Stevland Hardaway Judkins, better known by his stage name Stevie Wonder, was born on May 13, 1950 in Saginaw, Michigan to Lula Mae Hardaway and Calvin Judkins. Because he was born prematurely, Wonder developed retinopathy of prematurity, which resulted in permanent vision loss. However, this did not prevent him from becoming one of the most renowned performers of the 20th century.
As a child, Wonder was skilled at playing the bass, drums, harmonica, and piano. He also sang in his church’s choir. In 1961, when he was just eleven years old, Wonder impressed Motown Records founder Berry Gordy with his harmonica playing. He signed a contract with the company and became known as “A Little Wonder” because he was able to sing and play numerous instruments simultaneously.
Wonder released his first album, The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie, in 1962. One year later, he released chart-topper “Fingertips Part II.” Wonder became the first artist to release a number one single and album simultaneously. Wonder played percussion on many other albums he released, such as Recorded Live: The Twelve Year Old Genius. At the age of fourteen, many of his songs became featured in movies, such as the tunes “Happy Feeling” and “Happy Street.”
Wonder wrote and performed more popular hits in his late teens, such as “For Once in my Life” and “Signed Sealed Delivered I’m Yours.” He decided not to continue releasing albums with Motown in the 1970s, but joined the company again when Berry Gordy granted Wonder full rights to his songs and more creative control over his music. Wonder began using his music as a platform to bring up political and social controversies. He also became a defining artist of the Funk genre with his song “Superstition” in which he played the clavinet, an electrophonic keyboard with a unique sound.
Wonder remained at the top of the Billboard charts and released more hits in the 1980s, including the Academy Award-winning “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” He was instrumental in making Martin Luther King, Jr. Day recognized as an American Federal Holiday with his single “Happy Birthday.” Wonder has won an impressive amount of accolades, including more than 25 Grammy Awards and 74 Grammy nominations. Stevie Wonder has sold over 100 million records, and is a living legend in music.