Monday, July 22, 2024

Happy Birthday to Stevie Wonder: The Great Singer-Songwriter Turns 70 Years Young Today


There is only one Stevie Wonder, and he turns 70 today. A child star since 1963, he’s the youngest of all the “classic” music stars of his generation.

There’s nothing he can’t do or hasn’t done. So many Grammys, best selling albums, great songs covered by other artists– he’s tops in every category.

His first hit was “Fingertips, Pt. 2” when he was 12 years old, with his harmonica solo composed by legendary Beans Bowles, and the rest was history.

Through the 60s Stevie had a string of hits like “Ma Cherie Amour” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” but none that he wrote. But “If You Really Love Me,” written by Stevie and Syreeta Wright, was a smash hit. It came from the first album he totally wrote, with Syreeta, called “Where I’m Coming From.” The floodgates opened. “Music of My Mind” and “Talking Book” came in ’72, “Innervisions” in ’73, “Fulfillingness’s First Finale” in ’74, and “Songs in the Key of Life” in ’76. It’s one of the greatest runs of albums ever in history. Listen to them now, in order, and they will blow your mind.

We could write a book about Stevie, but he’s the one who got the Martin Luther King Holiday passed nationally. He wrote the song, “Happy Birthday,” for MLK, but we can sing back to him today. At Tony Bennett’s 90th birthday dinner, three summers ago, at the Rainbow Room, Stevie put headphones on my ears, produced a small music mixer from under the table, and played me new songs he was working on. They were brilliant, and I can only hope we hear them soon. He had a successful kidney transplant last fall, and looks great these days. He’s a national treasure, a world treasure, a planetary magnificence.

Happy birthday, Stevie!

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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