an American musician, singer-songwriter, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist. A child prodigy, he has become one of the most creative and loved musical performers of the late 20th century. Wonder signed with Motown’s Tamla label at the age of eleven and continues to perform and record for Motown as of the early 2010s. He has been blind since shortly after birth.
Among Wonder’s works are singles such as “Superstition”, “Sir Duke”, “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” and “I Just Called to Say I Love You”; and albums such as Talking Book, Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life. He has recorded more than thirty U.S. top ten hits and received twenty-two Grammy Awards, the most ever awarded to a male solo artist, and has sold over 100 million albums and singles, making him one of the top 60 best-selling music artists. Wonder 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 holiday in the United States. In 2009, Wonder was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace. In 2008, Billboard magazine released a list of the Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists to celebrate the US singles chart’s 50th anniversary, with Wonder at number five.
Living For The City (live 1974)
- A prominent figure in popular music during the latter half of the 20th century, Wonder has recorded more than thirty U.S. top ten hits and won twenty-two Grammy Awards (the most ever won by a solo artist) as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award.
- He has also won an Academy Award for Best Song, and been inducted into both the Rock and Roll and Songwriters halls of fame.
- He has also been awarded the Polar Music Prize.
- American music magazine Rolling Stone named him the ninth greatest singer of all time.
- In June 2009 he became the fourth artist to receive the Montreal Jazz Festival Spirit Award.
- He has had ten U.S. number-one hits on the pop charts as well as 20 R&B number one hits, and has sold over 100 million records, 19.5 million of which are albums; he is one of the top 60 best-selling music artists with combined sales of singles and albums.
- Wonder has recorded several critically acclaimed albums and hit singles, and writes and produces songs for many of his label mates and outside artists as well.
- Wonder plays the piano, synthesizer, harmonica, congas, drums, bass guitar, bongos, organ, melodica, and clavinet. In his childhood, he was best known for his harmonica work, but today he is better known for his keyboard skills and vocal ability.
- Wonder was the first Motown artist and second African-American musician to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song, which he won for his 1984 hit single “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from the movie The Woman in Red.
Wonder’s “classic period” is generally agreed to be between 1972 and 1977. Some observers see in 1971’s Where I’m Coming From certain indications of the beginning of the classic period, such as its new funky keyboard style which Wonder used throughout the classic period. Some determine Wonder’s first “classic” album to be 1972’s Music of My Mind, on which he attained personal control of production, and on which he programmed a series of songs integrated with one another to make a concept album. Others skip over early 1972 and determine the beginning of the classic period to be Talking Book in late 1972, the album in which Wonder “hit his stride”.
His classic 1970s albums were very influential on the music world: the 1983 Rolling Stone Record Guide said they “pioneered stylistic approaches that helped to determine the shape of pop music for the next decade”; Rolling Stone magazine’s 2003 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time included four of the five albums, with three in the top 90; and in 2005, Kanye West said of his own work, “I’m not trying to compete with what’s out there now. 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?”
Jesus Children of America (from Innervisions, 1973):
Album of the day: