Pianist Spotlight: How Stevie Wonder Overcame Blindness to Play Piano

Have you ever wondered if you have the potential to become a famous musician? If so, you probably know that it takes more than just raw talent to break into the music industry.

Stevie Wonder is an excellent example of this. Beyond his amazing talent, vocal and piano practice, along with hard work and persistence, were the keys to Stevie’s success. Read on to learn more about Stevie Wonder and how he came to be the musical legend we know today.

Who is Stevie Wonder?

Stevie Wonder and Janelle MonaeStevie Wonder is an American music legend. The singer-songwriter, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist was born on May 13, 1950. Although originally from Saginaw, Michigan, he grew up in Detroit after his mother moved the family there after separating from Stevie’s dad. Stevie faced many obstacles thorough his life, but used hard work and dedication to overcome everything life threw at him — most notably, his lifelong blindness.

His Early Life

Born prematurely, Stevie spent the first days of his life in an incubator. Too much oxygen in the incubator damaged his vision, leaving him permanently blind. His total and complete blindness could have discouraged Stevie from pursuing music, but he didn’t let that stop him from fulfilling his dreams.

He always had a great love for music and rhythm, even from a young age. He taught himself to play harmonica by the time he was five, which encouraged his mother to sign him up for piano lessons a year later. At eight, he began learning the drums. When not engrossed in his piano practice, he could often be found beating out the rhythm to radio songs on any surface he could find.

Stevie Gets Discovered

Stevie’s talent and age astounded everyone from fellow musicians to record executives. Ronnie White of the well-known band The Miracles was so impressed with Stevie’s talent that he introduced him to Berry Gordy Jr. of Motown Records. Amazed that such talent was found in such a young boy, Barry promptly signed Stevie on as Motown Records’ youngest musician.

The single “Fingertips” from his first live album, “Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius”, hit #1 on both the pop and R&B charts. An overnight star, Stevie didn’t just sit back and enjoy his success. Instead, he enrolled at the Michigan School for the Blind the following year, and began studying piano professionally.

Stevie Grown Up

Stevie Wonder

Even though Stevie possessed immense potential, he knew he needed training if he really wanted to be successful. He was still churning out hit songs, but that just wasn’t enough. In addition to his continued singing and piano practice, he took classes to improve his songwriting and producing abilities.

By the time he was 21, “Little Stevie Wonder” dropped the “Little” and began going by just Stevie Wonder. His schooling and piano practice paid off, as he began writing his own music, and he even renegotiated his contract with Motown Records for more creative control. Stevie also financed his own publishing and recording studio and continued pumping out hit after hit.

Awards and Recognition

Over the years, Stevie has been showered with awards and recognition. As of 2014, Stevie has won 25 Grammy Awards for his music, and was inducted into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.

In 1998, he was named a United Nations Messengers of Peace. He has also been awarded Lifetime Achievement Awards from several organizations, including the Grammy Awards Committee, the National Civil Rights Museum, and the National Academy of Recording. In 2005, the City of Detroit awarded Stevie the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Motown Music Fest and declared September 9th “Stevie Wonder Day,” presenting him with the key to the city.

Even from an early age, Stevie knew that if he wanted to be successful, he was going to have to work hard. In addition to studying, he knew that singing and piano practice were the key to making a life as a musician.

If you’re interested in learning the piano, take a lesson from the Motown child prodigy Little Stevie Wonder. The investment you make in learning and improving your skills can take you far, and a private music teacher will be there to guide you along the way. Good luck!


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Photo by Norway UN (New York)Thomas Hawk

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