Stevie Wonder is a musician whom all music fans, including Tunde Folawiyo, are probably familiar with. He is one of the most successful R&B and pop artists in the world, having had over 30 top ten hits in the USA, and received 22 Grammy Awards. Over the course of his career, he has sold more than 100 million singles and albums.
Blind since shortly after birth, Wonder began to take an interest in music from a very early age. After his family moved to Detroit in the mid-fifties, he joined a local choir, and despite being just four years old, soon became the group’s star performer. He was an extraordinarily quick learner when it came to music, and within five years, had taken up the harmonica, the drums and the piano.
When he turned 13 in 1963, he recorded an album; it became a US no. 1 hit, and was the first ever live recording to achieve this level of success. Throughout the sixties, he released a string of singles, all of which were very well-received by the general public. However, towards the end of this decade, his voice deepened considerably, and as a result, his music career was temporarily put on hold. Because of this, he chose to attend the Michigan School for the Blind, where he took lessons in classical piano.
He also used his free time to develop other skills, relating to production, musicianship and song writing. By the time the seventies rolled around, he was proficient in almost every aspect of music-making. This decade saw Wonder enter an experimental period, during which he introduced the world to the use of synthesizers, which allowed him to seamlessly blend acoustic and electronic sounds. In 1973, he became the first African-American to receive a Grammy in the category of ‘Best Album of the Year’.
The eighties were equally, if not more successful; he was involved in many high profile musical collaborations, his album sales soared, and he started to become heavily involved in charity work. As a music lover, Tunde Folawiyo might recall that it was during this period that Wonder also enjoyed his first platinum album, ‘Hotter than July’. His humanitarian activities included fighting against Apartheid in the South Africa, performing on Martin Luther King’s National Holiday, and carrying out fundraising for Disaster Relief and several cancer charities.