Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Stevie Wonder moved to Detroit at an early age and has become one of that city’s most famous sons. Blind from birth, Stevie has never allowed that to be an obstacle or handicap. His normal childhood activities of playing games and climbing trees with his friends were suddenly set on a different path when his amazing musical talents were spotted by Bonnie White of Smokey Robinson’s group The Miracles. White took Stevie to Motown Records and introduced him to Berry Gordy, the company’s founder, who instantly recognized his tremendous musical potential and signed him to Motown in 1961. He has been with the label ever since and recently signed a life-long deal.
The 1963 release, “Fingertips, Part 2,” was Stevie’s first number one record and the first of a string of hits throughout the 1960’s. However, it wasn’t until the 1970’s – having made the transition from Little Stevie Wonder the child start to Stevie Wonder the mature, adult superstar – that he began to show the true depth of his potential.
Stevie turned the ripe age of 21; he rejected his previous recording agreements and negotiated the freedom to become a musical pioneer. The albums he recorded in the 1970’s, particularly Talking Book (You are the Sunshine of My Life” “Superstition”), Innervisions (Living for the City.” “Higher Ground,” “All in Love is Fair”), Fulfillingness First Finale (“Boogie on Reggae Woman”, “Too Shy to Say”), and Songs in the Key of Life (Isn’t She Lovely,” “I Wish,” “Sir Duke”), met with unprecedented success, netting him 15 Grammy Awards. For many, these albums became icons of the seventies.
Stevie continued his success into the 1980’s with his Hotter Than July album, which became the springboard that launched his campaign to have January 15 the birthday of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, declared a U.S. national holiday. In 1984, his efforts culminated in success when President Ronald Reagan announced that the third Monday of each January was to be officially known as Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
1984 was also a big year for Stevie on the recording front with the song “I just Called to Say I Love You,” from the soundtrack of the motion picture The Woman in Red, wining him an Oscar. This song also became Motown’s all time biggest-selling single internationally. This wasn’t Stevie’s first foray into movie soundtrack recording. He had previously recorded the soundtrack to the film Secret Life of Plants in 1979. And subsequently, he enjoyed considerable success with the 1992 release of the multi-hit LP to director Spike Lee’s film Jungle Fever. The album that was recorded in the amazingly short span of only three weeks.
In 1985, Stevie continued his record success with the LP In Square Circle, which contained the hit single “Part Time Lover”.
By now, however, Stevie was starting to show some unease about the direction the things were moving, both musically and socially, in young America. In the late eighties, it became vague in music to espouse the virtues of street violence and disrespect of one’s fellow man and more particularly woman. His 1987 Characters album remained true to his principals of love and respect, but was not met with critical acclaim. Undeterred, Stevie began work immediately on Conversation Peace, an album which, as the title implies, underscores his continuing belief that the peaceful road is the better way.