Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder

Stevland Hardaway Morris (born Might 13, 1950), recognized professionally as Stevie Surprise, is an American singer, songwriter, musician and file producer. Surprise is credited as a pioneer and affect by musicians throughout a variety of genres that features rhythm and blues, pop, soul, gospel, funk, and jazz. A digital one-man band, his use of synthesizers and different digital musical devices in the course of the Nineteen Seventies reshaped the conventions of R&B. He additionally helped drive the style into the album period, crafting his LPs as cohesive, constant socially acutely aware statements with advanced compositions.

Blind since shortly after his delivery, Surprise was a baby prodigy who signed with Motown’s Tamla label on the age of 11, the place he was given the skilled identify Little Stevie Surprise. In 1963, the only “Fingertips” was a number-one hit on the Billboard Sizzling 100 when Surprise was 13, making him the youngest artist ever to high the chart. Surprise’s vital success was at its peak within the Nineteen Seventies. His “basic interval” started in 1972 with the releases of Music of My Thoughts and Speaking Guide, the latter that includes “Superstition”, which is without doubt one of the most distinctive and well-known examples of the sound of the Hohner Clavinet keyboard. His works Innervisions (1973), Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974) and Songs within the Key of Life (1976) all received the Grammy Award for Album of the Yr, making him the tied-record holder for probably the most Album of the Yr wins, with three. He’s additionally the one artist to have received the award with three consecutive album releases.

His “basic interval”, which culminated in 1976, was marked by his funky keyboard model, private management of manufacturing, and use of built-in collection of songs to make idea albums. In 1979, Surprise used Laptop Music Inc.’s early music sampler, the Melodian, on his soundtrack album Stevie Surprise’s Journey Via “The Secret Lifetime of Crops”. This was his first digital recording and one of many earliest common albums to make use of the know-how, which Surprise used for all subsequent recordings.

Surprise is without doubt one of the world’s best-selling musicians, with gross sales of over 100 million information worldwide. He has received 25 Grammy Awards (probably the most by a solo artist) and one Academy Award (Finest Authentic Track, for the 1984 movie The Lady in Crimson). Surprise has been inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Music Corridor of Fame, Rock and Roll Corridor of Fame and Songwriters Corridor of Fame. He’s additionally famous for his work as an activist for political causes, together with his 1980 marketing campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a federal vacation within the U.S. In 2009, he was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace, and in 2014, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


Surprise was born Stevland Hardaway Judkins in Saginaw, Michigan, on Might 13, 1950,[7] the third of 5 youngsters born to Lula Mae Hardaway, and the second of Hardaway’s two youngsters with Calvin Judkins.[8] He was born six weeks untimely which, together with the oxygen-rich environment within the hospital incubator, resulted in retinopathy of prematurity, a situation during which the expansion of the eyes is aborted and causes the retinas to detach, so he turned blind.[9][10]

When Surprise was 4, his mom divorced his father and moved together with her (then) three youngsters to Detroit, Michigan, the place Surprise sang as a baby in a choir on the Whitestone Baptist Church.[11] She later rekindled her relationship together with her first kid’s father (whose surname was additionally coincidentally Hardaway)[8] and altered her personal identify again to Lula Hardaway, happening to have two extra youngsters; she later additionally modified Stevie’s surname to Morris, partly due to family.[citation needed][clarification needed] Surprise has retained Morris as his authorized surname. He started taking part in devices at an early age, together with piano, harmonica, and drums. He fashioned a singing partnership with a buddy; calling themselves Stevie and John, they performed on road corners and sometimes at events and dances.[12]

As a baby, Surprise attended Fitzgerald Elementary Faculty in Detroit.[13] After his first album, The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie, was launched in 1962, he enrolled in Michigan Faculty for the Blind in Lansing, Michigan.[14][15]


