When people ask me what my top 10 favourite albums are , I find it impossible to give a definitive answers, because over the years that has changed. However there are a few albums that will always be in that top 10, ‘Songs in the Key of life’ by Stevie Wonder is one of them.
Stevie Wonder was born Stevland Hardaway Judkins on May 13, 1950, in Saginaw, Michigan. He was born six weeks early with retinopathy of prematurity, an eye disorder which was exacerbated when he received too much oxygen in an incubator, leading to blindness.
When Stevie Wonder was four, his mother divorced his father and moved with her (at the time) three children to Detroit, Michigan, where Wonder sang as a child in a choir at the Whitestone Baptist Church.
He lost his sight as a newborn when he came into the world six weeks early with retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), an eye disorder caused by abnormal blood vessels throughout the retina. Receiving too much oxygen in the incubator likely worsened the condition for the tiny baby, leaving him blind.
Despite growing up in poverty and blind, this didn’t stop Stevie to live a full life and fulfill his dreams. He grew up to become one of the most recognized musicians of the 20th century and he is still active today.
He showed an early gift for music, first with a church choir in Detroit, Michigan, and later with a range of instruments, including the harmonica, piano and drums, all of which he taught himself before age 10.
In 1961, when aged 11, Wonder sang his own composition, “Lonely Boy”, to Ronnie White of the Miracles. White then took Wonder and his mother to an audition at Motown, where CEO Berry Gordy signed Wonder to Motown’s label. Before signing, producer Clarence Paul gave him the name Little Stevie Wonder.
He made his recording debut at age 11, with the album “The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie” including the single “Fingertips” written and composed by Clarence Paul and Henry Cosby.
Lifelong blindness isn’t the only health issue that Wonder has battled. In 1973, he was in a near-death car crash when the sedan he was in collided with a truck. Wonder suffered a head injury and was in a coma for four days.
He has been married three times. First he was married to Motown singer-songwriter and frequent collaborator Syreeta Wright from 1970 until their amicable divorce in 1972. From 2001 until 2012 he was married to fashion designer Kai Millard. In October 2009, Wonder and Millard divorced in August 2012. In 2017 he married Tomeeka Bracy.
Romantically he has been a busy man. He has nine children by five different women. The mother of Wonder’s first child is Yolanda Simmons, whom Wonder met when she applied for a job as secretary for his publishing company. Simmons gave birth to Wonder’s daughter Aisha Morris on February 2, 1975.] After Aisha was born, Wonder said “she was the one thing that I needed in my life and in my music for a long time”.Aisha was the inspiration for Wonder’s hit single “Isn’t She Lovely?”
She is now a singer who has toured with her father and accompanied him on recordings, including his 2005 album A Time to Love. Wonder and Simmons also had a son, Keita, in 1977.
Stevie Wonder has been given a range of awards, both for his music and for his civil rights work, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Civil Rights Museum, being named one of the United Nations Messengers of Peace, and earning a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2014.
In December 2016, the City of Detroit recognized Wonder’s legacy by renaming a portion of his childhood street, Milwaukee Avenue West, between Woodward Avenue and Brush Street, as “Stevie Wonder Avenue”. He was also awarded an honorary key to the city, presented by Mayor Mike Duggan.
He has won 25 Grammy Awards, as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996. He is one of only two artists and groups who have won the Grammy for Album of the Year three times as the main credited artist, along with Frank Sinatra. Wonder is the only artist to have won the award with three consecutive album releases.
Stevie Wonder has always been an inspiration to me especially in more recent times. In 2011 I lost my right eye and in 2015 I nearly lost my left eye too, luckily they were able to safe it , but for about 6 months I was blind.
Finishing up with one of my favourite tracks of the aforementioned album ‘Songs in the Key of Life” “Sir Duke”.
“Music is a world within itself
With a language we all understand
With an equal opportunity
For all to sing, dance and clap their hands”
Happy Birthday Stevie
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