There is no doubt that Stevie Wonder is one of the greatest musical geniuses of our era. And not only that: he’s a great human example for his character, his compromise with social causes, and his ability to overcome difficulties.
One thing that not many people know, and that he had remained discrete about, was the story of how he lost his sight. Finally, he has opened up about it, and in a way that might surprise some of his fans and admirers.
Because contrary to what some people think, Stevie Wonder wasn’t born blind. The loss of his sight was the result of a particular incident that took place during his childhood and would change his life forever.
However, his ability to overcome and even embrace his blindness is what has made Wonder a greatly respected and admired figure. But that isn’t all.
Stevie is known for having put out great albums, like Songs In The Key Of Life, Innervisions, and Talking Book; he was one of the main figures of 70’s funk music.
But one thing about him is that he has never become stagnant in his music. He has never become complacent and lazy about his work. He’s always proven his capacity for exploring new genres or musical tendencies without renouncing his spirit and personal touch. But there are a lot more things on Stevie Wonder’s record than just his music.
He’s also a great example of human character and contribution to fair causes. He’s known for his activism; for example, he was one of the initiators of the campaign that made Martin Luther King Jr.’s Day into a national holiday.
For this and other reasons, he has been awarded In 2009 the United Nations made Wonder a Messenger of Peace, and in 2014 he was bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama. These merits are even more admirable and worthy of respect when one considers Stevie’s rough background.
Stevie Wonder wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He had everything but an easy childhood; his father used to be an alcoholic who abused Stevie’s mom. He even forced her into prostitution at one point.
The family was very poor and Stevie was raised in an era of discrimination and social conflict. And those weren’t his only troubles.
Stevie lost his sight at a very young age. And that put an even bigger strain on his mom, whose first priority in life was to make sure that her children grew up as happy as possible. It was really difficult for her.
At five years of age, Stevie reportedly told his mother, “Don’t worry about me being blind, because I’m happy.” The way in which he explained that episode is really moving.
“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.”
However, this didn’t stop Stevie from finding his passion and pursuing his dream. This is how it happened.
At one point, Stevie moved with his mom to Detroit. There, he taught himself how to play instruments, including the piano, harmonica, and drums before the age of 10. His blindness only made him more receptive and sensitive to sound, and in a way, it even helped him develop his musical genius.
When he was only 11, he caught the eye of some talent hunters from Motown; and in a matter of months, he released his first album. The circumstances in which he signed with Motown at such a young age are quite staggering.
As Stevie told it, “There was some negotiating, and some guy there said to my mom, ‘Let me tell you like this: Stevie can either sign this contract, or he can spend the rest of his life selling pencils.’”
“My mother said, ‘I don’t give a damn what you say. My son will never sell pencils ever in his life.’ And the deal was off. I think Berry Gordy finally talked with my mom about the “misunderstanding,” and they worked it out.”. And that’s how the legend began. But how did Stevie lose his sight in the first place?
It took place just six weeks after he was born, and it was due to an accident in the incubator that he was placed in. It contained too much oxygen. And this caused the condition that is known as Retinopathy of Prematurity.
In this condition, the eye stops growing and the retinas detach. The result is blindness. But it could have been much worse.
“A girl who was born one minute before me actually died. She couldn’t withstand that much oxygen,” Stevie explained. And Stevie has never regarded his blindness as a shortcoming. As mentioned before, it even was useful in developing his talents.
On occasion, Stevie has even openly reflected on his blindness and has said things like the following.
“I don’t regret what happened because it made me who I am. But I’d love to see.” He’s also said “I am what I am. I love me! And I don’t mean that egotistical — I love that God has allowed me to take whatever it was that I had and to make something out of it.”
And that’s not all: he’s even said that there are some advantages to being blind.
“You can act like you don’t see nothing when you really do. You can say you didn’t see that when you did,” he joked when asked about the matter in an interview.
“I never thought of being black as a disadvantage, and I never thought of being black as a disadvantage,” he concluded.
So Stevie has never let any adversities or difficulties hold him back from excelling at his art, accomplishing his dreams, and enjoying everything that life has to offer.
He has been really secretive about any health issues too. He just doesn’t like to complain about what could go wrong and is focused on the positive. His longtime friend Joan Belgrave told the press: “He’s in great spirits. You would never know anything is going on. That’s how he wants it, and that’s how he wants to keep it.”
Maybe that’s something that we could all learn from Stevie Wonder: how to focus on what’s going right and what we can do to make life worth living rather than worrying about those things that we dislike, but are beyond our control.
Or, to put it simply, on how to always look on the bright side of life. Do you think everyone can achieve the degree of motivation or optimism that Wonder has been living by since he was born?