Stevie Wonder, born Steveland Morris, was made blind as the result of a hospital error soon after his birth. He began playing the harmonica at five, started piano lessons at six and then took up the drums at eight. In addition to being an award winning musical innovator, Stevie Wonder is a humanitarian who has used his music to support a number of social causes. In support of making Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday a national holiday, Wonder released \"Happy Birthday\" (1980), a song celebrating Dr. King. The song became a hit and a rallying cry for the King Holiday.
He started his musical career by playing at the local church and soon became something of a neighbourhood sensation.
Ronnie White of the Miracles arranged an audition with Motown Records' Berry Gordy Jr, who quickly signed him and named him "Little" Stevie Wonder.
His first album, 'Little Stevie Wonder the 12 Year Old Genius', made the child a huge star, and gave Stevie a number one hit with single 'Fingertips'. The following year, he enrolled in the Michigan School for the Blind, where he studied classical piano.
His late teen years saw continued success, with songs such as 'Uptight (Everything's Alright)'. Stevie worked on improving his skills as a songwriter, and producer, and he co-wrote most of his singles from 1967 onward. In 1971, he invested in his own recording studio, Taurus Productions, and recorded two albums on his own.
With these two albums, Stevie negotiated a contract with Motown that allowed him more freedom in artistic matters and a higher royalty percentage. His singles distinguished themselves with socially conscious subjects.
Throughout the early 1970’s, Wonder practically swept all possible Grammy awards, winning Best R & B Artist, Best Album, Best Song, and Best Male Vocal.
Wonder's 1972 tour with the Rolling Stones introduced him to a huge white audience, but this period was not all positive. His first marriage was coming to an end, and on August 6, 1973, Wonder was in a serious car crash. He was left him in a coma for four days and resulted in a partial loss of his sense of smell and a temporary loss of sense of taste.
The 1980's saw Wonder scoring his biggest hits and reaching an unprecedented level of fame, evidenced by increased album sales, high-profile collaborations and television appearances.
‘Hotter than July’ (1980) became his first platinum selling album, and its single 'Happy Birthday' was actually used in a campaign to establish Dr Martin Luther King's birthday as a US national holiday.
After 1987's 'Characters' album, Wonder continued to release new material, but at a slower pace.
The late Eighties were spent working on Conversation Piece, which was released to critical acclaim. Duets with Michael Jackson ('Get It') and Julio Iglesias ('My Love') and Paul McCartney ('Ebony and Ivory') kept Wonder's name in the public eye.
In 1989 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Throughout the 1990s, Stevie continued making important music. 'Conversation Peace', eight years in the making, was well worth the wait when it was released in 1994. 'For Your Love' won two Grammys at the 1996 Grammy Awards for Best R & B Song and Best R & B Male vocal. That same year Wonder was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award due to his outstanding musical career.
Wonder's extensive humanitarian work has included AIDS awareness, anti-apartheid efforts, crusades against drunk driving and drug and physical abuse, and fund raising for the blind children and the homeless. He continues to often release music and raise more awareness by addressing these serious issues. In 1992, Wonder performed for the winter Paralympics and in 1995 for the Live 8 Concert.
In 2001, Wonder married for the second time to fashion designer Kai Milla Morris, and currently has 4 children with her, as well as another 3 by his previous wife and a previous partner.
In 2005, Wonder released his first album in 10 years, called ‘A time to Love’. He has also performed duets with more recent artists including Snoop Dog, Dr Dre, Busta Rhymes, and Andrea Bocelli.
On 2nd August 2007, Stevie Wonder announced the ‘A Wonder Summer's Night’ 13 concert tour — his first US tour in over ten years. This tour was inspired by the recent passing of his mother. He continued his tour throughout Europe.
In August 2008, on the day Barack Obama accepted his party's nomination to run for President of the United States, Wonder performed at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. He additionally performed on Inauguration Day. On February 23, 2009, Wonder became the second recipient of the Library of Congress's for Popular Song, honored by President Barack Obama at the White House.
Overall, Wonder has had 10 number one hits on the pop charts, and 20 R&B number one hits, and album sales totaling more than 100 million units. As well as this, he has produced and collaborated with a multitude of other successful artists. Wonder plays the piano, synthesizer, harmonica, congas, drums, bass guitar, bongos, organ, melodica, and clavinet.
According to britishhitsongwriters.com he is the eleventh most successful songwriter in U.K. chart history based on weeks that his compositions have spent on the chart.