9. Stevie Wonder
May 13th, 1950
Key Tracks "Superstition," "Sir Duke," "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours"
Influenced Donny Hathaway, Maxwell, Adam Levine
To me, Stevie Wonder's voice always sounds like tears of joy — like he's right on the verge of crying, but it's out of glee and peace, as opposed to the pain of someone like a Sly Stone.
There's a richness to his voice, a clarity to all of its inflections. That vibrato is so impactful and piercing, but he never loses that underlying straightforward singing voice. His lack of sight must heighten his other senses, his ability to imagine and feel. It makes his music very visual, very graphic.
The first time I remember hearing Stevie Wonder was when I heard him singing "Fingertips," in the movie Cooley High. I was in awe of this child's ability to see himself so clearly and be so sure of himself so young. Then I had to go back and discover Stevie Wonder as a whole. My uncle had an album collection, so I had seen Talking Book and Innervisions, but I knew the covers before I knew the music. I got turned on to his amazing performances like "Superwoman," "I Ain't Gonna Stand for It" and, of course, "Ribbon in the Sky" — that song is so simple, but it's so significant. His voice has so much variation and such diversity.
His confidence and his sense of self are just supernatural. Stevie Wonder knows exactly who he is, what role and responsibility he's been given. But he revels in being chosen, singled out, and that's what makes him who he is. He's like a miracle.