[A photo of Stevie Wonder. He is wearing a durag and sunglasses. He is wearing a black suit with a black shirt.]

Celebrating Black History Month Part 3 of 3: Stevie Wonder

February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate the achievements of Black people in the US. This is the third part of a series of three blog posts where we’ll learn about famous Black people with disabilities.

Stevie Wonder, a musical legend and iconic figure, has captivated the global audience with his soul-stirring vocals, groundbreaking musical approach, and unmatched artistic prowess. Some of his most popular songs include Superstition, Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours, and I Just Called to Say I Love You. Before he turned 25, Wonder had recorded his 18th studio album and won three Grammys.

Born Stevland Hardaway Judkins on May 13, 1950, in Saginaw, Michigan, Wonder was diagnosed with retinopathy of prematurity shortly after birth, an eye disease that led to his blindness. Despite this, Wonder’s family recognized his musical prodigy from a young age. Introduced to various musical instruments, he demonstrated an extraordinary ability to play and compose music by the time he was a child.

Wonder’s childhood was marked by adversity, but he turned to music as a source of solace and expression. His blindness didn’t hinder his pursuit of musical excellence; instead, it fueled his passion. By the age of 11, he signed with Motown Records and released his first album, The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie, showcasing his talent as a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist.

In more than 60 years, Wonder has seamlessly blended R&B, soul, funk, jazz, and pop into a distinctive and timeless sound. His albums, such as Talking Book, Innervisions, and Songs in the Key of Life, stand as testaments to his musical brilliance and creativity.

Wonder’s blindness became a driving force behind his innovative approach to music. He embraced technology, becoming one of the first artists to use synthesizers and electronic instruments in his compositions. Songs like Superstition and Living for the City showcase his experimental spirit and groundbreaking contributions to the music industry.

Beyond his musical contributions, Stevie Wonder has used his platform to advocate for social justice and disability rights. He has been a strong voice in the fight against racial inequality, participating in events like the 1985 “We Are the World” charity single. His dedication to making the world a better place extends to his work as a United Nations Messenger of Peace.

“It’s funny but I never thought of being blind as a disadvantage, and I never thought of being black as a disadvantage. I am what I am. I love me! And I don’t mean that egotistically – I love that God has allowed me to take whatever it was that I had and to make something out of it. I was just blessed to have ideas. The genius in me is God – it’s the God in me coming out.”

Stevie Wonder’s legacy goes far beyond the stage and studio. His life is a testament to the power of resilience, determination, and the human spirit. Through his extraordinary journey, he has inspired countless individuals facing their own challenges, proving that greatness knows no physical boundaries.

Stevie Wonder’s blindness is not a limitation but rather a unique facet of his remarkable journey. His ability to transcend the darkness and create timeless music has left an indelible mark on the world.