- Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
International Civil Rights: Walk of Fame
Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder
1950 - present

In addition to being an award winning musical innovator, Stevie Wonder is a humanitarian who has used his music to support a number of social causes. In support of making Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday a national holiday, Wonder released "Happy Birthday" (1980), a song celebrating Dr. King. The song became a hit and a rallying cry for the King Holiday. On Monday, January 20, 1986, in cities and towns across the country people celebrated the first official Martin Luther King Day, the only federal holiday commemorating an African-American. Wonder's song echoed as the anthem of the holiday. Wonder joined a number of musicians and entertainers, including Quincy Jones, Lionel Ritchie, and Michael Jackson to produce the song "We are the World" (1985) to raise funds for humanitarian aid in Africa. He teamed with Gladys Knight and Dionne Warwick, and Elton John (1988) to produce "That's What Friends Are For" to support AIDS charities.

Blind from infancy, Steveland Hardaway Judkins moved with his family to Detroit Michigan when he was four years old. When his mother later remarried, he changed his name to Steveland Morris. Young Steveland sang in his church's choir, and by the time he was nine years old, he had mastered piano, drums and harmonica. Singer Ray Charles became his role model. The child prodigy was discovered in 1961 while performing for friends. Music mogul Berry Gordy immediately signed him on the Motown label and changed his name to "Little Stevie Wonder." His first album, A Tribute to Uncle Ray (1962) was released when Wonder was just twelve years old.

By the early 1970s, thought provoking Stevie Wonder albums like Talking Book (1972) Innervisions (1973) and Songs in the Key of Life (1976) propelled the musical genius to the pinnacle of his career. His 1985 duet with former Beatle Paul McCarthy, "Ebony and Ivory," became another social statement calling for racial harmony. Stevie Wonder was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. By 2006, Wonder had been awarded twenty-two Grammy awards and eighteen American Music awards.