Stevie Wonder (born Stevland Hardaway Judkins on May 13, 1950; name later changed to Stevland Hardaway Morris) is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer. Blind from birth, Wonder signed with Motown Records at the age of eleven, and continues to perform and record for the label. He has recorded more than thirty U.S. top ten hits and won twenty-two Grammy Awards, the most ever won by a male solo artist.
Stevie Wonder was born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1950 as the third of six children to Calvin Judkins and Lula Mae Hardaway Morris. The product of a premature birth, the blood vessels at the back of his eyes had not yet reached the front, and an aborted growth spurt caused the retinas to detach. The medical term for this condition is known as retinopathy of prematurity, or ROP, and while it may have been exacerbated by the oxygen pumped into his incubator, this treatment was not the primary cause of his blindness.
When Wonder was four, his mother left his father and moved herself and her children to Detroit. Wonder's mother changed her name back to Lula Hardaway Morris and Morris remains Wonder's legal name. Wonder took up piano at age seven, and had mastered it by age nine. During his early childhood he was active in his church choir. He also taught himself to play the harmonica and the drums, and had mastered both by age ten. Wonder also learned to play the bass during his early years.
Discovery and early Motown recordings
In 1961, at the age of eleven, Wonder was discovered singing outside a street corner by a relative of The Miracles' Ronnie White, who was later introduced to Wonder. White brought Wonder and his mother to Motown Records. Impressed by the young musician, Motown CEO Berry Gordy signed Wonder to Motown's Tamla label with the name Little Stevie Wonder. Before signing, producer Mickey Stevenson gave Wonder his trademark name after remarking about him saying "that boy's a wonder". He then recorded the minor hit "I Call It Pretty Music, But the Old People Call It the Blues", which was released in late 1961. Wonder released his first two albums, The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie and Tribute to Uncle Ray, in 1962, to little success.
Early success: 1963?71
By age 13, Wonder had a major hit, "Fingertips (Pt. 2)", a 1963 single taken from a live recording of a Motor Town Revue performance, issued on the album, Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius. The song, featuring Wonder on vocals, bongos, and harmonica, and a young Marvin Gaye on drums, was a #1 hit on the U.S. pop and R&B charts and launched him into the public consciousness.
In 1964, Stevie Wonder made his film debut in Muscle Beach Party as himself, credited as "Little Stevie Wonder". He returned in the sequel released five months later, Bikini Beach. He performed on-screen in both films, singing "Happy Street," and "Happy Feelin' (Dance and Shout)," respectively.
Dropping the "Little" from his moniker, Wonder went on to have a number of other hits during the mid-1960s, including "Uptight (Everything's Alright)", "With a Child's Heart", and "Blowin' in the Wind", a Bob Dylan cover which was one of the first songs to reflect Wonder's social consciousness, co-sung by his mentor, producer Clarence Paul. He also began to work in the Motown songwriting department, composing songs both for himself and his label mates, including "Tears of a Clown", a number one hit performed by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.
In 1968 he recorded an album of instrumental soul/jazz tracks, mostly harmonica solos, under the pseudonym (and title) Eivets Rednow, which is "Stevie Wonder" spelled backwards. The album failed to get much attention, and its only single, a cover of "Alfie", only reached number 66 on the U.S. Pop charts and number 11 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary charts. Nonetheless, he managed to score several hits between 1968 and 1970 such as "I Was Made to Love Her"; "For Once in My Life" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours". In September 1970, at the age of 20, Wonder married Syreeta Wright, a former company secretary for Motown and songwriter. For his next album known as Where I'm Coming From, his newly-wed wife Syreeta gave him a helping hand with the writing and producing aspects, with the permission of Gordy. The album flopped in the charts. Reaching his twenty-first birthday on May 21, 1971, he allowed his Motown contract to expire.
In 1970, Wonder co-wrote, and played numerous instruments on, the hit "It's a Shame" for fellow Motown act The Spinners. His contribution was meant to be a showcase of his talent and thus a weapon in his on-going negotiations with Gordy about creative autonomy.
