Today we honor and celebrate one of the most successful musicians of the rock era, Stevie Wonder. Stevland Hardaway Morris was born blind in Michigan in 1950. He signed with Motown records at the tender age of 11 and has stayed with the label for 50 years. During that time, his career has been virtually unparalleled as he has composed dozens of classic songs and racked up a huge number of hits on the pop and R&B charts.
When Billboard magazine celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Hot 100 in 2008, Wonder was ranked #5 all-time, the highest ranking for an African-American performer. He has 65 hits, 27 in the Top 10 and nine going all the way to #1 (for a total of 21 weeks at the top). He’s also the 4th biggest performer on the R&B charts with 72 hits, 48 Top 10 and 19 #1s (second only to Aretha Franklin) spending 67 weeks at the top. Wonder has also won 22 Grammy Awards and numerous other musical accolades.
Throughout his career, Wonder has defied categorization and expectations, creating new sounds with each album and crafting lyrical and keyboard parts that challenge anyone else who attempts them. He helped revolutionize the use of synthesizers and electronic keyboards, making warm soungs from cold instruments. He has also used his fame to improve the world, pushing for civil rights (including an instrumental role in the creation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service). In 2009, he was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace in recognition of his work. You have to love our Stevie Wonder! Just to be a bit self-indulgent here, I have to link to one of my favorites.