R&B and Soul
By Stevie WonderUpdated Jun 2021
Dubbed “Little Stevie Wonder” by Motown’s Berry Gordy, he was signed to the label when he was only 12 years old and was just 13 when the live recording “Fingertips (Part 2)” hit no. 1 pop and R&B. Playing…
Dubbed “Little Stevie Wonder” by Motown’s Berry Gordy, he was signed to the label when he was only 12 years old and was just 13 when the live recording “Fingertips (Part 2)” hit no. 1 pop and R&B. Playing harmonica, drums and keyboards, as well as singing, the boy who had been blind from infancy proved aptly named. While still a teenager--dropping the “Little” from his stage name--he earned seven top 10 pop singles, including “For Once In My Life,” “My Cherie Amour,” “Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday,” “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” and “I Was Made To Love Her.”
By age 20, he was self-sufficient in the studio, writing, playing every instrument and serving as his own producer, including for such hits as “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” and “If You Really Love Me.” He broadened his vision from pure pop to the socially conscious. He began exploring exotic musical ideas incorporating gospel, rock, jazz, reggae, and African and Latin American rhythms, and pioneered the use of synthesizers. Turning 21 in 1971, Stevie holed up in a New York studio and refused to sign with Motown until he was given autonomy to record as he please. Motown agreed and the groundbreaking Music Of My Mind was released followed the next year. Later that year came Talking Book, which boasted the no. 1 pop and R&B hits “Superstition” and “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life.” Innervisions, featuring the Top 10 hit “Higher Ground,” “Don’t You Worry ’Bout A Thing” and the epic “Living For The City,” was a landmark LP that became the his first of three consecutive Grammy® Albums of the Year.
While the record was riding high, Wonder was in a near-fatal accident. He recovered to record another deeply felt album, Fulfillingness’ First Finale, in 1974, that featured the no. 1 pop “You Haven’t Done Nothin’” (with the Jackson 5 on background vocals) and no. 1 R&B “Boogie On Reggae Woman.”
Songs In The Key Of Life was an instant no. 1 album, the first by an American artist to debut at the top spot, where it remained for an incredible 14 weeks. It was highlighted by the no. 1 pop and R&B hits “I Wish” and “Sir Duke.” By the late seventies, Wonder was also leading the way in New Age instrumental music with the soundtrack album Journey Through The Secret Life Of Plants, which featured the ballad hit “Send One Your Love.” He won 15 Grammys in just four years.
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