Stevie Wonder was born Steveland Hardaway Judkins (later taking the name of Steveland Morris when his mother married) in Saginaw, Michigan on May 13, 1950. Born premature, baby Steveland was placed in an incubator for oxygen treatment. Sadly, he received too much oxygen, causing him to suffer from premature blindness. Though his family didn't know it then, it was actually his loss of sight that later provided Wonder with a heightened awareness of sounds, evident in his vibrant, colorful music. Even as a child, Wonder was never deterred by his handicap, beginning to learn the piano at the age of seven and mastering both the drums and the harmonica by the age of nine. In 1954, Wonder's family moved to Detroit where Steveland joined his church's choir. The already musically inclined child absorbed this gospel influence and increased even further his musical interest.
While performing for some friends in 1961, Wonder was discovered by Ronnie White of the Miracles. White quickly arranged an audition for Wonder at Motown records, where Berry Gordy signed the child prodigy on the spot. Gordy dubbed the child with the name Little Stevie Wonder and placed him in the care of producer/songwriter Clarence Paul. Stevies first two albums were released in 1962: A Tribute to Uncle Ray, which consisted of covers of Stevie's idol Ray Charles, and The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie, a jazz album showcasing his instrumental skills on piano, harmonica, and percussion. Neither of these albums, though they did show Stevie's prodigal talents, sold exceptionally well because they lacked clear musical direction. This all changed in 1963, however, with the release of the jovial live album The 12 Year Old Genius, featuring the single "Figertips, Pt. 2". This harmonica instrumental release shot to the top of both pop and R&B charts, making the album Motown's first chart-topping LP and establishing Wonder's commercial success.
Over the following year, Wonder produced a few more singles but all failed to reach the level of success that "Fingertips, Pt. 2" had. Wonder's voice began to change, compelling his label to place his career temporarily on hold. Stevie did not sit idly by, rather he took up studying classical piano at the Michigan School for the Blind. Wonder reemerged triumphant in 1965, dropping the "Little" portion of his name and releasing the dance oriented smash "Uptight (Everything's Alright)." The song was number one in R&B and reached the Top Five on the pop charts. Wonder co-wrote the song, causing the public to view him as a more mature vocalist, and this led to the similar success of his next release "Nothing's Too Good for My Baby." These singles initiated a run of US Top 40 smashes that continued for over six years.
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