1961–1969: Sixties singles

Surprise rehearsing for a efficiency on Dutch tv in 1967

In 1961, when aged 11, Surprise sang his personal composition, “Lonely Boy”, to Ronnie White of the Miracles;[16][17] White then took Surprise and his mom to an audition at Motown, the place CEO Berry Gordy signed Surprise to Motown’s Tamla label.[7] Earlier than signing, producer Clarence Paul gave him the identify Little Stevie Surprise.[9] Due to Surprise’s age, the label drew up a rolling five-year contract during which royalties could be held in belief till Surprise was 21. He and his mom could be paid a weekly stipend to cowl their bills: Surprise acquired $2.50 (equal to $21.65 in 2020) per week, and a personal tutor was supplied for when Surprise was on tour.[17]

Surprise was put within the care of producer and songwriter Clarence Paul, and for a 12 months they labored collectively on two albums. Tribute to Uncle Ray was recorded first, when Surprise was nonetheless 11 years outdated. Primarily covers of Ray Charles’s songs, the album included a Surprise and Paul composition, “Sundown”. The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie was recorded subsequent, an instrumental album consisting primarily of Paul’s compositions, two of which, “Questioning” and “Session Quantity 112”, had been co-written with Surprise.[18] Feeling Surprise was now prepared, a music, “Mom Thank You”, was recorded for launch as a single, however then pulled and changed by the Berry Gordy music “I Name It Fairly Music, However the Outdated Individuals Name It the Blues” as his début single;[19] launched summer time 1962,[20] it virtually broke into the Billboard 100, spending one week of August at 101.[21] Two follow-up singles, “Little Water Boy” and “Contract on Love”, each had no success, and the 2 albums, launched in reverse order of recording—The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie in September 1962 and Tribute to Uncle Ray in October 1962—additionally met with little success.[18][22]

Most of those songs hit the charts in a giant means earlier than Stevie turned twenty-one [in 1971]. As a result of he is grown up quick, the love lyrics are much less teen-specific than loads of early Smokey, say, however the music is pure puberty. Stevie’s rockers are all the time one step forward of themselves—their gawky groove is so disorienting it makes you listen, like a voice that is perpetually altering. The ballads conceive coming of age extra conventionally, and fewer felicitously. However he certain coated Tony Bennett higher than the Supremes or the Tempts might have, now did not he?

–Overview of Stevie Surprise’s Biggest Hits Vol. 2 in Christgau’s Report Information: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981)[23]

On the finish of 1962, when Surprise was 12 years outdated, he joined the Motortown Revue, touring the “Chitlin’ Circuit” of theatres throughout America that accepted black artists. On the Regal Theater, Chicago, his 20-minute efficiency was recorded and launched in Might 1963 because the album Recorded Reside: The 12 Yr Outdated Genius.[18] A single, “Fingertips”, from the album was additionally launched in Might, and have become a significant hit.[24] The music, that includes a assured and enthusiastic Surprise returning for a spontaneous encore that catches out the alternative bass participant, who’s heard to name out “What key? What key?”,[24][25] was a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Sizzling 100 when Surprise was aged 13, making him the youngest artist ever to high the chart.[26] The only was concurrently No. 1 on the R&B chart, the primary time that had occurred.[27] His subsequent few recordings, nevertheless, weren’t profitable; his voice was altering as he obtained older, and a few Motown executives had been contemplating cancelling his recording contract.[27] Throughout 1964, Surprise appeared in two movies as himself, Muscle Seashore Get together and Bikini Seashore, however these weren’t profitable both.[28] Sylvia Moy persuaded label proprietor Berry Gordy to offer Surprise one other probability.[27]

Dropping the “Little” from his identify, Moy and Surprise labored collectively to create the hit “Uptight (Every part’s Alright)”,[27] and Surprise went on to have plenty of different hits in the course of the mid-Sixties, together with “With a Kid’s Coronary heart”, and “Blowin’ within the Wind”,[25] a Bob Dylan cowl, co-sung by his mentor, producer Clarence Paul.[29] He additionally started to work within the Motown songwriting division, composing songs each for himself and his label mates, together with “The Tears of a Clown”, a No. 1 hit for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (it was first launched in 1967, principally unnoticed because the final monitor of their Make It Occur LP, however finally turned a significant success when re-released as a single in 1970, which prompted Robinson to rethink his intention of leaving the group).[30]

