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!