Classic period: 1972?76
Wonder independently recorded two albums, which he used as a bargaining tool while negotiating with Motown. Eventually the label agreed to his demands for full creative control and the rights to his own songs; the 120-page contract shattered precedent at Motown and additionally gave Wonder a much higher royalty rate. Wonder returned to Motown in March 1972 with Music of My Mind. Unlike most previous artist LPs on Motown, which usually consisted of a collection of singles, B-sides and covers, Music of My Mind was an actual LP, a full-length artistic statement with songs flowing together thematically. Wonder's lyrics dealt with social, political, and mystical themes as well as standard romantic ones, while musically Wonder began exploring overdubbing and recording most of the instrumental parts himself. This started the so-called "classic period" of Wonder's career during the 1970s. Music of My Mind marked the beginning of a long collaboration with synthesiser pioneers Tonto's Expanding Head Band (Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil).
Superstition (reduced quality)
from Talking Book by Stevie Wonder, Motown . Sample from Stevie Wonder Song Review: A Greatest Hits Collection, Motown,
Released in the fall of 1972, Talking Book featured the number-one hit "Superstition", which is one of the most distinctive and famous examples of the sound of the Hohner clavinet keyboard. The song, originally intended for rock guitarist Jeff Beck, features a rocking groove that garnered Wonder an additional audience on rock radio stations. Talking Book also featured "You Are the Sunshine of My Life", which also peaked at number-one. Wonder's touring with The Rolling Stones on their 1972 American Tour was also a factor behind the success of both "Superstition" and "You Are the Sunshine of My Life". Between them, the two songs won three Grammy Awards. On an episode of the children's television show Sesame Street that aired in April 1973, Wonder and his band performed "Superstition", as well as an original song called "Sesame Street Song", which demonstrated his abilities with the "talk box".
Political considerations were brought into greater focus than ever before on his next album, Innervisions, released in 1973. The album featured "Higher Ground" (#4 on the pop charts) as well as the trenchant "Living for the City" (#8). Both songs reached number 1 on the R&B charts. Popular ballads such as "Golden Lady" and "All in Love Is Fair" were also present, in a mixture of moods that nevertheless held together as a unified whole. Innervisions generated three more Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. The album is ranked #23 on Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Wonder had become the most influential and acclaimed black musician of the early 1970s.
On August 6, 1973, Wonder was in a serious automobile accident while on tour in North Carolina, when a car he was riding in rear-ended a flatbed truck, sliding under the back of the truck causing the bed to crash through the windshield, striking Wonder in the head. This left him in a coma for four days and resulted in a partial loss of his sense of smell and a temporary loss of sense of taste.
Despite the setback Wonder eventually recovered all of his musical faculties, and re-appeared in concert at Madison Square Garden in March 1974 in a performance that highlighted both up-tempo material and long, building improvisations on mid-tempo songs such as "Living for the City". The album Fulfillingness' First Finale appeared in July 1974 and set two hits high on the pop charts: the #1 "You Haven't Done Nothin'" (a political protest song aimed at Richard Nixon) and the Top Ten "Boogie On Reggae Woman". The Album of the Year was again one of three Grammys won.
The same year Wonder took part in a Los Angeles jam session which would become known by the bootleg album A Toot and a Snore in '74, likely the only known post-Beatles recording of John Lennon and Paul McCartney playing together. He also co-wrote and produced the Syreeta Wright album Stevie Wonder Presents: Syreeta.
On October 4, 1975, Wonder performed at the historical "Wonder Dream Concert" in Kingston, Jamaica, a Jamaican Institute for the Blind benefit concert. Along with Wonder, the three original Wailers ? Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer ? performed together for the last time.
By 1975, in his 25th year, Stevie Wonder had won two consecutive Grammy Awards: in 1974 for Innervisions and in 1975 for Fulfillingness' First Finale. The following year, singer songwriter Paul Simon won the Grammy for Album of the Year for Still Crazy After All These Years. In his acceptance speech, Simon jokingly thanked Stevie Wonder for not releasing an album that year, a quip that proved prophetic.
