Stevland Hardaway Morris (born May 13, 1950), known professionally as Stevie Wonder, is an American singer, songwriter, musician and record producer. A prominent figure in popular music, he is one of the most successful songwriters and musicians in the history of music. Through his heavy use of electronic instruments and innovative sounds, Wonder became a pioneer and influence to musicians of various genres including pop, rhythm and blues, soul, funk and rock.
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 11. In 1963, the single “Fingertips” was a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 when Wonder was aged 13, making him the youngest artist ever to top the chart. Wonder’s critical success was at its peak in the 1970s when he started his “classic period” in 1972 with the releases of Music of My Mind and Talking Book, with the latter featuring the number-one hit “Superstition”. “Superstition” is one of the most distinctive and famous examples of the sound of the Hohner Clavinet keyboard. With Innervisions (1973), Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974) and Songs in the Key of Life (1976) all winning the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, Wonder became the tied record holder, with Frank Sinatra, for the most Album of the Year wins with three. Wonder is also the only artist to have won the award with three consecutive album releases.
Wonder’s “classic period”, which is widely considered to have ended in 1977, was noted for his funky keyboard style, personal control of production, and series of songs integrated with one another to make a concept album. In 1979, Wonder made use of the early music sampler Computer Music Melodian through his composition of the soundtrack album Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through “The Secret Life of Plants”. 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 1970s albums are regarded as very influential; the Rolling Stone Record Guide (1983) wrote they “pioneered stylistic approaches that helped to determine the shape of pop music for the next decade”.
Wonder has sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. He has won 25 Grammy Awards, making him one of the most awarded artists of all time. He was the first Motown artist and second African-American musician to win an Academy Award for 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 Rock Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame, and has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 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, he was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace.