Stevie Wonder is a much-beloved American icon and an indisputable genius not only of R&B but popular music in general. Blind virtually since birth, Wonder’s heightened awareness of sound helped him create vibrant, colorful music teeming with life and ambition. Nearly everything he recorded bore the stamp of his sunny, joyous positivity; even when he addressed serious racial, social, and spiritual issues (which he did quite often in his prime), or sang about heartbreak and romantic uncertainty, an underlying sense of optimism and hope always seemed to emerge. Much like his inspiration,Ray Charles, Wonder had a voracious appetite for many different kinds of music, and refused to confine himself to any one sound or style. His best records were a richly eclectic brew of soul, funk, rock & roll, sophisticated Broadway/Tin Pan Alley-style pop, jazz, reggae, and African elements — and they weren’t just stylistic exercises; Wonder took it all and forged it into his own personal form of expression. His range helped account for his broad-based appeal, but so did his unique, elastic voice, his peerless melodic facility, his gift for complex arrangements, and his taste for lovely, often sentimental ballads. Additionally, Wonder’s pioneering use of synthesizers during the ’70s changed the face of R&B; he employed a kaleidoscope of contrasting textures and voices that made him a virtual one-man band, all the while evoking a surprisingly organic warmth. Along with Marvin Gaye and Isaac Hayes, Wonder brought R&B into the album age, crafting his LPs as cohesive, consistent statements with compositions that often took time to make their point. All of this made Wonder perhaps R&B’s greatest individual auteur, rivaled only by Gaye or, in later days, Prince. Originally, Wonder was a child prodigy who started out in the general Motown mold, but he took control of his vision in the ’70s, spinning off a series of incredible albums that were as popular as they were acclaimed; most of his reputation rests on these works, which most prominently include Talking Book, Innervisions, and Songs in the Key of Life. His output since then has been inconsistent, marred by excesses of sentimentality and less of the progressive imagination of his best work, but it’s hardly lessened the reverence in which he’s long been held.
Tribute to Uncle Ray
.So much has been written about Stevie over the years, it seemed redundant to tread across that same bridge. Instead, what follows are some, hopefully, interesting facts about this true American Wonder.

1. In his 53-year career, he has recorded for only one record label: Tamla, one of the Motown imprints.

2. When he plays keyboards, he doesn’t use his right thumb. 

3. He and Bob Dylan both released their debut albums in 1962. Dylan was 21, Wonder 12.

4. In 1966, his version of Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” reached No. 9 on the pop chart and No. 1 on the R&B chart.

5. Stevland Morris (his legal name) graduated from the Michigan School for the Blind in Lansing.

6. At age 13, he became the youngest person to top Billboard’s Hot 100, with “Fingertips” in 1963, recorded live in concert from the Motown Revue  not only sailed up the Billboard charts, it became the first live track to top the Stateside countdown. On drums? A young Marvin Gaye.

7. He has won 25 Grammys. Only three people have more: conductor Georg Solti (31) and producer Quincy Jones and bluegrass queen Alison Krauss (27 each).

8. He is the only artist to win the Grammy for album of the year for three consecutive albums — 1973’s “Innervisions,” 1974’s, “Fulfillingness’ First Finale” and 1976’s “Songs in the Key of Life.”

9. On 1976’s “Songs in the Key of Life,” Wonder wrote “Isn’t She Lovely” to celebrate the birth of his daughter Aisha. Now Aisha Morris is a backup singer, accompanying her father on a tour in which he’s performing that album in its entirety.

10. In the late 1960s, he once performed in three locations in one night: the Carter Barron Amphitheatre in Washington, D.C.; the Lincoln Memorial (for a show hosted by First Lady Pat Nixon), and in Baltimore, filling in for an ill Marvin Gaye after an hour-long, high-speed limousine ride.

11. His harmonica can be heard on 2015 albums by Mark Ronson, Donny Osmond ,  Melissa Manchester, Chaka Khan, Elton John, Eurythmics and Sting.

12. Hits he’s written for other artists include “Tears of a Clown” for Smokey Robinson, “It’s a Shame” for the Spinners, “Tell Me Something Good” for Rufus and “Let’s Get Serious” for Jermaine Jackson.

13. He has scored 10 No. 1 pop songs and 20 No. 1 R&B songs, but only three of his albums topped Billboard’s chart.

14. During a rehearsal for “The Ed Sullivan Show” in the late ‘60s, a 30-piece orchestra was playing the song Wonder was going to perform that night. He stopped the musicians and told his conductor that one saxophonist had the wrong arrangement. Indeed, the sax man was half a tone lower than everyone else. The conductor hadn’t heard it.

15. He won an Oscar for best song for “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from “The Woman in Red” in 1985. The tune landed at the top of both the pop and R&B charts.

16. He opened for the Rolling Stones STP Tour in 1972.

17. “Music of My Mind,” released in 1972, was an artistic turning point. His songs were longer and more musically ambitious and stylistically diverse. His lyrics were topical, an approach established on 1971’s “Where I’m Coming From,” which was filled with social commentary. On “Music,” for the first time, he played all the instruments except guitar and trombone.

18. He has performed at funerals for friends: Michael Jackson in 2009, Etta James in 2012 and Whitney Houston a month later.

19. In 1973, he was in a serious auto accident while on tour in North Carolina. His car hit the back of a truck. The singer was in a coma for four days and suffered a partial loss of his sense of smell.

20. While on tour, he goes through two to three harmonicas a week. The Hohner Chromonica 280/64 Harmonica is the one played by Stevie Wonder and the standard by which all chromatic harps are judged. Although his primary harmonica is a chromatic rather than the diatonic harmonica typically heard in blues, he occasionally plays diatonic, such as on 1974’s “Boogie on Reggae Woman”). Chromatic has up to 16 holes compared to the 10 holes on diatonic harmonica, so it offers a wider ranger of sounds. But chromatic harmonica is also significantly harder to play. The Chromatic has a scale set up like a piano keyboard, where regular harmonica is on a diatonic scale, so is a totally different monster, a lot more difficult to play. It takes a lot more oxygen. You really have to learn circular breathing. Circular breathing involves breathing in through the nose and storing air in the cheeks to blow through the mouth. Once you have that down, you can start working on the particulars of the Wonder sound — which owes more to jazz than blues and is almost impossible for mere mortals to duplicate. One of Stevie’s big characteristics is to jab the slide forcibly. He’s also basically singing, but using a harmonica to sing with, putting vibrato on it. If you do that and bend the note at the same time, you get a shifting effect. I think the last thing is he gets a sort of fluttering effect with his tongue.

Image result for image of stevie wonder playing the harmonica

21. In the late 1960s in Los Angeles, he played at Marty’s on the Hill, which was both a club and a motel. One of the motel rooms served as dressing room. Walking to the stage, he stepped into the deep end of the motel’s swimming pool. He was dressed in a tuxedo.

22. His 1981 song “Happy Birthday” helped establish Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday as a national holiday.

23. His harmonica can be heard on such hits as Chaka Khan’s “I Feel For You,” Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” and Sting’s “Brand New Day.”

24. Among the other stars with whom Wonder has recorded are Ray Charles, Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Bruce Springsteen, Tony Bennett, John Denver, Snoop Dogg, Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion. Image result for

25. In 2009 he became the second recipient of the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize for pop music, honored by President Barack Obama.

26. A vegan, he travels with his own chef.

27. He has released only one album of new music in this century, 2005’s “A Time to Love,” but he delivered 12 albums in the 1960s and 10 in the ‘70s. He released just four in the ‘80s and three in the ‘90s (one studio, one soundtrack, one live).

28. Matching global hits with a growing interest in studio technology, Stevie recorded an album of instrumentals in 1968. Using the name ‘Rednow Eivets’ – ‘Stevie Wonder’ backwards – the record slipped out under the radar. An important stepping-stone, it came just a few months after Stevie Wonder jammed with Jimi Hendrix during downtime at the BBC. Uniting two titanic black American talents, the moment was to have a profound impact on Wonder’s career.