The double album-with-extra-EP Songs in the Key of Life, was released in September 1976. Sprawling in style, unlimited in ambition, and sometimes lyrically difficult to fathom, the album was hard for some listeners to assimilate, yet is regarded by many as Wonder's crowning achievement and one of the most recognisable and accomplished albums in pop music history. The album became the first of an American artist to debut straight at #1 in the Billboard charts, where it remained for 14 non-consecutive weeks. Two tracks, became #1 Pop/R&B hits "I Wish" and "Sir Duke". The baby-celebratory "Isn't She Lovely" was written about his newborn daughter Aisha, while songs such as "Love's in Need of Love Today" (which years later Wonder would perform at the post-September 11, 2001 America: A Tribute to Heroes telethon) and "Village Ghetto Land" reflected a far more pensive mood. Songs in the Key of Life won Album of the Year and two other Grammies. The album ranks 56th on Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
After such a concentrated and sustained level of creativity, Wonder stopped recording for three years, releasing only the 3 LP Looking Back, an anthology of his first Motown period. The albums Wonder released during this period were very influential on the music world: the 1983 Rolling Stone Record Guide said that these albums "pioneered stylistic approaches that helped to determine the shape of pop music for the next decade"; Rolling Stone Magazine's 2003 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time included four of the five, with three in the top 90; while in 2005 Kanye West said of his own work, "I'm not trying to compete with what's out there now. I'm really trying to compete with Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life. It sounds musically blasphemous to say something like that, but why not set that as your bar?"
Commercial period: 1979?90
It was in Wonder's next phase that he began to commercially reap the rewards of his legendary classic period. The '80s saw Wonder scoring his biggest hits and reaching an unprecedented level of fame evidenced by increased album sales, charity participation, high-profile collaborations, political impact, and television appearances.
This period had a muted beginning, for when Wonder did return, it was with the soundtrack album Journey through the Secret Life of Plants (1979), featured in the film The Secret Life of Plants. Mostly instrumental, the album was panned at the time of its release but has come to be regarded by some critics as an unusual classic. In this year Wonder also wrote and produced the dance hit "Let's Get Serious", performed by Jermaine Jackson and (ranked by Billboard as the #1 R&B single of 1980).
Hotter than July (1980) became Wonder's first platinum-selling single album, and its single "Happy Birthday" was a successful vehicle for his campaign to establish Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday as a national holiday. The album also included "Master Blaster (Jammin')", his tribute to Bob Marley, "All I Do", and the sentimental ballad, "Lately", which was later covered by Jodeci and S Club 7.
In 1982, Wonder released a retrospective of his '70s work with Stevie Wonder's Original Musiquarium, which included four new songs: the ten-minute funk classic "Do I Do" (which included legendary jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie), "That Girl" (one of the year's biggest singles to chart on the R&B side), "Front Line", a narrative about a soldier in the Vietnam War that Stevie Wonder wrote and sang in the 1st person, and "Ribbon in the Sky", one of his many classic compositions. Wonder also gained a #1 hit that year in collaboration with Paul McCartney in their paean to racial harmony, "Ebony and Ivory".
In 1983, Wonder performed the song "Stay Gold", the theme to Francis Ford Coppola's film adaptation of S.E. Hinton's novel The Outsiders. Often mistakenly attributed solely to Stevie Wonder, the music is by Carmine Coppola, while Wonder wrote the lyric.
In 1983 Wonder scheduled an album to be entitled People Work, Human Play." The album never surfaced and instead 1984 saw the release of Wonder's soundtrack album for The Woman in Red. The lead single, "I Just Called to Say I Love You", was a #1 pop and R&B hit in both the United States and the United Kingdom, where it was placed 13th in the list of best-selling singles in the UK published in 2002. It went on to win an Academy Award for "Best Song" in 1985.The album also featured a guest appearance by Dionne Warwick, singing the duet "It's You" with Stevie and a few songs of her own. The following year's In Square Circle featured the #1 pop hit "Part-Time Lover". The album also has a Top 10 Hit with "Go Home." It also featured the ballad "Overjoyed" which was originally written for Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants but didn't make the album. He performed "Overjoyed" on Saturday Night Live when he was the host. He was also featured in Chaka Khan's cover of Prince's "I Feel For You", alongside Melle Mel, playing his signature harmonica, which was a huge hit. In roughly the same period he was also featured on harmonica on Eurythmics' single, "There Must Be an Angel (Playing with My Heart)" and Elton John's "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues", all huge hits.
