There, he planned to devote his considerable energy to assisting handicapped children and other humanitarian causes. Brightly colored dashiki tunics replaced his standard Motown-issue mod suits, an outward expression of the changes he felt within. Wonder briefly touched on his fascination with the African nation in a interview with Rolling Stone , and soon these abstract notions began to solidify into something more concrete.
During a press conference in Los Angeles the following March, he tentatively announced a final concert tour slated for the end of — when his recording contract was set to expire — with all proceeds earmarked for Ghanaian charities. He hardly needed the leverage. Knowing that he stood to lose his most consistent seller to a life of philanthropy — or lucrative offers from rivals at Epic and Arista Records — the label chief was prepared to move mountains of cash.
At the time, it was the biggest deal that had ever been done in the music industry. But I had to do it, because there was no way I was going to lose Stevie. In addition to the financial windfall, the contract also offered Wonder the creative freedom to work anywhere he wanted, with any artist he desired, and veto power over any potential singles.
They never had an artist in 13 years. They had single records, they managed to create a name in certain areas, but they never came through with a major, major artist. The contract did a lot for Wonder, but Motown had done a lot for him. The imprint was a shining African-American success story. It is vital that people in our business — particularly the black creative community, including artists, writers and producers — make sure that Motown stays emotionally stable, spiritually strong and economically healthy.
I believe in him enough to do this. I believe in the gamble. With the technicalities in place, Wonder immersed himself in a new project — his 18th album since The final title came to him in a dream: Songs in the Key of Life. For Wonder, the banner was a personal dare to expand his compositional range. It was a challenge he met head on, working to the point of obsession. More often than not, he could be found in one of those spaces, sometimes for 48 hours at a time, chasing his muse with a rotating crew of engineers and support musicians.
He did more songs in those two years I think than he had done before. Though the exact count is unknown, Wonder claims to have recorded several hundred tracks during the Songs in the Key of Life sessions — nearly all of which remain in the vault. Then Wonder called him from the recording studio and casually informed him that he had added another verse. Could he whip up some more lyrics in the next 10 minutes? The band was waiting. We went to the studio and that was where you were.
In addition to his loyal crew, Wonder had a secret weapon: a state-of-the-art analogue synthesizer called the Yamaha GX The enormous instrument boasted three keyboards, multi-octave foot pedals, ribbon controller, a galaxy of buttons to recall sounds and modulate pitches, and even a built-in bench. Along with the gargantuan size came a gargantuan cost. Intended as a prototype for future consumer synths, only a handful were ever made — let alone sold.
Wonder bought two. The GX-1 had much to recommend itself to the multi-instrumentalist. Realistic for the time instrument samples allowed him to single-handedly layer complex orchestral beds. And unlike others synths available in that era, it was polyphonic, which allowed him to play multiple keys at once and create lush backing tracks in a fraction of the time.
The devotees were pulled in off the street on in a spur-of-the-moment burst of creativity. Crystal Studios was located in the east side of Hollywood, not far from the local headquarters. The main room was not very live-sounding, but it was very big. The blend of higher consciousness and social consciousness, the eternal and the urgent, gave voice to the dreams swirling inside the young maestro.
But it was another vocal cameo that hit closest to home. It went on to win an Academy award for best song in Wonder accepted the award in the name of Nelson Mandela and was subsequently banned from all South African radio by the Government of South Africa.
Incidentally, on the occasion of his 35th birthday, Stevie Wonder was honored by the United Nations Special Committee Against Apartheid for his stance against racism in South Africa that same year Following the success of the album and its lead single, Wonder made an appearance on The Cosby Show , in the episode "A Touch of Wonder" where he demonstrated his ability to sample.
The following year's In Square Circle featured the No. The album also has a Top 10 Hit with "Go Home". It also featured the ballad " Overjoyed ", which was originally written for Journey Through "The Secret Life of Plants" , but did not make the album. He performed "Overjoyed" on Saturday Night Live when he was the host. This was a minor hit single, as were "Skeletons" and "You Will Know". After 's Characters album, Wonder continued to release new material, but at a slower pace.
He recorded a soundtrack album for Spike Lee 's film Jungle Fever in Conversation Peace and the live album Natural Wonder were released in the s. Among his other activities he played harmonica on one track for the tribute album Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved ;  sang at the Summer Olympics closing ceremony ;  collaborated in with Babyface on " How Come, How Long ", a song about domestic violence that was nominated for a Grammy award;  and played harmonica on Sting 's " Brand New Day ".
He sings the refrain and plays the piano on the Dr. Dre - and Sha Money XL —produced track. In , Wonder staged a duet with Andrea Bocelli on the latter's album Amore , offering harmonica and additional vocals on "Canzoni Stonate". Wonder also performed at Washington, D. Wonder's first new album in ten years, A Time to Love , was released in October to lower sales than previous albums, and lukewarm reviews—most reviewers appearing frustrated at the end of the long delay to get an album that mainly copied the style of Wonder's "classic period" without doing anything new.