In 1968 he recorded an album of instrumental soul/jazz tracks, principally harmonica solos, underneath the title Eivets Rednow, which is “Stevie Surprise” spelled backward.[31] The album did not get a lot consideration, and its solely single, a canopy of “Alfie”, solely reached quantity 66 on the U.S. Pop charts and quantity 11 on the US Grownup Up to date charts. Nonetheless, he managed to attain a number of hits between 1968 and 1970 reminiscent of “I Was Made to Love Her”,[29] “For As soon as in My Life” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I am Yours”. A variety of Surprise’s early hits, together with “My Cherie Amour”, “I Was Made to Love Her”, and “Uptight (Every part’s Alright)”, had been co-written with Henry Cosby. The hit single “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I am Yours” was his first-ever self-produced music.[32]

In 1969 Stevie Surprise participated within the Sanremo Music Pageant with the music “Se tu ragazza mia”, at the side of Gabriella Ferri. Between 1967 and 1970 he recorded 4 45 rpm singles[33][34][35][36] and an Italian LP.[37]

Surprise’s look on the 1969 Harlem Cultural Pageant opens the 2021 music documentary, Summer time of Soul.[38] Surprise performs a drum solo throughout his set.

1970–1979: Seventies albums and basic interval

In September 1970, on the age of 20, Surprise married Syreeta Wright, a songwriter and former Motown secretary. Wright and Surprise labored collectively on the subsequent album, The place I am Coming From (1971), Surprise writing the music, and Wright serving to with the lyrics.[39] Round this time, Surprise turned involved in using synthesizers after listening to albums by digital group Tonto’s Increasing Head Band.[40] Surprise and Wright needed to “contact on the social issues of the world”, and for the lyrics “to imply one thing”.[39] The album was launched at across the identical time as Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. As each albums had related ambitions and themes, they’ve been in contrast; in a contemporaneous assessment by Vince Aletti in Rolling Stone, Gaye’s was seen as profitable, whereas Surprise’s was seen as failing resulting from “self-indulgent and cluttered” manufacturing, “undistinguished” and “pretentious” lyrics, and an general lack of unity and move.[41] Additionally in 1970, Surprise co-wrote, and performed quite a few devices on the hit “It is a Disgrace” for fellow Motown act the Spinners. His contribution was meant to be a showcase of his expertise and thus a weapon in his ongoing negotiations with Gordy about artistic autonomy.[42] Reaching his twenty first birthday on Might 13, 1971, Surprise allowed his Motown contract to run out.[43]

Throughout this era, he independently recorded two albums and signed a brand new contract with Motown Data. The 120-page contract was a precedent at Motown and gave Surprise a a lot greater royalty fee.[44] He returned to Motown in March 1972 with Music of My Thoughts. In contrast to most earlier albums on Motown, which often consisted of a set of singles, B-sides and covers, Music of My Thoughts was a full-length creative assertion with songs flowing collectively thematically.[44] Surprise’s lyrics handled social, political, and mystical themes in addition to customary romantic ones, whereas musically he started exploring overdubbing and recording a lot of the instrumental components himself.[44] Music of My Thoughts marked the start of a protracted collaboration with Tonto’s Increasing Head Band (Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil),[45][46] and with lyricist Yvonne Wright.[47]

Launched in late 1972, Surprise’s album Speaking Guide featured the No. 1 hit “Superstition”,[48] which is without doubt one of the most distinctive and well-known examples of the sound of the Hohner Clavinet keyboard.[49] Speaking Guide additionally featured “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”, which additionally peaked at No. 1. Throughout the identical time because the album’s launch, Surprise started touring with The Rolling Stones to alleviate the unfavorable results from pigeonholing because of being an R&B artist in America.[16] Surprise’s touring with the Stones was additionally an element behind the success of each “Superstition” and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”.[44][50] Between them, the 2 songs received three Grammy Awards.[51] On an episode of the youngsters’s tv present Sesame Avenue that aired in April 1973,[52] Surprise and his band carried out “Superstition”, in addition to an unique referred to as “Sesame Avenue Track”, which demonstrated his skills with tv.

