A marketing-savvy producer dubbed the 11-year-old musician Little Stevie Wonder. What a prophetic decision, because Stevie turned out to be one of the most revered music makers of our time, with catchy, creative songs about relationships and social issues. He’s performed for presidents, kings and queens; recorded with some of music’s biggest names; visited the top of the charts many times, and won rooms full of awards. What he hasn’t done is perform live very often. It’s been 27 years since his last Twin Cities performance, at the old St. Paul Civic Center. So in honor of Sunday’s show at Target Center, we offer 27 fun facts about Stevie Wonder.
1 In his 53-year career, he has recorded for only one record label: Tamla, one of the Motown imprints.
2 When he plays keyboards, he doesn’t use his right thumb.
3 He and Bob Dylan both released their debut albums in 1962. Dylan was 21, Wonder 12.
4 In 1966, his version of Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” reached No. 9 on the pop chart and No. 1 on the R&B chart.
5 Stevland Morris (his legal name) graduated from the Michigan School for the Blind in Lansing.
6 At age 13, he became the youngest person to top Billboard’s Hot 100, with “Fingertips” in 1963, recorded live in concert.
7 He has won 25 Grammys. Only three people have more: conductor Georg Solti (31), producer Quincy Jones and bluegrass queen Alison Krauss (27 each).
8 He is the only artist to win the Grammy for album of the year for three consecutive albums — 1973’s “Innervisions,” 1974’s “Fulfillingness’ First Finale” and 1976’s “Songs in the Key of Life.”
9 On 1976’s “Songs in the Key of Life,” Wonder wrote “Isn’t She Lovely” to celebrate the birth of his daughter Aisha. Now Aisha Morris is a backup singer, accompanying her father on a tour in which he’s performing that album in its entirety.
10 In the late 1960s, he once performed in three locations in one night: the Carter Barron Amphitheatre in Washington, D.C.; the Lincoln Memorial (for a show hosted by First Lady Pat Nixon), and in Baltimore, filling in for an ill Marvin Gaye after an hourlong, high-speed limousine ride.
11 His harmonica can be heard on 2015 albums by Mark Ronson, Donny Osmond and Melissa Manchester.
12 Hits he’s written for other artists include “Tears of a Clown” for Smokey Robinson, “It’s a Shame” for the Spinners, “Tell Me Something Good” for Rufus and “Let’s Get Serious” for Jermaine Jackson.
13 He has scored 10 No. 1 pop songs and 20 No. 1 R&B songs, but only three of his albums topped Billboard’s chart.
14 During a rehearsal for “The Ed Sullivan Show” in the late ’60s, a 30-piece orchestra was playing the song Wonder was going to perform that night. He stopped the musicians and told his conductor that one saxophonist had the wrong arrangement. Indeed, the sax man was half a tone lower than everyone else. The conductor hadn’t heard it.
15 He won an Oscar for best song for “I Just Called to Say I Love You” from “The Woman in Red” in 1985. The tune landed at the top of both the pop and R&B charts.
16 He opened for the Rolling Stones STP Tour in 1972, including a concert at Met Center in Bloomington.
17 “Music of My Mind,” released in 1972, was an artistic turning point. His songs were longer and more musically ambitious and stylistically diverse. His lyrics were topical, an approach established on 1971’s “Where I’m Coming From,” which was filled with social commentary. On “Music,” for the first time, he played all the instruments except guitar and trombone.
18 He has performed at funerals for friends: Michael Jackson in 2009, Etta James in 2012 and Whitney Houston a month later.
19 In 1973, he was in a serious auto accident while on tour in North Carolina. His car hit the back of a truck. The singer was in a coma for four days and suffered a partial loss of his sense of smell.
20 While on tour, he goes through two to three harmonicas a week.
21 In the late 1960s in Los Angeles, he played at Marty’s on the Hill, which was both a club and a motel. One of the motel rooms served as dressing room. Walking to the stage, he stepped into the deep end of the motel’s swimming pool. He was dressed in a tuxedo.
22 His 1981 song “Happy Birthday” helped establish Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday as a national holiday.
23 His harmonica can be heard on such hits as Chaka Khan’s “I Feel for You,” Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” and Sting’s “Brand New Day.”
24 Among the other stars with whom Wonder has recorded are Ray Charles, Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Bruce Springsteen, Tony Bennett, John Denver, Snoop Dogg, Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion.
25 In 2009 he became the second recipient of the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize for pop music, honored by President Obama.
26 A vegan, he travels with his own chef.
27 He has released only one album of new music in this century, 2005’s “A Time to Love,” but he delivered 12 albums in the 1960s and 10 in the ’70s. He released just four in the ’80s and three in the ’90s (one studio, one soundtrack, one live).
Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719