Arena in Manchester. He sang at the Michael Jackson memorial service in ,  at Etta James ' funeral, in ,  a month later at Whitney Houston 's memorial service,  and at the funeral of Aretha Franklin in He was also featured on two tracks on Mark Ronson 's album Uptown Special.
In October , Wonder announced that he had a new vanity label released via Republic Records , So What the Fuss Records, marking the first time his music was not released through Motown Records. The announcement was paired with the release of two singles: " Can't Put It in the Hands of Fate ", a "socially-conscious" funk track, and "Where Is Our Love Song", whose proceeds will go towards the organization Feeding America.
By June , Wonder was working on two projects simultaneously: a new album called The Gospel Inspired By Lula , which will deal with the various spiritual and cultural crises facing the world, and Through The Eyes Of Wonder , an album he has described as a performance piece that will reflect his experience as a blind man. Wonder was also keeping the door open for a collaboration with Tony Bennett and Quincy Jones concerning a rumored jazz album. In , Wonder revealed that he had been recording new material for two albums, When the World Began and Ten Billion Hearts , in collaboration with producer David Foster , to be released in In October , while promoting his two recent singles, Wonder mentioned both Through the Eyes of Wonder and The Gospel Inspired by Lula as projects in development, with the former as an album that may feature both singles, and the latter as a future album he may record with his former label Motown.
Wonder is one of the most notable popular music figures of the second half of the 20th century. He is one of the most successful songwriters and musicians. In , Wonder used Computer Music Inc. This was his first digital recording and one of the earliest popular albums to use the technology, which Wonder used for all subsequent recordings.
He recorded several critically acclaimed albums and hit singles, and also writes and produces songs for many of his label mates and outside artists as well. In his childhood, he was best known for his harmonica work, but today he is better known for his keyboard skills and vocal ability. He also plays the piano, synthesizer, harmonica, congas , drums, bongos , organ, melodica and Clavinet. Wonder has been credited as a pioneer and influence to musicians of various genres including pop, rhythm and blues , soul , funk and rock.
Wonder's "classic period" is generally agreed to be between and For me, it's the best album ever made, and I'm always left in awe after I listen to it. When people in decades and centuries to come talk about the history of music, they will talk about Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder [ He's so multitalented that it's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes him one of the greatest ever.
But first, there's that voice. Elton John on Stevie Wonder. Wonder's albums during his "classic period" were considered very influential in the music world: the Rolling Stone Record Guide said they "pioneered stylistic approaches that helped to determine the shape of pop music for the next decade";  In , American recording artist Kanye West said of his own work, "I'm not trying to compete with what's out there now.
I'm really trying to compete with Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life. It sounds musically blasphemous to say something like that, but why not set that as your bar? Wonder's "classic period"—the polite phrase for when Stevie spent five years ferociously dunking on the entire history of popular music with the releases of Music of My Mind, Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness' First Finale, and Songs in the Key of Life [ Wonder has recorded more than 30 U.
He has sold over million records, Wonder won 25 Grammy Awards  the most ever won by a solo artist as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award. His albums of the "classic period", Innervisions , Fulfillingness' First Finale and Songs in the Key of Life , all won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year , making him the tied-record holder for the most Album of the Year wins , with three.
Wonder is also noted for his work as an activist for political causes, including his campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr. Wonder has been married three times. He was married to Motown singer-songwriter and frequent collaborator Syreeta Wright from until their amicable divorce in From until he was married to fashion designer Kai Millard.
Wonder has nine children with five women. Wonder and Simmons also had a son, Keita, in Wonder's ninth child, his second with Tomeeka Robyn Bracy, was born in December , amid rumors that he would be the father to triplets. Wonder was introduced to Transcendental Meditation through his marriage to Syreeta Wright. Dozens of famous personalities were rounded up in the video, which was titled "The Dream Still Lives".
Each person involved shared their dream, calling back to King's popular speech in Wonder's first tweet took the Internet by storm, and he also encouraged viewers to share their own videos about their dreams with the hashtag DreamStillLives. Wonder has been a longtime Baptist affiliated with black churches. He closed the ceremony with a rendition of the Lord's Prayer and his song " As ". At a concert in London's Hyde Park on July 6, , Wonder announced that he would be undergoing a kidney transplant in September.
Wonder is the only artist to have won the award with three consecutive album releases. Wonder has been given a range of awards, both for his music and for his civil rights work, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Civil Rights Museum , being named one of the United Nations Messengers of Peace , and earning a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in He was also awarded an honorary key to the city, presented by Mayor Mike Duggan.
Stevie Wonder has received many honorary degrees in recognition of his music career. These include:. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. American musician and record producer born Saginaw, Michigan , U. Singer songwriter musician record producer. Syreeta Wright. Kai Millard.
Tomeeka Bracy. Vocals keyboards harmonica drums. Musical artist. This list is incomplete ; you can help by adding missing items. December Main article: Stevie Wonder discography. The Guardian. Retrieved July 26, The New Yorker. Daily News Egypt. May 18, Retrieved July 27, Time Out. ISBN The Independent.
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