Stevie Wonder, whose real name is Stevland Hardaway Morris, was not born blind, contrary to popular belief. The iconic soul singer, who was born six weeks premature, lost his sight when he was six weeks old due to a condition called retinopathy of prematurity, according to Biography.
ROP primarily affects premature infants weighing about 2¾ pounds, according to the National Eye Institute:
ROP occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow and spread throughout the retina, the tissue that lines the back of the eye. These abnormal blood vessels are fragile and can leak, scarring the retina and pulling it out of position. This causes a retinal detachment. Retinal detachment is the main cause of visual impairment and blindness in ROP.
Despite Wonder’s disability, he has flourished as a musician and made a name for himself as one of the most legendary soul singers of all time. Keep reading for details on Wonder’s blindness and how it has affected his music career.
Wonder Says His Disability Played a Major Role in His Music
Despite Wonder’s blindness, he was a very happy child. When he was 5 years old, he reportedly told his mother, “Don’t worry about me being blind, because I’m happy.” When asked by Oprah Winfrey about the remark, he explained, “It bothered me that my mother was crying all the time. She thought God might be punishing her for something. She lived during a time when things were particularly difficult for a woman in her circumstances.”
Wonder taught himself to play the harmonica at age 5, and by the time he was 10, he had also mastered the piano and drums. According to Biography, his talents caught the attention of Ronnie White of the band The Miracle, which led to an audition with Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr. and launched his career.
He told The New York Times in 1975 that his blindness played a major role in his music, as it allowed him to express his imagination in unthinkable ways. “It’s played a part in that I’m able to use my imagination to go places, to write words about things I’ve heard people talk about. In music and in being blind, I’m able to associate what people say with what’s inside me.”
Wonder also told The Guardian in 2012 that he never felt hindered by his disability, and he feels like God made him blind for a reason. “I am what I am. I love me! And I don’t mean that egotistically — I love that God has allowed me to take whatever it was that I had and to make something out of it.”
Wonder is Performing in the One World: Together at Home Event to Raise Awareness of the COVID-19 Virus
Wonder will be performing during the One World: Together at Home concert event to help raise funds and address the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe. Together at Home takes place on April 18 at 8 p.m. ET. The event will feature dozens of the world’s biggest musicians, performers and celebrities and will be hosted by Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert.
“We are grateful to the private sector who have listened to the public’s call for action and come together to support the global response to COVID19. This pandemic is too large for governments to tackle alone,” Hugh Evans, co-founder and CEO of Global Citizen, said in a statement. “We are also incredibly grateful for the continued support from the artist community to make ‘One World: Together at Home’ a moment of global unity. Our hope for the special is that everyone will come away believing that we, as a shared humanity, can emerge from this moment forever grateful for the work of doctors, nurses, teachers, grocery store workers and all those who are the backbone of our communities.”
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