Stevie Wonder grew up in Detroit, Michigan, singing in the church choir and following his musical talent into piano, harmonica, and drums. When he was 11, he earned an audience with Motown's Berry Gordy. The rest, as they say, is history.
Working with producer/songwriter Clarence Paul, Wonder started releasing albums in 1962 with A Tribute to Uncle Ray and The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie as the first out. The next year, The 12-Year Old Genius live collection found success with the "Fingertips, Pt. 2" single. Motown had its first number one record.
As he matured, so did his sound, as evidenced on early singles like "Uptight (Everything's Alright)," "Nothing's Too Good for My Baby," "Blowin' in the Wind," and "A Place in the Sun." Now co-writing most of his songs and beginning to produce, as well, Wonder continued to break into the R&B Top 10 with "Hey Love," "I Was Made to Love Her," "For Once in My Life," "Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day," "You Met Your Match," and "I Don't Know Why."
By 1969, Wonder was a regular feature in the upper reaches of the R&B charts, while also enjoying some crossover success in the pop world. "My Cherie Amour," "Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday," and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" all got tacked onto his list of hits.
Wonder turned 21 in 1971 and finally got to tap his trust fund of royalties. The rite of passage was also marked by the release of his first fully self-produced, fully self-written effort, Where I'm Coming From. It wasn't as big of a success as previous releases.
After renegotiating his deal with Motown, Wonder enjoyed more creative freedom, along with a higher royalty rate and retained ownership. The first project completed under the new deal was Music of My Mind which found Wonder writing, producing, and playing pretty much every note. He went on tour with the Rolling Stones to support the album.
Later that same year, Talking Book saw Wonder continue to hone his craft and create one of the best R&B albums in music history. Both "Superstition" and "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" hit number one and won Grammy Awards.
With 1973's Innervisions, Wonder injected a healthy dose of social consciousness into tunes like "Living for the City" and "Higher Ground." The Grammy for Album of the Year was his for the taking. That feat was replicated in 1974 with Fulfillingness' First Finale which yielded two hits in "Boogie On, Reggae Woman" and "You Haven't Done Nothin'."
The next couple of years were dedicated to crafting 1976's opus Songs in the Key of Life. Instant classic hits like "Sir Duke," "I Wish," "Isn't She Lovely," and "Pastime Paradise" helped the collection earn yet another Album of the Year Grammy trophy.
It was three years before Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants dropped. Neither fans nor critics really flocked to it. Wonder countered the next year with the platinum-selling Hotter Than July. Though Wonder set out to make a new album, it didn't materialize.
Instead, his "Ebony and Ivory" duet with Paul McCartney had to fill the gap, along with the Original Musiquarium I greatest-hits collection that included four new cuts, "That Girl" and "Do I Do" among them.
Yet another tangential project filled 1984, The Woman in Red soundtrack which yielded the massive, Oscar-winning hit "I Just Called to Say I Love You." Finally, in 1985, Square Circle saw daylight, went platinum, and spawned a number one hit in "Part Time Lover." In 1989, Wonder was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
After that, collaborations like "We Are the World" and "That's What Friends Are For" started to fill his dance card before 1987's Characters, 1991's soundtrack for Jungle Fever, and 1995's Conversation Peace. Also in 1995, Coolio tapped Wonder's "Pastime Paradise" as the foundation of his "Gangsta's Paradise" and enjoyed the year's top hit.
With that introduction to a new generation of fans, Motown began reissuing old Wonder packages. In 2005, Stevie was back with A Time to Love which harkened back to his classic style and featured a troupe of guest artists, including Prince, Bonnie Raitt, Paul McCartney, India.Arie, Doug E. Fresh, and others.