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Stevie Wonder is one of the most renowned musicians whose music career has shaped the American music industry. Born in 1950, he started his music career at a tender age and he went on to become a celebrated musician in early 1970s. Though blind ever since he was born, his inability to see did not put him away from playing musical instruments such as the bass guitar, harmonica, drums, piano, flute, and others.
Besides his music career, Stevie is also famed for advocating for the establishment of the Martin Luther King, Junior’s memorial birthday as a national holiday in the United States. In addition, the United Nations named him a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2009. He has received numerous music awards and recognitions for his outstanding performance in musical career. He is a clear indication that disability does not amount to inability as he has achieved greatly in the music arena despite his blindness.
Stevie Wonder was born on “May 13, 1950 in Saginaw Michigan as third born child to Calvin Judkins and Lula Mae Hardaway” (Brown 19). Unfortunately, he was born six weeks premature and consequently he developed eye problems that rendered him blind shortly after birth. At age four, he moved with his mother to Detroit after her separation with his father. At an early age, Stevie was active in the church choir where he showed prowess in playing musical instruments such as piano, harmonica, drums, flute, and bass guitar (Werner 72).
His music prowess is inspiring to many people across the world since he got into the musical career. He has received numerous awards due to outstanding performance. In addition, his musical prowess in jazz, rock and roll, R&B, and soul seem to have been improving, as he gets older. This paper explores his source of motivation for his outstanding musical prowess with regard to his blindness.
Stevie Wonder started his music career in the church where Gerald White recognized his outstanding performance in music at a tender age of eleven years. White introduced Stevie to his brother, Ronnie White, who took his mother and Stevie to Motown productions.
Motown’s CEO, “Berry Gordy, was greatly impressed by Stevie’s outstanding performance and he signed him to Motown’s Tamla label as Little Stevie Wonder” (Brown 79). This move marked a great milestone in Stevie’s career. He had a passion for music at a tender age, which then lifted him to being signed at Motown.
His early rising in music career was internally motivated by passion considering his tender age and blindness. He was not exposed much to the music industry considering that the music industry had not yet developed to the level of reaching out to little children like is the case today. Besides passion, Stevie was born with a musical talent and hence he could not struggle to improve his skills in music, as is the case of an acquired passion or talent (Cramer 34).
Source of motivation in his childhood
A child’s talent is vulnerable to external events that bring about psychological conflicts in the child’s mind. According to Berk (70), a child of age between five and twelve years needs closer attention of a caregiver since at this stage a child develops the ability to reason logically. Other events take place in a child’s psychology due to growth and development, but most important it is the stage of self-discovery and mastery (Berk 71).
From the Stevie’s story, his mother was always close to him as he developed in musical talent and she accompanied her son to Motown for his meeting with the CEO before being signed. Hence, his mother played a crucial role of inspiring and motivating him during his childhood. Moreover, White made a great contribution to Stevie’s life by discovering his outstanding talent and introducing him to the Motown CEO who latter offered him great opportunities for his musical career.
Stevie came into the public limelight in 1963, at age thirteen, after the release of the album, The 12 Year Old Genius, which was a live recording. The major hit of the album was the “Fingertips (Pt.2) single that was taken from a live recording performance of the Motor Town Revue where Stevie was featured on vocals, bongos, and harmonica whereas Marvin Gaye was the dramatist” (Love and Brown 23).
The good reception of the new hit by the audience made it the best on Billboard Hot 100, and consequently made him the youngest artist to emerge the best in its history, but this success did not stop him from putting more effort towards his career growth.
Stevie, despite becoming a public figure at a tender age, did not change his character, neither did he relax in his career; instead, he was motivated to put more effort in his musical career. This aspect is very inspiring considering the modern world whereby youths take their public consciousness as platforms for showing off. However, his maintenance of a good character as a young child could have been due to blindness, which held back his ego and arrogance, and instead made him put more effort in advancing his musical career.
In some instances, Stevie’s character and faith were tested after failure of his hits to emerge top on musical charts. A good example is his 1968 instrumental album called EivetsRednow. That album had soul and jazz tracks that were instrumental with most of them being the harmonica solos. Stevie had recorded it by himself and he gave it the title as his name written backwards.
