Blind from infancy, Wonder signed with Motown Records as a pre-adolescent at age twelve, and continues to perform and record for the label to this day. He has nine U.S. number-one hits to his name (on the pop Charts, 20 U.S. R&B number one hits), and album sales totaling more than 150 million units. Wonder has recorded several critically acclaimed albums and hit singles, and writes and produces songs for many of his label mates and outside artists as well. Wonder plays the piano, synthesizer, harmonica, congas, drums, bongos, organ, melodica, and clavinet. In his early career, he was best known for his harmonica work, but today he is better known for his keyboard skills and vocals.His family moved to Detroit when he was four. Stevie took up piano the same year and had mastered it by age nine. During his childhood, he was active in his church's choir. He also taught himself to play the harmonicaand the drums, and had mastered both by age ten.
In 1961, at the age of 11, Stevie was introduced to Ronnie White of the popular Motown act The Miracles. White brought the boy and his mother to Motown Records. Impressed by the young musician, Motown CEO Berry Gordy signed Morris to Motown's Tamla label with the name "Little Stevie Wonder." He then recorded the minor hit "I Call It Pretty Music, But The Old People Call It The Blues."
At 13, he had a major hit, "Fingertips (Pt. 2)," a 1963 single taken from a live recording of a Motor Town Revue performance, issued on the album, Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius. The song, featuring Wonder on vocals, bongos, and harmonica, with a young Marvin Gaye on drums, was a number-one hit on the US pop and R&B charts and launched Wonder suddenly into the public awareness.
Later dropping the "Little" from his moniker, Wonder went on to have a number of other successes during the mid-1960s, including the smash hit "Uptight (Everything's Alright)," as well as "With a Child's Heart," and "Blowin' in the Wind," a Bob Dylan cover which was one of the first songs to reflect Wonder's social consciousness. He also began to work in the Motown songwriting department, composing songs both for himself and his label-mates, including "Tears of a Clown," a number-one hit by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.
By 1970 Wonder had scored more major hits, including "I Was Made to Love Her" (1967), "For Once in My Life" (1968), "Shoo-Be-Do-Be-Do-Da-Day" (1968), "My Cherie Amour" (1969), "Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday" (1969) and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" (1970).
On September 14, 1970, at the age of 20, Wonder married Syreeta Wright, a songwriter and former company secretary for Motown. Wonder and Wright divorced 18 months later, but they continued to collaborate on musical projects.
Along with Marvin Gaye, Wonder was one of the few Motown stars to contest the label's factory-like operation methods: artists, songwriters, and producers were usually kept in specialized collectives, and artists had little creative control. When Gaye wrested creative control from Motown in order to release his innovative, socially conscious album What's Going On, Wonder was inspired to seek similar creative freedom from the label. Wonder argued with Motown owner Berry Gordy over creative control a number of times, and finally allowed his Motown contract to expire. He left the label on his twenty-first birthday in 1971. His final album before his departure was Where I'm Coming From, which Gordy had strongly opposed releasing. The album produced one top-10 hit, "If You Really Love Me."