Stevland Hardaway Morris (né Judkins; born May 13, 1950), known professionally as Stevie Wonder, is an American singer, songwriter, musician, and record producer. A prominent figure in popular music during the second half of the 20th century, Wonder is one of the most successful songwriters and musicians. A virtual one-man band, his use of synthesizers, and further electronic musical instruments during the 1970s reshaped the conventions of R&B. He also helped drive the genre into the album era, crafting his LPs as cohesive, consistent socially conscious statements with complex compositions. Wonder is often hailed as a “genius”, and has been credited as a pioneer and influence to musicians of various genres including rhythm and blues, pop, soul, gospel, funk, and jazz.
Blind since shortly after his birth, Wonder was a child prodigy known as Little Stevie Wonder, leading him to sign with Motown’s Tamla label at the age of 11. In 1963, the single “Fingertips” was a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 when Wonder was 13, making him the youngest artist ever to top the chart. Wonder’s critical success was at its peak in the 1970s. His “classic period” began in 1972 with the releases of Music of My Mind and Talking Book, the latter featuring “Superstition”, which is one of the most distinctive and famous examples of the sound of the Hohner Clavinet keyboard. His works Innervisions (1973), Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974) and Songs in the Key of Life (1976) all won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, making him the tied-record holder for the most Album of the Year wins, with three. He is also the only artist to have won the award with three consecutive album releases.
Wonder’s “classic period”, which culminated in 1976, was noted for his funky style of playing on the keyboard, personal control of production, and series of songs integrated with one another to make a concept album. In 1979, Wonder made use of the early music sampler Computer Music Melodian through his composition of the soundtrack album Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through “The Secret Life of Plants”. It was also his first digital recording, and one of the earliest popular albums to use the technology, which Wonder used for all subsequent recordings. Wonder’s 1970s albums are widely regarded by writers as very influential, as his pioneering stylistic approach to his music helped shaping the sound of pop music in the following decade.
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, making him the Grammy’s most-awarded solo artist of all time. 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 Rock Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame, and has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He is also noted for his work as an activist for political causes, including his 1980 campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a holiday in the United States. In 2009, he was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace. In 2014, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.