By 1985, Stevie Wonder was an American icon, the subject of good-humored jokes about blindness and affectionately impersonated by Eddie Murphy on Saturday Night Live. Wonder sometimes joined in the jokes himself; in The Motown Revue Smokey Robinson presented Wonder with an award plaque, which he pretended to read for the audience? and to notice a spelling mistake. He was in a featured duet with Bruce Springsteen on the all-star charity single for African famine relief, "We Are the World", and he was part of another charity single the following year (1986), the AIDS-targeted "That's What Friends Are For". He also played the harmonica on the album Dreamland Express by John Denver in the song "If Ever", a song Wonder co-wrote with Stephanie Andrews. He also wrote the track "I Do Love You" for The Beach Boys' 1985 self-titled album. Stevie Wonder also played the harmonica on a track called "Can't Help Lovin' That Man" from "Showboat" on the "The Broadway Album" by Barbra Streisand.
In 1986, Stevie Wonder appeared on The Cosby Show as himself in the episode "A Touch of Wonder," where Theo and Denise get in a car crash with the singer's car and he invites them to his studio.
In 1987, Wonder appeared on Michael Jackson's Bad album on the duet "Just Good Friends". The song was performed live on one occasion in Sydney, Australia when Wonder made a surprise appearance at Jackson's show at the Parramatta Stadium. Michael Jackson also sang a duet with him titled "Get It" on Wonder's 1987 album Characters. This was a minor hit single as were "Skeletons" and "You Will Know". In the fall of 1988, Wonder dueted with Julio Iglesias on the hit single "My Love", which appeared on Iglesias' album Non Stop and was a hit single on both sides of the Atlantic.
Wonder has recorded with Jon Gibson, a Christian Soul musician, in a remake of his own song, "Have a Talk With God", covered by Gibson on which Wonder plays harmonica. The two men met in the early 1980s through a shared music agent.
Later career: 1991?2001
Stevie Wonder at the Grammy Awards of 1990
After 1987's Characters LP, Wonder continued to release new material, but at a slower pace. He recorded a soundtrack album for Spike Lee's film Jungle Fever in 1991. From this album, singles and videos were released for "Gotta Have You" and "These Three Words". The B-side to the "Gotta Have You" single included a recording of "Feeding Off The Love Of The Land", the song that was played during the end credits of the movie "Jungle Fever", but was not included on the soundtrack. A piano and vocal version of "Feeding Off The Love Of The Land" was also released on the Nobody's Child: Romanian Angel Appeal compilation. It is rumored that "Feeding Off The Love Of The Land" was originally intended for release on Fulfillingness' First Finale Volume Two, a project that has never been confirmed as completed. Conversation Peace and the live album Natural Wonder were also released in the 1990s.
In 1994, Wonder made a guest appearance on the KISS cover album KISS My Ass: Classic KISS Regrooved, playing harmonica and supplying background vocals for the song "Deuce", performed by Lenny Kravitz.
In 1996, Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life was selected as a documentary subject for the Classic Albums documentary series. This series dedicates 60 minutes to one groundbreaking record per feature. The same year, he performed John Lennon's song "Imagine" in the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games, held at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. The same year, Wonder performed in a remix of "Seasons of Love" from the Jonathan Larson musical Rent which is part of the original Broadway cast recording.
In 1997, Wonder collaborated with Babyface for an emotionally-charged song about spousal abuse (domestic violence) called "How Come, How Long" which was nominated for an award.
In December 1999, Wonder announced that he was interested in pursuing an intraocular retinal prosthesis to partially restore his sight. That same year, Wonder was featured on harmonica in the Sting hit "Brand New Day".
In 2000, Stevie Wonder contributed two new songs to the soundtrack for Spike Lee's satire based on minstrelsy, Bamboozled: "Misrepresented People" and "Some Years Ago".
