Blind from birth, Stevie Wonder (1950-) first became famous as Little Stevie Wonder as a supporting act on the Motown Records roster. He could play keyboards and various percussion instruments, but it was his harmonica talents that most impressed Berry Gordy, and featured in Wonder's first hit, "Fingertips Part 2" (1963), a live recording of a mostly impromptu performance. (Listen closely, and you'll hear the bassist for Martha Reeves and the Vandellas stammering, "What key? What key?" after he got on stage thinking Stevie was done performing.)
Even at his young age, Wonder attempted to be progressive with his singing and song choices, notably his recording the Bob Dylan song "Blowin' In the Wind" which some at Motown thought was a mistake. While several of his 1960s hits, particularly "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" and his cover of "For Once In My Life", have proved durable, it's his material starting with 1972's Talking Book up through 1976's Songs in the Key of Life that are probably his most popular and critically well regarded. These songs even broke the alleged Album Rock "color barrier", thanks in no small part to his performing the Talking Book material on a tour with The Rolling Stones at that time.
Today, Wonder is still revered by many, though his days as a major radio force are essentially over. He's also known for his political activism, up to his very vocal endorsing and supporting of Barack Obama.
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Wonder does this hilariously in the intro to "Don't You Worry About a Thing".
- Blind Black Guy
- Blind Musician
- Child Prodigy: Began his career at a young age and topped the charts with the live album The 12 Year Old Genius. He still holds the record for the youngest artist to get to number one.
- Epic Rocking: "Living for the City", "Love's in Need of Love Today", "As", "Another Star".
- Genre Adultery: Journey Through "The Secret Life of Plants".
- Handicapped Badass
- I Am the Band: Literally! He plays keyboards, bass, drums, and harmonica. Many songs are all him except for backing vocals, guitar, and horns.
- Little Boy Blue Note: He started when he was seven.
- Melismatic Vocals
- Protest Song
- Sesame Street Cred: His 1970s appearance on Sesame Street where he performs "Superstition" and the theme song is one of the classic moments of the series.
- Spoken Word in Music: "Living for the City".
- Take That: "He's Misstra Know It All" and "You Haven't Done Nothin'", about Richard Nixon
- Truck Driver's Gear Change: Frequently.
- Uptown Girl: Uptight (Everything Is Alright) by Stevie Wonder.
- Your Cheating Heart: "Lately".