Stevland Morris (a.k.a. Stevie Wonder)

by Tim from Montvale

Stevie Wonder was born Stevland Judkins on May 13, 1950, in the quiet town of Saginaw, Michigan. He was just like any other newborn; he had a mom, a dad, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. Nobody knew that this little baby would someday become one of the greatest musicians of the 1900's.

What makes Stevie Wonder unique compared to other musicians is that he is blind. It is said that immediately after his birth when he was placed in an incubator, he was given too much oxygen, thus, blinding him for life. He was also suffering from Retinopathy of Prematurity (R.O.P.), which may have been the real cause of his blindness. He learned at a young age that he had a talent for music. He was determined to show everybody that a person with a disability could become a star. Before he was 10, he already knew how to play the piano and the bongo drums. He taught himself how to play through a Braille book because his family couldn't afford an instructor.

When he turned 12, he got his first record deal with Motown Records. Stevie was an instant superstar and his first album went platinum. His blend of blues, African and reggae vibes was unprecedented and he attracted millions of fans. His manager said that when Stevie received word that his opening album went platinum, he fainted. He was so motivated to provide entertainment for people that he incorporated two new instruments into his act, the drums and the harmonica.

During the late 60's and early 70's, Stevie helped with the black Civil Rights Movement. He was good friends and a huge supporter of Martin Luther King, Jr., and he was crushed when he was shot. In 1980, he performed the song, "Happy Birthday," for the first time ever on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. He was honored at the services by the president.

Stevie Wonder is still alive and in good health. He now prefers to be known as Stevland Morris, which was his mom's maiden name. I think he is a hero because of his determination to be a musician, his bravery in a time of segregation and prejudice, and for his wonderful music that will never be forgotten.

Page created on 3/27/2015 11:41:22 AM

Last edited 3/27/2015 11:41:22 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Braille - created the system Stevland used to read and learn music.
Martin Luther King, Jr. - was a friend and inspiration to Stevland.
Soulwalking's - biography from the UK.
The Washington, DC, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial
The King Center - is the official, living memorial dedicated to the advancement of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., leader of America’s greatest nonviolent movement for justice, equality and peace.

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Author Info

Stevie Wonder was named United Nations Messenger of Peace, December 2009. Wonder is the 11th U.N. Messenger of Peace, joining a list of notable figures including Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, actor Michael Douglas, primate expert Jane Goodall and conductor Daniel Barenboim.

"Stevie Wonder’s place in history will surely reflect his enormous accomplishments in the music industry: his more than 30 records that have sold more than 70 million copies, his smash hits that place him in the company of only the Beatles and Elvis Presley on the list of the most top-ten records, his 17 Grammy Awards, and his Oscar.

But this ability to sing, write, perform, and speak are simply his tools. The measure of Stevie Wonder’s greatness is not that he possesses these tools. What makes him so extraordinary, so inspiring, so king-like, is the way in which he has chosen to utilize his talents.

Stevie Wonder has used his enormous gifts to help us move toward the promised land. He was a valiant warrior against South African Apartheid, perhaps the greatest example in our lifetime about the power of dreams and moral fortitude. He has used his gifts to work passionately against world hunger, against nuclear proliferation, and toward racial harmony. And of great significance today, it was Stevie Wonder who energized the campaign that led Congress to create a national holiday in honor of Dr. King and his life’s work."

Excerpted from the introduction made by Lawrence Marshall, Professor of Law, Northwestern University Law School. Stevie Wonder delivered the keynote address for the Martin Luther King Day Celebration at Northwestern's Law School on January 20, 2003.

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