Blind from birth, Stevie Wonder note
(1950-) first became famous as "Little" Stevie Wonder as a supporting act on the Motown
Records roster. He could play keyboards and various percussion instruments, but it was his harmonica talents that most impressed Berry Gordy, and featured in Wonder's first hit, "Fingertips Part 2" (1963), a live recording of a mostly improptu performance. (Listen closely, and you'll hear the bassist for Martha Reeves and the Vandellas stammering, "What key? What key?" after he got on stage thinking Stevie was done performing.)
Even at his young age, Wonder attempted to be progressive with his singing and song choices, notably his recording the Bob Dylan
song "Blowin' In the Wind" which some at Motown thought was a mistake. While several of his 1960s
hits, particularly "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" and his cover of "For Once In My Life", have proved durable, it's his material starting with 1972's Talking Book
up through 1976's Songs in the Key of Life
that are probably his most popular and critically well regarded. These songs even broke the alleged Album Rock "color barrier", thanks in no small part to his performing the Talking Book
material on a tour with The Rolling Stones
at that time.
Today, Wonder is still revered by many, though his days as a major radio force are essentially over. He's also known for his political activism, up to his very vocal endorsing and supporting of Barack Obama
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Wonder does this hilariously in the intro to "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing".
- Blind Black Guy
- Blind Musician
- Child Popstar: He started when he was seven.
- Child Prodigy: Began his career at a young age and topped the charts with the live album The 12 Year Old Genius. He still holds the record for the youngest artist to get to number one.
- Epic Rocking: "Living for the City", "Love's in Need of Love Today", "As", "Another Star".
- The instrumental for "Isn't She Lovely?" runs so long that the song needed to be cut in half for radio play.
- Genre Adultery: 1979's Journey Through "The Secret Life of Plants".
- Handicapped Badass
- I Am the Band: Literally! He plays keyboards, bass, drums, and harmonica. Many songs are all him except for backing vocals, guitar, and horns.
- Lighter and Softer: The majority of his output post-Songs in the Key of Life, epitomized in 1983's "I Just Called to Say I Love You."
- Melismatic Vocals
- Protest Song: Released many socially-conscious songs throughout the 1970s.
- Sesame Street Cred: His 1970s appearance on Sesame Street where he performs "Superstition" and the theme song is one of the classic moments of the series.
- Spoken Word In Music: "Living for the City".
- Stop and Go: "Visions".
- Take That: "He's Misstra Know It All" and "You Haven't Done Nothin'", about Richard Nixon
- Truck Driver's Gear Change: Frequently.
- Uptown Girl: Uptight (Everything Is Alright) by Stevie Wonder.
- What Could Have Been: Inverted- "Superstition" was written by him, but he wasn't going to record it. He intended to give it to Jeff Beck instead (who had come up with the drums and worked on the rest of the album with Stevie), however, in a positive case of Executive Meddling, Stevie was urged to record the song himself. It became one of his best known hits. Beck, Bogert & Appice would later record their own version, many years later.
- Your Cheating Heart: "Lately".