Stevland Hardaway Judkins was born six weeks early in Saginaw, Michigan, on May 13, 1950; he was the third of six children. The oxygen-rich environment of his incubator led to retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). The ROP halted development of his eyes and caused detached retinas. The baby was blind. It didn’t stop him, though.

When he was 4, his parents divorced and his mother changed Stevland’s last name to Morris (hers was Hardaway) and he uses Stevland Hardaway Morris as his legal name today. His world-famous stage name is Stevie Wonder.

Stevie was a child music prodigy who composed his first song — “Lonely Boy” — at age 11. He performed it for Ronnie White, of the Motown R&B soul supergroup, the Miracles. White was so impressed he introduced Wonder to legendary Motown producer, Berry Gordy, who immediately signed him, established a trust fund to stockpile his royalties until the boy turned 21, hired him a private tutor, and paid he and his mother a weekly stipend to cover their expenses on tour.

Little Stevie Wonder grew up to be a musical powerhouse known and loved the world over. Some of his many noted accomplishments include:

  • Released his first single — “I Call It Pretty Music, But the Old People Call It the Blues” — at age 12.
  • At 13, Wonder’s song, “Fingertips,” reached the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • “Fingertips” made him the youngest person ever to top Billboard’s chart.
  • It also put him at #1 on the magazine’s R&B slot.
  • At 13, he was the first artist ever to top both the Hot 100 and R&B charts at the same time.
  • At 14, he played himself in two “Beach” movies that were the craze of the 1960s.
  • 30+ top 10 hits in the US.
  • 22 Grammy Awards (more than any other male solo artist).
  • 100+ million albums and singles sold.
  • In the top 60 best-selling music artists of all times.
  • #5 position in the 2008 Billboard magazine’s list of “Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists.”
  • His album, Innervisions, is #23 in Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.
  • 1976’s double album, Songs in the Key of Life, was the first album by an American to debut at the top of the Billboard charts, where it remained for 14 weeks.
  • Songs in the Key of Life is #56 on the Rolling Stone list of 500 greatest albums.
  • The song, “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” won the Best Song Academy Award in 1985, was #1 on Pop and R&B charts in the US and the UK, and #13 best-selling single in the UK in 2002.
  • Wonder’s been inducted to the Songwriters and the Rock and Roll Halls of Fame.
  • Rolling Stone considers him the #9 greatest singer of all time.

Other achievements include:

  • 1980 campaign to declare Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday a federal holiday.
  • 2009 named a United Nations Messenger of Peace.

In addition to humanitarian causes, songwriting, music performance and production, and his work in film and on TV, Wonder plays the bass guitar, bongos, clavinet, congas, drums, harmonica, melodica, organ, piano, and synthesizer. He married twice and fathered seven children.

Source: “Stevie Wonder: Chronology of Coverage.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company. n.d. Web. Jun 2, 2014.