Born six weeks premature in 1950 and named Stevland Hardaway Judkins, Stevie Wonder was blinded as an infant when he was given too much oxygen in his hospital incubator, which caused his retinas to detach. But like his boyhood idol, Ray Charles, Wonder would overcome his disability to achieve early and enduring success as a hit-making, genre-bending musician.
When Wonder was 4, his family moved from Sagniaw, Michigan to Detroit, where young Wonder enjoyed singing in the church choir and banging out rhythms on his mom's pots and pans. A family friend gave Wonder a harmonica, which he played day and night; then a neighbor let him play around on their piano. Soon he wore out his welcome, knocking on the neighbor's door every day [source: Biography].
When he was 9 or 10, self-taught Wonder would put on shows for the neighborhood kids. One of his classmates was the son of Ronnie White, member of the Motown band The Miracles. When White heard Wonder, he knew he had to take him down to Motown Records to audition for founder Berry Gordy.
Watching Wonder switch from instrument to instrument, playing with untrained enthusiasm and style, Gordy signed him to a record deal on the spot and renamed him Little Stevie Wonder. At just 11, Wonder released his first album with Motown, and at 12 he recorded "Fingertips (Part 2)," his first No. 1 single on both Billboard's pop and R&B charts. He remains the youngest solo artist to top the pop charts.
Wonder has had one of the longest and most-lauded careers in pop music, with more than 30 top 10 hits and 25 Grammy Awards [source: Grammy]. And he was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 at just 38 years old [source: Britannica].