Video Views Archive
Stevie Wonder has been a
major figure within the Black Music scene over the last forty years. Stevie
Wonder was born Steveland Judkins, however, he now prefers to be known as
Steveland Morris after his mother's married name.
Placed in an incubator
immediately after his birth, baby Steveland was thought to have been given too
much oxygen at birth, however he was suffering from Retinopathy
of Prematurity (R.O.P.). In fact, without the oxygen that he received he would
not be here. The cause was the prematurity of the eye. Blood vessels in the back
of the eye had not reached the front of the eye thus when he was born,
prematurely, that growth temporarly halted then wildly took off branching out
into the Vitreous of the eye. When it reached a certain point it caused scar
tissue to pull at the retina eventually causing the retina to detach.
Despite this handicap, he
began to learn the piano at the age of seven, and had also mastered drums and
harmonica by the age of nine. After his family moved to Detroit in 1954,
Steveland joined a church choir, the gospel leanings on his music balanced by
the R & B of Ray Charles and Sam Cooke.
In 1961, he was
discovered by Ronnie White of the Miracles, who arranged an audition at Motown
Records. Berry Gordy immediately signed Steveland to the label. Clarence Paul came up with the 'Wonder' surname stating that 'We can't keep
introducing him as the '8th Wonder Of The World'. Wonder was placed in the care
of writer / producer Clarence Paul, who supervised his early recordings. These helped him develop
his talents as a multi-instrumentalist, but did not indicate a clear musical
In 1963, the release of
the live recording 'Fingertips' established his commercial success, and Motown
quickly marketed him on a series of albums as 'the 12-year-old genius' in an
attempt to link him with the popularity of 'the late genius', Ray Charles.
repeat the success of 'Fingertips' proved difficult, and Wonder's career was
placed on hold during 1964 while his voice was breaking. He re-emerged in 1965
with a sound that was much closer to the Motown mainstream, achieving a
worldwide hit with 'Uptight (Everything's Alright)', which he co-wrote with
Henry 'Hank' Cosby and Sylvia Moy.
This began a run of U.S.
Top 40 hits that continued unbroken (apart from seasonal Christmas releases) for
over six years. From 1965-70, Stevie Wonder was marketed like the other major
Motown stars, recording material that was chosen for him by the label's
executives, and issuing albums that mixed conventional soul compositions with
pop standards. Stevie also recorded his versions of Bob Dylan's 'Blowin ln The
Wind' and Ron Miller's 'A Place In The Sun' in 1966.
He co-wrote almost all of
his singles from 1967 onwards, and also began to collaborate on releases by
other Motown artists, most notably co-writing Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' hit 'The Tears Of A Clown', and writing and producing
Spinners' It's A Shame'. His contract with Motown expired in 1971,
rather than re-signing immediately, as the label expected, Wonder financed the
recording of two albums of his own material, playing almost all the instruments
himself, and experimenting for the first time with more ambitious musical forms.
He pioneered the use of
the synthesizer in Black Music, and also broadened his lyrical concerns to
incompass racial problems and spiritual questions. Wonder then used these
recordings as a lever to persuade Motown to offer a more open contract, which
gave him total artistic control over his music, plus the opportunity to hold the
rights to the music publishing with his own company, Black Bull Music.
The signing of the
contract with the release of the solo recordings 'Where I'm Coming' From and
'Music Of My Mind', which, despite lukewarm critical reaction, quickly
established him at the forefront of black music.
'Talking Book', in 1972,
combined the technological advances of recent albums with major commercial
success, producing hit singles from the driving 'Superstition', to the ballad
standard 'You Are The Sunshine Of My Life'.
consolidated the growth and success of 'Talking Book', bringing further hit
singles with the socially aware 'Living For The City' and 'Higher Ground'. Later
that year, Stevie was seriously injured in a car accident. The release of 'Fulfillingness
First Finale' in 1974 epitomized a more thoughtful approach. The double album
'Songs In The Key Of Life', in 1976, was widely greeted as his most ambitious
and satisfying work to date. It demonstrated a mastery and variety of musical
forms and instruments, offering a tribute to Duke Ellington on 'Sir Duke', and paying tribute to major black figures on
Surprisingly, after this
enormous success, no new recordings surfaced for over three years, as Wonder
concentrated on perfecting the soundtrack music to the documentary film 'The
Secret Life Of Plants'. This primarily instrumental double album was greeted
with disappointing reviews and sales. Stevie quickly delivered the highly
successful, 'Hotter Than July' in 1980, which included a tribute song to the
late Dr. Martin Luther King, 'Happy Birthday', and 'All I Do'. After compiling
the retrospective double album 'Stevie Wonder's Original Musiquarium' in 1982,
which included four new recordings (including 'Do I Do' and 'Ribbon In The Sky')
alongside the cream of his post-1971 work, Stevie scheduled an album entitled
'People Move Human Play' in 1983.
This never appeared,
instead, he composed the soundtrack music for the film 'The Woman In Red', which
oddly included his biggest-selling single to date, the sugary ballad, 'I Just
Called To Say I Loved You'. The album on which he had been working since 1980
eventually appeared in 1985 as 'In Square Circle'.
His status as an elder
statesman of bIack music, and as a champion of black rights, was boosted by his
campaign in the early 80's to have the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King
celebrated as a national holiday in the U.S.A. This request was granted by the
late President Reagan, and the first Martin Luther King Day was celebrated on
15th January 1986 with a concert at which Wonder topped the bill.
Like his next project,
'Characters', in 1987, the album represented a return to the accessible, melodic
music of the previous decade. Stevie was then inducted into the Rock And Roll
Hall Of Fame in 1989.
Stevie has been generous
in offering his services as a writer, producer, singer and musician to other
performers. His most public collaborations included work with Paul McCartney,
which produced the hit, 'Ebony And Ivory', Gary Byrd, Michael Jacksond the Eurythmics, and on the benefit records by U.S.A. For
Africa and Dionne Warwick & Friends. 'Conversation Peace' in 1995 was an album with
good songs and had some success
His songs can be heard on
Spike Lee's movie 'Bamboozled, entitled 'Misrepresented People' and 'Some Years
Ago' and represented a return to Stevie's political comment.
After the September 11th
disaster that year, he recorded with the group Take 6 on a version of
'Love's In Need Of Love Today', dedicated to those who passed away that day.
Stevie returned to
recording in 2005 with the album 'A Time 2 Love'. A single entitled 'So What The
Fuss' was released prior to the album. He also appeared at the Live 8 U.S.
concert in 2005, where he paid his respect to the late Luther Vandross and also performed at the man's funeral.
Stevie has been,
probably, the most influential Black Music artist over the last 4 decades.
Living for the City
Isn't She Lovely
For Once in My Life
My Cherie Amour
I Never Dreamed ..... For Michael ... 2010
Video Views Archive