Steveland Judkins was born in Saginaw, Michigan, in 1950. His mother changed his name to Steveland Morris, after leaving his father, when Steveland was four.
Blind since birth, Steveland began playing instruments at an early age which included piano, harmonica and drums.
In 1961, he was brought to the attention of Motown Records CEO, Berry Gordy Jr., who renamed him Little Stevie Wonder and signed him to a contract for his Tamla label at the age of eleven.
By the age of 13, Stevie had his first number one hit, “Fingertips (Pt 2)” which came from a live recording at a Motor Town Revue. In the mid 1960’s, he dropped “Little” from his name and became Stevie Wonder.
He also started writing music for himself and other Motown alumni, including “Tears Of A Clown” for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and co-writing “It’s A Shame” for the Spinners.
1972 had Stevie touring with The Rolling Stones and in 1973 he was in a near fatal car accident in North Carolina, when the car in which he was riding smashed into the back of a flatbed truck. This left him in a coma for four days.
In the mid 1970’s Stevie’s political awareness became present by his recordings and becoming a political activist. In 2009, Stevie was named the United Nations Messenger for Peace.
On the charts, Stevie Wonder made it to Billboard’s weekly Top 40 charts over forty times and going to number one a total of ten times.
Here are Stevie Wonder’s twenty biggest hits, according to Billboard’s Weekly charts:
1. Ebony and Ivory – 1982 – teaming up with former Beatle, Paul McCartney, this look at racial harmony went to the number one spot for seven weeks.
2. That’s What Friends Are For – 1986 – another collaboration, this time with Dionne Warwick, Elton John and Gladys Knight.
3. I Just Called To Say I Love You – 1984 – from the Gene Wilder/Gilda Radner film, “The Lady In Red”, Stevie won the Academy Award for Best Song.
4. Sir Duke – 1977 – a tribute to Duke Ellington.
5. Fingertips (Pt 2) – 1963 – “Little” Stevie Wonder’s first #1 single featured a young Marvin Gaye on drums.
6. I Wish – 1977 – from the double album “Songs In The Key of Life” which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s album charts and stayed there for 14 weeks.
7. You Haven’t Done Nothin’ – 1974 – aimed at Richard Nixon, this political protest song featured The Jackson 5 as backing vocalists.
8. Part Time Lover – 1985 – from the “In Square Circle” album.
9. Superstition – 1973 – this song was originally intended for rock guitarist Jeff Beck.
10. You Are The Sunshine of My Life – 1973 – from the “Talking Book” album, this song and “Superstition” garnered three Grammy Awards.
11. I Was Made To Love Her – 1967
12. For Once In My Life – 1968
13. Boogie On Reggae Woman – 1975 – from the album “Fullfillingess’ First Finale” which won three Grammys, including Album of the Year.
14. Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours – 1970 – Peter Frampton took a cover of this song into the weekly Top 20 in 1977.
15. Uptight (Everything’s Alright) – 1966 – a year later, in 1967, Bill Cosby recorded “Little Ole Man”, a comedy single, which included this song.
16. Send One Your Love – 1979
17. That Girl – 1982 – from the 70’s retrospective, “Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiquarium.”
18. Higher Ground – 1973 – from the “Innervisions” album, which won Album of the Year at the Grammys.
19. My Cherie Amour – 1969
20. Master Blaster (Jammin’) – 1980 – Stevie’s tribute to reggae king, Bob Marley.
Stevie Wonder has received 22 Grammys, the most won by any single artist, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award. He appeared in the 1960’s movies, “Muscle Beach Party” and “Bikini Beach.” He was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1989.
Billboard Magazine released a list of Top 100 Artists of All Times in 2008 and Stevie Wonder came in at number five.
Stevie Wonder continues to perform and record for Motown Records today.