Hangout Music Festival Artist Spotlight: Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder earned his name at a young age but has proved the title his entire life. A wonder he is—with numerous top 40 hits, No. 1 hits, and many live and studio album releases, he is a musician unlike any other. Wonder’s music is catchy and motivational, combining blues, soul, R&B, and pop tune influences. His voice and lyrics are loving, inspiring, and uplifting. This summer, on May 19th, he will headline Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama!
Born Stevland Hardaway Morris, Stevie Wonder went blind shortly after birth in 1950 but was signed to Motown’s Tamla label as a child prodigy musician at age 11. To this day, the talented singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist performs and records for Motown.
Stevie Wonder was raised by a single mother in Detroit, Michigan. He was the third of six children and grew up singing in church choirs and playing instruments. At a very young age he learned to play the piano, harmonica, drums, and bass. After being signed to Motown, his first single, “I Call It Pretty Music, But the Old People Call It the Blues”, was released on Tamla in late 1961. At 13, the prodigy musician had his first hit taken from a live recording of a Motor Town Revue performance entitled “Fingertips (Pt. 2)”. Into the 1960s Wonder continued making hits and recording covers such as Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind”. Between 1968 and 1970, Wonder created several top hits including “I Was Made to Love Her”, “For Once in My Life”, and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” and also worked with other artists including The Spinners. With full creative control over his music contract by the 1970s, America experienced Wonder releasing his No. 1 hits “Superstition”, “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”, “You Haven’t Done Nothin'”, “I Wish”, “Sir Duke”, the Top Ten track “Boogie On Reggae Woman”, and “Isn’t She Lovely?”. He also toured with the Rolling Stones, won three Grammy Awards, created the original Sesame Street soundtrack, recovered from a four day coma after a car accident, performed in Madison Square Garden, toured the United States and Jamaica, and much more! He was a very busy man.
A young Stevie Wonder playing “Superstition” on Sesame Street.
From the 1980s through today, Wonder has continued to create instrumental soul/jazz tracks as well as transforming his blues and classic music into commercial mainstream music with up-tempo beats and tunes appealing to his ever-growing audiences. In 1983, Rolling Stone Record Guide wrote that Wonder “pioneered stylistic approaches that helped to determine the shape of pop music for the next decade.” More recently, Wonder has done collaborations with Paul McCartney, Dionne Warwick, and Michael Jackson and has continued to make soundtracks for TV and movies, made No. 1 Top Hit charts internationally, received a Best Song Academy Award, appeared on shows such as the Cosby Show, and had 4 of 5 albums of his anthology listed in the top 90 of Rolling Stone magazine’s 2003 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. We have also seen Wonder work with artists including Julio Iglesias, Lenny Kravitz, India.Arie, and Snoop Dogg, perform at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and the 2002 Winter Paralympics in Salt Lake City, and appear on American Idol. We continue to see Wonder make singles and records and perform internationally. In 2008 Wonder performed at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, at Michael Jackson’s memorial in 2009, and at Bonnaroo Music Festival in 2010.
Wonder’s music was a big part of my childhood, and maybe some of his songs are important parts of your life too. He must have a loveable, cheerful, deeply soulful, and worldly personality—how else could he have written songs as beautiful as “Superstition”, “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”, “I Just Called to Say I Love You”, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours”, “Ribbon in the Sky”, “Pastime Paradise”, and “Isn’t She Lovely?”. Wonder’s music and presence is powerful, loving, and conscious. He stands for positive social change, feelings of the heart, and love. It is a thrill and honor to see him perform again at Hangout Music Festival. Stevie Wonder hsa some of the greatest talent on Earth—with a lifetime of achievements and international fame under his belt, it is proof he overcame the odds of childhood blindness and social struggles. As a blind multi-genre musician, Wonder has hit the No. 1 charts regularly throughout his lifetime—he is truly an amazing musician and man. Wonder’s upcoming performance is an exciting addition to Hangout’s eclectic lineup. We are so excited to see him and his electric smile brighten the stage, and his performance will definitely be great!