Few musical figures have so successfully bridged the gap between popular music and artistic expression as Stevie Wonder. Starting when he was a “boy wonder” at the age of 12, little Stevie Wonder (video) has been drawing an audience. A virtuoso of soul, Wonder mastered the keyboard and harmonica at a very young age and took his talents to the public, recording his first top 40 hit when he was only 13 years old and starting down a path that would eventually lead to 22 Grammy Awards.
Perhaps it is surprising that we now have to ask the “where is he now” question about Stevie Wonder, a musician of preeminent fame and talent.
Yet, well, we have to ask, where is he now? What is Stevie Wonder doing now?
Stevie Wonder is a musician of eclectic taste – a characteristic borne out in his compositions. One of Wonder’s most popular songs was “Master Blaster”, a loose remake of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry”. The reggae influence also can be seen in his hit “Boogie on Reggae Woman”.
Country music infused his style as well, as evidenced by his Hotter Than July album.
Through all his phases and above all other influences, Stevie Wonder’s music has stayed close to his R&B roots. When Stevie Wonder plays country or reggae it is through a filter of soul and R&B.
Perhaps this is a good way to look at Stevie Wonder – as a conduit, a filter, a mind that hears music in the ether, hears down through the surface of a song to its core. He excavates that emotional, harmonic core, and puts it on display with his own voice.
Though Stevie Wonder is blind and has been since he left the hospital as an newborn, the musician has been far from a mystery, and anything but a reclusive genius.
Of course, with his pop sensibility, Wonder’s music has always been very clear and accessible, but beyond the music Stevie Wonder has stood up as a leader with a social conscience.
He played a part in creating a national holiday to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., and memorably participated in the globally-minded charity musical hits of the 1980’s alongside Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson.
Wonder had reached the peak of his musical career when he flexed the muscles of his influence, which is a serious risk. When you are at the top, you have got the most to lose.
Stevie Wonder chose to act according to his conscience and to use his cultural capital for the benefit of others and didn’t wait until he was in decline to start speaking out on his social ideas.
In the early 1960’s Stevie Wonder came on the scene as a boy genius moving on to popularity and Motown. Berry Gordy took on Stevie Wonder as a protégé, producing the songs and albums that made the musician a household name.
“My Cherie Amour” and “I Was Made to Love Her” are two examples of his production at this period of his career.
From this point on, as happens with many true artists, Stevie Wonder did not settle into one style and confine himself to remaking the same hits. He grew.
The most enduring albums of Stevie Wonder’s career were to come in rapid succession in the early 1970’s. It was then that Wonder made his masterpieces and greatest radio hits – “Sunshine of My Life”, “Superstition”, “Living for the City” and many others.
The albums of this period were Where I’m Coming From, Music of My Mind, Talking Book, and Innervisions, the last of which were the greater successes.
Talking Book yielded two Grammy awards and Innervisions even more, including the Grammy for “album of the year”.
In 1976 Wonder reached his musical peak, though his fame persisted and topped-out much later. His album in 1976 was Songs in the Key of Life, which again won the Grammy for “album of the year” and featured “Isn’t She Lovely”, a song about his daughter.
In 1985 Wonder received an Oscar for “best song” in recognition of “I Just Called to Say I Love You”.
Where is Stevie Wonder now?
After the 1980’s, Stevie Wonder has continued to perform and put out albums, but none with success to rival his principle output of the 1970’s. His most popular appearances of the last decade can be described as cameos in the limelight, with a Super Bowl performance and an appearance on “American Idol” (2006).
Wonder does continue to put his talents on display regularly with live performances.
He may not be appearing on the top 40 charts, but in the summer of 2010 he appeared at the Bonaroo Festival in Tennessee and is embarking on a (16 show) European tour and a two-show stint in Japan.
A recording of a recent live performance has been released on DVD under the title Live at Last: A Wonderful Summer Night (2009).