Current career: 2002?09
In March 2002, Wonder performed at the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Paralympics in Salt Lake City.
On July 2, 2005, Wonder performed in the USA part of the Live 8 series of concerts in Philadelphia.
Wonder's first new album in ten years, A Time to Love, was released on October 18, 2005, after having been pushed back from first a May, and then a June release. The album was released electronically on September 27, 2005, exclusively on Apple's iTunes Music Store. The first single, "So What the Fuss", was released in April and features Prince on guitar and background vocals from En Vogue. A second single, "From the Bottom of My Heart" was a hit on adult-contemporary R&B radio. The album also featured a duet with India.Arie on the title track "A Time to Love".
Wonder performed at the pre-game show for Super Bowl XL in Detroit in early 2006, singing various hit singles (with his four-year-old son on drums) and accompanying Aretha Franklin during "The Star Spangled Banner".
In March 2006, Wonder received new national exposure on the top-rated American Idol television program. Each of 12 contestants were required to sing one of his songs, after having met and received guidance from him. Wonder also performed "My Love Is on Fire" (from A Time To Love) live on the show itself. In June 2006, Stevie Wonder made a guest appearance on Busta Rhymes' new album, The Big Bang on the track "Been through the Storm". He sings the refrain and plays the piano on the Dr. Dre and Sha Money XL produced track. He appeared again on the last track of Snoop Dogg's new album Tha Blue Carpet Treatment, "Conversations". The song is a remake of "Have a Talk with God" from Songs in the Key of Life. In 2006 Wonder staged a duet with Andrea Bocelli on the latter's album Amore, offering harmonica and additional vocals on "Canzoni Stonate". Stevie Wonder also performed at Washington, D.C.'s 2006 "A Capitol Fourth" celebration, which was hosted by actor star Jason Alexander.
On August 2, 2007, Stevie Wonder announced the A Wonder Summer's Night 13 concert tour ? his first U.S. tour in over ten years. This tour was inspired by the recent passing of his mother, as he stated at the conclusion of the tour on December 9 at the Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Arizona. Boxer Mike Tyson appeared briefly on stage at the end of the musical program. Wonder's musical director during this period was University of Alabama at Birmingham professor Henry Panion, a renowned arranger, composer and conductor, and a pioneer in the development of college music technology programs.
Wonder performs during the final day of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.
On August 28, 2008, the day Barack Obama accepted his party's nomination to run for President of the United States, Wonder performed at the Democratic National Convention at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado. Songs included were a previously unreleased song, "Fear Can't Put Dreams to Sleep," and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours", a song that was used regularly during the Obama campaign.
On September 8, 2008, Wonder started the European leg of his Wonder Summer's Night Tour, the first time he had toured Europe in over a decade. His opening show was at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, England. During the tour, Wonder played eight UK gigs; four at The O2 Arena in London, two in Birmingham and two at the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester. Stevie Wonder's other stops in the tour's European leg also found him performing in Holland (Rotterdam), Sweden (Stockholm), Germany (Cologne, Mannheim and Munich), Norway (Hamar), France (Paris), Italy (Milan) and Denmark (Aalborg). Wonder also toured Australia (Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane) and New Zealand (Christchurch, Auckland and New Plymouth) in October and November.
By June 2008 Wonder was working on two projects simultaneously: a new album titled The Gospel Inspired By Lula which will deal with the various spiritual and cultural crises facing the world, and Through The Eyes Of Wonder, an album which Wonder has described as a performance piece that will reflect his experience as a blind man. Wonder was also keeping the door open for a collaboration with Tony Bennett and Quincy Jones concerning a rumoured jazz album. If Wonder was to join forces with Bennett, it would not be for the first time. The couple's rendition of "For Once in My Life" earned them a Grammy for best pop collaboration with vocals in 2006.. They also performed "Everyday (I Have The Blues)" together on one of Bennett's previous albums. Wonder's harmonica playing can be heard on the 2009 Grammy-nominated "Never Give You Up" featuring CJ Hilton and Raphael Saadiq.
Wonder is presented the Gershwin Award for Lifetime Achievement by United States president Barack Obama.
