Stevie Wonder’s incredible career began when he signed his first recording contract as an eleven year old. Wonder has been blind essentially from birth, making his musical accomplishments even more challenging. After his family moved to Detroit, Wonder sang in the church choir and learned piano, drums and harmonica by the age of nine. Motown’s Berry Gordy signed him after an audition and his first hit came when he was 12. The 12 Year Old Genius was a live recording and the instrumental Fingertips Pt. 2 topped the Pop and R&B charts propelling the album to become Motown’s first number 1.
Wonder stepped away from recording to briefly study classical piano at the Michigan School for the Blind. His return was initially uneven leading Motown to question the staying power of Wonder. By the mid 60s Wonder was back on track with several R&B and Pop hits while also joining the songwriting team at Motown co-writing the Smokey Robinson and the Miracles hit Tears of a Clown. At this point, Stevie Wonders’ interest in socially conscious music was emerging but Motown maintained control over what Wonder could and could not release.
The 1970s were Wonders’ greatest years. Starting with 1973s’ Innervisions Stevie Wonder won Album of the Year Grammys for three consecutive releases. In 1979 he was one of the first artists to use the Melodian – an early music sampler on an album. Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through The Secret Life of Plants was also his first digital recording and his use of digital recording technology influenced many following musicians.
The 1980s brought even greater sales success. Wonder collaborated on a number 1 hit with Paul McCartney while having multiple number ones on his own. He was in a featured duet with Bruce Springsteen on the 1986 benefit single We Are the World and contributed his signature harmonica work to hits from Elton John and the Eurythmics.
Over his long career Stevie Wonder has sold more than 100 million records while collecting 22 Grammys and gaining induction into the R&B, Rock and Roll and Songwriters Hall of Fame.