To celebrate the great Stevie Wonder‘s birthday, we wanted to revisit some classic tidbits about the illustrious musician. Without further ado, here are ten fun facts about the legend himself, Stevie Wonder.
1. Stevie Wonder wasn’t born Blind.
In an interview with Larry King, Stevie Wonder stated that he wasn’t born blind. A major cause of Wonder’s blindness was an overabundance of oxygen he experienced as an infant in a hospital incubator. This was an accident on the part of the hospital, which coupled with being six weeks premature resulted in Wonder becoming permanently blind. You can watch him talk about the incident below:
2. As a result of a 1973 car crash, Stevie Wonder temporarily lost his sense of smell and taste.
On August 6, 1973, Stevie Wonder was in a car accident. The crash left Wonder in a coma for four days and ultimately resulted in him losing both his sense of smell and taste for a short time. In a twist of fate, exactly 15 years later on to the date, Wonder was gifted with a son named Kwame.
3. He was the youngest solo artist to have a #1 song on Billboard.
In 51 years, no one has come close to the record Stevie Wonder achieved when he was only 13. As Little Stevie Wonder, his song, “Fingertips – Part 2”, reached #1 on the Billboard Top 100, making him the youngest artist to do so. The track simultaneously became the #1 R&B song in the country—also a first. Here’s a clip of Little Stevie performing the song:
4. He once sang “No Church in the Wild” to Frank Ocean.
Around the time of Channel Orange, many music critics and fans were comparing Frank Ocean to Wonder, as they were both R&B proteges that sought to change the world through music. When the two met at a party, Wonder sang “No Church in the Wild” back to Ocean. The song was a collaboration off the album Watch the Throne, where Ocean provided a stellar hook for hip-hop’s current titans, Jay-Z and Kanye West.
5. Wonder helped popularize the Moog Synthesizer.
Synthesizers have become the norm in popular music over the past 50 years. If you’re listening to the latest pop or EDM hit, chances are there are a variety of synths at work. However, the synthesizer wasn’t always regarded as a legitimate instrument. In a 1972 interview from Rock’s Backpages, Wonder had to defend his own use of the new technology stating, “A lot of people don’t consider the Moog an instrument, in a sense, and they feel it’s gonna take a lot of work away from musicians and all that. But I feel it is an instrument and is a way to directly express what comes from your mind. It gives you so much of a sound in the broader sense.”
6. He performed “Superstition” on Sesame Street.
“Superstition” is one of Wonder’s best and most popular songs. For that reason, it’s not a surprise he performed the track on Sesame Street. However, what is surprising is how intact Wonder keeps the original composition. The intensity of the song isn’t dialed down for a child audience, and is even improved upon. Stevie and his band go on a 3-minute jam session, and the energy from the kids dancing is palpable. If you’re a fan of Wonder, then this performance is one to watch.
[Video: Ryan’s Smashing Life]
7. He once told Lil Wayne to shut up.
According to Lil Wayne, Stevie Wonder once told the New Orleans rapper to shut up at a party. Allegedly, Stevie was in the middle of a performance at a club when Wayne came in. Lil’ Wayne didn’t know Stevie was performing at the time, but that didn’t stop the singer from yelling at the former Best Rapper Alive to be quiet while he was playing.
[Video: Mass Appeal]
8. Wonder was the first person to own the E-Mu Emulator, an early sampler.
It would be hard to imagine what the last thirty years of music would be like without sampling technology. The art of sampling has been instrumental in a wide variety of genres like hip-hop and electronic dance music, helping both genres shape the foundations of their sound. The E-Mu Emulator was one of the first affordable samplers on the market, and Stevie Wonder was its first owner.
9. Stevie Wonder’s Eivets Rednow is actually “Stevie Wonder” spelled backwards.
Stevie Wonder’s 1968 easy-listening album, Eivets Rednow, saw the legendary artist play harmonica, drums, piano, and clavinet, though he does not sing. Marking his ninth studio album, Eivets Rednow was actually his first album with songs credited solely to Wonder alone. However, the name of the album comes from spelling “Stevie Wonder” backwards, something that many fans missed initially, causing several reissues to have “How do you spell Stevie Wonder backwards?” to be printed on the album sleeve.
10. Stevie Wonder’s single, “Happy Birthday,” is a big reason why Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday is a National Holiday.
In 1981, Wonder, along with many other supporters, were rallying for the government to recognize Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a national holiday. “Happy Birthday” was Wonder’s way of spreading the word. He even helped organize the Rally for Peace Conference in 1981. President Ronald Reagan would ultimately approve the holiday thanks to these efforts two years later.