Wonder performed on January 18, 2009 at the We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial. On Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009, Wonder performed the song "Brand New Day" with musician Sting. The song was part of the program for The Neighborhood Inaugural Ball, one of ten inaugural balls honoring President Barack Obama. He performed his new song "All About the Love Again" and, with other musical artists, "Signed, Sealed, and Delivered" in honor of the president. On February 23, 2009, Wonder became the second recipient of the Library of Congress's Gershwin Prize for pop music, honored by President Barack Obama at the White House.
On July 7, 2009, Wonder performed "Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer" and "They Won't Go When I Go" at the Staples Center for Michael Jackson's memorial service.
A prominent figure in popular music during the latter half of the 20th century, Wonder has recorded more than thirty U.S. top ten hits and won twenty-two Grammy Awards (the most ever won by a solo artist) as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also won an Academy Award for Best Song, and been inducted into both the Rock and Roll and Songwriters halls of fame. He has also been awarded the Polar Music Prize. American music magazine Rolling Stone named him the ninth greatest singer of all time. In June 2009 he became the fourth artist to receive the Montreal Jazz Festival Spirit Award.
He has ten U.S. number-one hits on the pop charts as well as 20 R&B number one hits, and album sales totaling more than 100 million units. Wonder has recorded several critically acclaimed albums and hit singles, and writes and produces songs for many of his label mates and outside artists as well. Wonder plays the piano, synthesizer, harmonica, congas, drums, bass guitar, bongos, organ, melodica, and clavinet. In his childhood, he was best known for his harmonica work, but today he is better known for his keyboard skills and vocal ability. Wonder is the first Motown artist and second African American musician to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song for his 1984 hit single "I Just Called to Say I Love You" from the movie The Woman in Red. According to britishhitsongwriters.com he is the eleventh most successful songwriter in U.K. chart history based on weeks that his compositions have spent on the chart.
Wonder's success as a socially conscious musical performer influenced popular music. Some major musicians and other public figures who cite Wonder as an idol or a major influence on them are Stevie Ray Vaughan, India.Arie, Barack Obama, Blackstreet, Gloria Estefan, Musiq Soulchild, George Michael, The Neptunes, Luciano Pavarotti, Tupac Shakur, Will Smith, Coolio, Snoop Dogg, Kirk Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Babyface, Kelis, Donnell Jones, Jermaine Jackson, Janet Jackson, Luther Vandross, N'Sync, Glenn Lewis, Dru Hill, Boyz 2 Men, Alicia Keys, Eric Hutchinson, Carrie Underwood, Elton John, John Legend, Prince, Anthony Kiedis (lead vocalist of Red Hot Chilli Peppers), Sting, Beyonc? Knowles, Aaliyah, Brandy, Justin Timberlake, Ashanti, Shogo Hamada, Jason Kay (lead vocalist of Jamiroquai), Utada Hikaru, Ken Hirai, Whitney Houston, Wang Leehom, Lenny Kravitz, Glenn Hughes, and Erykah Badu.
Wonder has appeared as guest musician/vocalist on numerous recordings by other artists, including Carly Simon, Busta Rhymes, Quincy Jones, Sting, Pointer Sisters, Barbra Streisand, Andrea Bocelli, Jeff Beck, Snoop Dogg, Elton John, Lenny Kravitz, Billy Preston, James Taylor, Roberta Flack, Smokey Robinson, Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Queen Latifah, The Supremes, Babyface, The Beach Boys, Chaka Khan, Herbie Hancock, Luther Vandross, The Temptations, Gloria Estefan, Andrae Crouch, Michael Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, John Denver, BeBe Winans, Julio Iglesias, Don Henley, Take 6, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Rod Stewart, The Gap Band, 'NSYNC, The Manhattan Transfer, Donna Summer, Eurythmics, B.B. King, Jon Gibson ("Have a Talk With God"), Paula Abdul, and Whitney Houston.
Vocalists Minnie Riperton, Deniece Williams and Angela Winbush all began their careers in the 1970s as backup vocalists for Wonder as part of "Wonderlove".
