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Sat, 05.13.1950

Stevie Wonder, Singer, Composer, and Activist born

Stevie Wonder

This date marks the birth of Stevie Wonder in 1950. He is a Black singer, songwriter, and activist.

He was born Steveland Morris in Saginaw, MI. Blind since infancy, Wonder began playing the piano at the age of 4 and was a proficient singer and instrumentalist by the age of 13, when his first hit, "Fingertips Part 2" in 1963, was released by Motown, at which time he was given his professional name. He produced the albums "Signed, Sealed and Delivered" (1970) and "Where I'm Coming From" (1971), the latter written entirely by Wonder and his wife, Syreeta Wright.

On the album "Music of the Mind" (1972), he used modern recording technology to allow him to play most of the instrumental accompaniments. Wonder experimented with synthesizers and was one of the first musicians to make extensive use of electronic music in Black American songs. A multi-instrumentalist, Wonder plays the piano, synthesizer, talk box, harmonica, congas, drums, bongos, bass guitar, organ, melodica, and clarinet. "Talking Book" (1972), an album on which he played all the instruments and sang all the vocal parts, contained the hit singles "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," and "Superstition," and he won several Grammy Awards for "Talking Book" and his next album, "Innervisions "in 1973.

The same year he survived a near-fatal automobile accident. More Grammy Awards followed for the albums "Songs in the Key of Life" (1976), which contains the hit song "Sir Duke," a celebratory tribute to American jazz composer Duke Ellington; and "In Square Circle" (1985). Wonder's other albums include "Looking Back" (1977); "Hotter than July" (1980); "Characters" (1987); "Jungle Fever" (1991); the soundtrack to a motion picture by American director Spike Lee; and "Conversation Peace" (1995). In 1996 Wonder won three more Grammy Awards: for a best male rhythm-and-blues vocalist, best song, and for lifetime achievement.  He has 25 Grammys as of 2019.

Wonder has also been active in such social causes as the anti-Apartheid movement, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation. An advocate of Black civil rights Wonder spearheaded the effort to institute a national holiday in honor of the birthday of clergyman and civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr.

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. 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 Roll Hall of Fame, and Songwriters Hall of Fame, and has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 2009, he was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace. In 2014, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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ACSAP Biographical Dictionary
R. R. Bowker Co., Copyright 1980
ISBN 0-8351-1283-1

Heart & Soul
A Celebration of Black Music Style in America 1930-1975
by Merlis Davin Seay, Forward by Etta james
Copyright 2002, Billboard Books
ISBN 0-8230-8314-4

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