29.    In 1973, Stevie was riding along with his cousin at the wheel heading to a benefit performance in Durham, NC. He had his headphones on and was heavy into listening to his big hit album at the time, “Innervisions.” The car plowed into a flatbed truck shattering the windshield and giving him a glancing blow to his head. He  would permanently lose his sense of smell, and temporarily lose his sense of taste.  For a year after the accident, he was really just a walking pair of ears.

Stevie Wonder Accident in 1973

30. An early adopter of the Moog synthesiser, Stevie would go on to own the first ever E-mu Emulator – effectively, the first easy-to-afford sampler. Later a staple of the emerging house and techno scenes, Stevie Wonder got there first.

31. Stevie Wonder has met several United States Presidents. Given a special award by Nixon, he was later to blast the Republican on the track ‘You Ain’t Done Nuthin’. However the Motown star was to enjoy more cordial relationships with Barack Obama, who named Stevie Wonder as his favourite artist of all time.  

32.He was born six weeks premature, which, along with the oxygen-rich atmosphere in the hospital incubator, resulted in retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a condition in which the growth of the eyes is aborted and causes the retinas to detach; so he became blind

33. Stevie was married twice, including a 2 year marriage to his song writing partner, the beautiful Syreeta Wright. He produced and performed on her album “Stevie Wonder Introduces Syreeta Wright.” She died of cancer in 2004.

34. This past December, Stevie Wonder’s ninth child was born. He has had children with five different mothers, and they all bear his original last name, Morris. He’s a grandfather, too.

35. His very first child was his daughter Aisha, born in February of 1975. The world celebrated along with Wonder when he released his beautiful song about her, “Isn’t She Lovely,” on his landmark “Songs In The Key Of Life” album. It’s a beautiful father-daughter song, and you can hear baby Aisha playing and gurgling on the track. Now 40 years old, Aisha’s on tour with her dad, singing backing vocals as he tours the country performing the album her song first debuted on.  Image result for images of stevie wonder's daughter

36. Keith Richards once called him something so nasty that I have omitted it from this item. Why? One day, Wonder’s drummer quit the band, and he didn’t feel comfortable performing without him. He let the Stones know he wouldn’t make that night’s gig, and Keith got mad. That’s when the anger erupted, and the name calling went to its fullest expression.

37. Wonder and producer Hank Cosby  once wrote write an instrumental track together, but Wonder couldn’t come up with lyrics that did it justice. He brought the track to the Motown Christmas party and played it for Smokey Robinson, who said it sounded like a circus, and took just a few days to come up with the lyrics. Thus, “The Tracks Of My Tears” was born, and went on to become an international multi-million seller.

38. Aretha Franklin’s “Until You Come Back To Me” is a Stevie Wonder song (co-written with Morris Broadnax and Clarence Paul). He started writing it when he was 13 years old, and when he finally recorded it in the 1960s, it didn’t really go anywhere. In 1977, he called Franklin up late one night to say he had a song for her. “I’ll take it,” she told him. “Send somebody down to get it!” he said back. That’s the story Aretha Franklin told on stage when she and Wonder did the song together at the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards in 2005. Image result for images of stevie wonder with aretha franklin

39.  Has sold over 100 million albums and singles, making him one of the top 60 best-selling music artists.

40. He has recorded more than 30 U.S. top ten hits and received 25 Grammy Awards, the most ever awarded to a male solo artist.

41. Rolling Stone named him the ninth greatest singer of all time.    https://youtu.be/wDZFf0pm0SE

42. Wonder was introduced to Transcendental Meditation through his marriage to Syreeta Wright.

43. Because of Wonder’s age, the Berry Gordy drew up a rolling five-year contract in which royalties would be held in trust until Wonder was 21He and his mother would be paid a weekly stipend to cover their expenses: Wonder received $2.50 a week, and a private tutor was provided for when Wonder was on tour.

 

 

 

 

 

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