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Stevie Wonder: Hard Work of Early Life

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When people think of a famous singer/songwriter, they typically do not a blind person in mind. Which is to be expected since most singer/songwriters are blessed with the ability to see, and there are some that are less fortunate. In saying that, there was a certain artist that has managed to overcome his inability to see and has managed to receive multiple awards such as Grammy awards, American Music Awards, and an honorary doctorate of humane letters. This artist is Stevie Wonder, the man who overcame his birth defect of blindness and has then managed to accomplish things that would seem impossible for his condition. Even though Stevie Wonder’s music was a major success, his early life showed how hard work and dedication can lead to success.

Stevie Wonder was born as Steveland Judkins Hardaway in Saginaw, Michigan, May 13, 1950. He was a premature baby, thus the reason why he was blind. But that did not stop him from having a “normal” childhood, he would still play with kids around his neighborhood and even ride bikes at times when someone would steer for him. His father left him when he was a baby, so that left his mother with the responsibility to take of Wonder and his siblings. Thus, Wonder grew up without a father figure to look up to, which is already hard enough, but he was also blind, and that alone has caused many taunts from his peers. He then later moved to Detroit with his mother after her divorce with her husband, and that is where “he was introduced to rhythm and blues by a program called ‘Sundown’ on a black radio station”. Even before the radio station Wonder would play on a four-hole harmonica and bang on toy drums, and by the age of eight, he was able to play the piano, a regular harmonica, and the bongo and drums. With the skills to play a wide range of instruments, Wonder will soon be exposed to even more chances to expand his music career.

When Wonder was eleven years old, “Ronnie White of the Miracles Having heard of the boy through a younger brother who was a friend of Stevie’s cousin, White listened to the lad’s music, liked what he heard and took him to the local black recording company, Hitsville U S A. The company’s president, Berry Gordy Jr., impressed by the boy’s voice and his adeptness with various instruments, signed him to a contract….” This was the real beginning for Wonder because now he has the tools necessary for him to use his musical talent and to show society what he can do. About two years later when Wonder was about thirteen, he released his first hit single called “Fingertips” it sold 16 million copies and has become one of the memorable songs that will make Wonder and his employer more known in the years to come; this was an important phase of his early life because now after releasing a hit single, he has the self-confident to push past any other problems he might be facing, like what Wonder said during those years, “I was growing up, you know”. Wonder might have gained the confidence to block out critics and people who said he could not become a musician after he released his hit single, but before that Wonder describes how every day in his life, he was subject to negative comments about how he should just stop what he is doing because it was a waste of time. For example, Wonder says “People at school told me I couldn’t make it, that I would end up making potholders instead.” However, those comments did not stop Wonder in pursuing in what he loved, in fact, those who said that just made Wonder want to work harder, as he states,” I became very determined, simply to prove those people wrong….” Wonder had a strong sense in the duty to himself and to the African Americans, in that he must show those who doubted him something they would never forget.

In a way, he describes that the only way to achieve that is by utilizing the freedom that was given to them for being an American citizen, yet many African Americans feel ashamed to do anything related to their race’s tradition because being different from all the other kids is bad. Wonder states that, “freedom begins in the simplest things, even in such things as feeling free enough to turn on a radio to a particular station. You have to seize that for yourself and then demand that kind of freedom from others”. Here Wonder says that one needs to be able to do what they love, even if it was something as simple as listening to a type of music in front of others, so in a way, it forces other people to recognize their expression of freedom. In doing so, Wonder was able to write many songs that expressed how he feels and would affect people in the years to come. After enduring many hardships, Wonder has had many great achievements just during his early years. He was one of the most “influential and versatile composer lyricists… of this century.”

Not only did he become one of the most successful musicians of all time, but he also did so even after everything that has happened to him such as: being born blind, growing up without a proper family, being in poor, etc. He proved to everyone that dreams can come true if one try’s hard enough no matter how they start because some might just have to work harder than others to achieve the same goal, but it is possible for everyone. As Jack Slater stated in The New York Times Magazine, “all things to all who hear him: the child prodigy who made the transition to adulthood as a productive musician, the blind seer apocalyptically exposing America’s injustices, the sightless man-child who still manages to smile, the musician who refused to accept the tyranny and paternalism….” While still young, Wonder and his music have already affected millions of people, and with his determination and beliefs, he will be ready to deal with any challenges that he might possibly face in the future.

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