Wonder's songs are renowned for being quite difficult to sing. He has a very developed sense of harmony and uses many extended chords utilizing extensions such as 9ths, 11ths, 13ths, b5s, etc. in his compositions. Many of his melodies make abrupt, unpredictable changes. Many of his vocal melodies are also melismatic, meaning that a syllable is sung over several notes. In the American Idol Hollywood Performances, judge Randy Jackson repeatedly stated the difficulty of Wonder's songs. Some of his best known and most frequently covered songs are played in keys which are more often found in jazz than in pop and rock. For example, "Superstition", "Higher Ground" and "I Wish" are in the key of E flat minor, and feature distinctive riffs in the E flat minor pentatonic scale (i.e. largely on the black notes of the keyboard).
Wonder played a large role in bringing synthesizers to the forefront of popular music. With the help of Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil, he developed many new textures and sounds never heard before. In 1981, Wonder became the first owner of an E-mu Emulator. It was Wonder's urging that led Raymond Kurzweil to create the first electronic synthesizers that realistically reproduced the sounds of orchestral instruments; Wonder had become acquainted with the inventor as an early user and evangelist of his reading machine, the technology for which would prove instrumental in the success of the Kurzweil K250.
During the 2008 United States Presidential Election, Wonder was a strong supporter of Barack Obama's candidacy for President.
Songs sampled by other musicians
Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble covered "Superstition" and Wonder makes a cameo appearance in the official music video for the song. The elements of "Love's In Need of Love Today" were used by 50 Cent in the song "Ryder Music", and Warren G sampled "Village Ghetto Land" for his song "Ghetto Village." "Pastime Paradise" would become an interpolation for Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" while Will Smith would use "I Wish" as the basis for the theme song to his movie, Wild Wild West. George Michael and Mary J. Blige covered "As" in the late 90's. In 1999, Salome De Bahia made a Brazilian version of "Another Star". Tupac Shakur sampled "That Girl" for his hit song "So Many Tears". Red Hot Chili Peppers covered "Higher Ground" in 1989 on their "Mother's Milk" album. John Legend covered his song "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing" for the 2005 film, Hitch. Mary Mary, did a cover of his song, "You Will Know" on their 2002 album, Incredible.
Additional songs by Stevie Wonder have also been sampled or re-made. Wonder is one of the most sampled artists/singers ever.
Wonder has been married twice?to Motown singer Syreeta Wright from 1970 until their divorce in 1972; and since 2001, to fashion designer Kai Milla Morris. He has seven children from his two marriages and several relationships.
His daughter, Aisha Morris, was the inspiration for his hit single "Isn't She Lovely." Aisha Morris is a singer who has toured with her father and accompanied him on recordings, including his 2005 album, A Time 2 Love. Wonder has two sons with Kai Milla Morris; the older is named Kailand and he occasionally performs as a drummer on stage with his father. The younger son, Mandla Kadjay Carl Stevland Morris, was born May 13, 2005, his father's 55th birthday.
In May 2006, Wonder's mother died in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 76. During his September 8, 2008 UK concert in Birmingham he spoke of his decision to begin touring again following his loss. "I want to take all the pain that I feel and celebrate and turn it around".
Wonder is an activist for civil rights and endorsed 2008 United States Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama, who would later be elected 44th President of the United States, the first African American to do so. Apparently, the respect is more than mutual, as Obama responded to a Rolling Stone interview question that asked him who his musical heroes are by saying: "If I had one, it would have to be Stevie Wonder. When I was just at that point where you start getting involved in music, Stevie Wonder had that run with Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Fulfillingness' First Finale and Innervisions, and then Songs in the Key of Life. Those are as brilliant a set of five albums as we've ever seen."
Aisha Morris (born April 1975) (by Yolanda Simmons)
Keita Morris (by Yolanda Simmons)
Mumtaz Morris (by Melody McCulley)
Kailand Morris (by Kai Milla Morris)
Mandla Kadjay Carl Stevland Morris (born May 13, 2005) (by Kai Milla Morris)
Wonder's children are by wife Kai Milla Morris, Yolanda Simmons and Melody McCulley. He never married Simmons or McCulley.