However, the failure to garner much public attention and appreciation did not deter him from working harder to further his musical career, but instead he recorded other songs that emerged top in the charts between the same year and 1970 (Perone 48). His ability to move forward despite his released hits having not topped in the list of fame portrays him as a person of strong character whose character does not relent to fear and disappointment.
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As a songwriter and artist
In September 1970, “Stevie married Syreeta Wright who worked as a songwriter and secretary at Motown and at then he was good at songwriting and he and his wife co-wrote his next album Where I’m Coming From” (Brown 31).
His conclusion to marry Syreeta was a boost to his career though his contract with Motown was expiring in 1971, he but opted to display his prowess in music as a tool for bargaining for contract renewal. Unfortunately, he allowed the contract to expire on May 13, 1971, which was then his twenty first birthday.
Right to control his work and ownership
After the expiry of his contract, Wonder opted to do music independently, and he wrote two albums that helped in negotiations with Motown. At this age, Wonder was in a position to issue his demands to the Motown before signing the contract.
This move shows his ability to acknowledge his self-worthiness and a courageous act of showing that musicians too can demand what is right for them before signing contracts with producers. Among the issues that he demanded were his right to full control of creativity and ownership to his songs, which was a great milestone in his career as he had been working as an employee of the producer who received the greater share of his work (Zorn 324).
In March 1972, Wonder got back to Motown after signing a lengthy contract that gave him a much higher loyalty to his career. His first album after the return was released in 1972 and was much more creative than previous recordings as it was full-length artistic statement unlike previous versions, which were single collections.
His boldness to demand his rights to creativity shaped the American music industry as other production companies utilized the same idea in their productions. Other music artists were allowed to control creativity of their artistic work and right to ownership. His inability to see did not deter him from leading others who had the eyes to see.
Having the right to control his musical talent granted, he dealt much with “social, political, and mystical themes in his lyrics as well as standard romantic lyrics” (Brown 92).
His ability to choose the theme allowed him to explore musical elements such as overdubbing and recording instrumental parts by himself. He opted to seek collaboration with other great artists for some songs and the first collaboration took place in “1972 with Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil in the song Expanding Head Band in the album Music of My Mind” (Brown 98).
The song was well received though it did not become a hit. His creativeness opened doors for other musicians to seek collaborations with others in their writing and recording works. On the other hand, his choice to control his work was of greater benefit to Motown as it opened doors to creativity and good reputation in the music industry.
Unfortunately, on August 6, 1973, “Wonder was involved in a serious automobile accident while on his performance tour in North Carolina” (Brown 115). The driver of the car lost control and thus hit the back of a truck. The accident left Stevie in a coma that lasted for three days. He had suffered head injuries that resulted in partial loss of his ability to smell coupled with the loss of sense of taste, which he regained gradually.
That accident, which for many people was a great setback, seemed not to have altered his music career at all. He re-appeared in March 1974 in a concert at Madison Square Garden and his performance was still intact. Later in July the same year, he released the album Fulfillingness, which first finale set two hits to the top of the pop list. Interestingly, the album won three Grammy awards.
Wonder has a strong character that is beyond falling out to fear or setbacks for despite the accident trauma, he made it to the top list with the best album of the year. In 1975, he made a greater milestone to his musical career by taking his career away from the US. He went to Kingston, Jamaica, for a live performance courtesy of the institute for the blind. This performance implied that his musical prowess was acknowledged outside the United States. Since then, he has made numerous trips to various countries.
Stevie Wonder has beaten all odds to become a world-renowned musician and his character strength has enabled him to overcome challenges that for many people would have rendered them lifetime beggars. He has received numerous awards for his extemporary prowess in music career and for his ability to shape the American music industry by demanding the right of musicians to control creativity and ownership of their work.
His courage opened doors for the growth of musical talents and quality of productions in the United States. Despite his recognition and great publicity across the world, he did not take advantage of that elevation to exhibit pride and arrogance like it has been the case with many public figures in the contemporary world.
However, he made good use of his publicity to advocate for the rights of the oppressed, teach the society, and give a helping hand to the needy and through those great actions, he is today a peace messenger of the United Nations and other foreign countries have recognized him for his contribution to the society. Stevie is a true hero who has struggled to bring glory to the music industry of the 20th and the 21st centuries despite nursing a disability.
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