Happy Birthday To You!
Stevie Wonder wrote “Happy Birthday” in 1981 dedicating it to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday. Wonder was instrumental in the movement to designate Dr. King’s birthday as a national holiday and the song was a fitting tribute.
Stevie Wonder is one of the most prolific singer/songwriters in the music business. He has recorded more than 30 U.S. top ten hits and received 25 Grammy Awards, the most ever awarded to a male solo artist. He has sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the top 60 best-selling music artists. In 2013, Billboard magazine released a list of the Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists to celebrate the US singles chart’s 55th anniversary, with Wonder at number six.
Growing up in Motown, my memories of Stevie go all the way back to when he was “little Stevie Wonder” and the song “Fingertips” Part 1 and 2. I felt so proud he was from my city and listened to and gleefully soaked up all his brilliance!
In 1963 at the Regal Theater in Chicago, his 20-minute performance of “Fingertips” as part of the Motown Revue was recorded and released in May 1963 as the album Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius. “Fingertips”, was also released that month and became a major hit.
Stevie’s always been able to tap into emotions and address not only relationship but political and civil rights issues of the day. In his hit from the album, “Songs in the Key of Life”, “I Wish” he brought back loving, youthful memories of growing up in Detroit. “I wish those days would come back once more…cause I love ’em so!” There wasn’t a “let’s skip over this song” on the entire album.
Known by his stage name Stevie Wonder, he has garnered a decades-long career as a musician, singer, songwriter, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist. A child prodigy, he became one of the most critically and commercially successful musical performers of the late 20th century. Wonder signed with Motown’s Tamla label at the age of 11 and has continued to perform and record for Motown as of the early 2010s. He has been blind since shortly after birth due to retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a condition in which the growth of the eyes is aborted and causes the retinas to detach .
Stevie Wonder’s classic 1970s albums were very influential in the music world: the 1983 Rolling Stone Record Guide said they “pioneered stylistic approaches that helped to determine the shape of pop music for the next decade”; Rolling Stone‘s 2003 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time included four of the five albums, with three in the top 90.
In 2009, Wonder was presented with the Gershwin Prize by President Obama.
Let’s all wish Stevie a big Happy Birthday!