Surprise performing in 1973, in the course of the early years of his “basic interval”

Innervisions, launched in 1973, featured “Greater Floor” (No. 4 on the pop charts) in addition to the trenchant “Residing for the Metropolis” (No. 8).[48] Each songs reached No. 1 on the R&B charts. Common ballads reminiscent of “Golden Girl” and “All in Love Is Truthful” had been additionally current, in a mix of moods that however held collectively as a unified complete.[53] Innervisions generated three extra Grammy Awards, together with Album of the Yr.[51] The album is ranked No. 34 on Rolling Stone‘s 500 Biggest Albums of All Time.[54] Surprise had grow to be probably the most influential and acclaimed black musician of the early Nineteen Seventies.[44]

On August 6, 1973, Surprise was injured in a critical car accident whereas on tour in North Carolina, when a automobile during which he was driving hit the again of a truck.[44][55] This left him in a coma for 4 days and resulted in a partial lack of his sense of odor and a short lived lack of sense of style.[56] Regardless of orders from his physician to chorus from performing, Surprise carried out at a homecoming profit for Shaw College in Raleigh in November 1973.[57] Shaw was dealing with monetary difficulties, so Surprise, who was a member of the college’s board of trustees, rallied different acts reminiscent of Exuma, LaBelle, and the Chambers Brothers to affix the live performance, which raised over $10,000 for the varsity’s scholarship fund.[58]

Surprise launched into a European tour in early 1974, performing on the Midem conference in Cannes, on the Rainbow Theatre in London, and on the German tv present Musikladen.[59] On his return from Europe, he performed a sold-out live performance at Madison Sq. Backyard in March 1974, highlighting each up-tempo materials and lengthy, constructing improvisations on mid-tempo songs reminiscent of “Residing for the Metropolis”.[44] The album Fulfillingness’ First Finale appeared in July 1974 and set two hits excessive on the pop charts: the No. 1 “You Have not Performed Nothin'” and the High Ten “Boogie on Reggae Lady”. The Album of the Yr was once more one among three Grammys received.[51]

The identical 12 months Surprise took half in a Los Angeles jam session with ex-Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney that will grow to be generally known as the bootleg album A Toot and a Snore in ’74.[60][61] He additionally co-wrote and produced the 1974 Syreeta Wright album Stevie Surprise Presents: Syreeta.[62][63]

On October 4, 1975, Surprise carried out on the historic “Surprise Dream Live performance” in Kingston, Jamaica, a profit for the Jamaican Institute for the Blind.[64] In 1975, he performed harmonica on two tracks on Billy Preston’s album It is My Pleasure.

By 1975, on the age of 25, Surprise had received two consecutive Grammy Awards: in 1974 for Innervisions and in 1975 for Fulfillingness’ First Finale.[65] In 1976, when Paul Simon received the Album of the Yr Grammy for his Nonetheless Loopy After All These Years, he wryly famous, “I might wish to thank Stevie Surprise, who did not make an album this 12 months.”[66][67]

The double album-with-extra-EP Songs within the Key of Life was launched in September 1976. Sprawling in model and generally lyrically troublesome to fathom, the album was exhausting for some listeners to assimilate, but is regarded by many as Surprise’s crowning achievement and one of the crucial recognizable and completed albums in pop music historical past.[44][48][68] The album turned the primary by an American artist to debut straight at No. 1 within the Billboard charts, the place it stood for 14 non-consecutive weeks.[69] Two tracks turned No. 1 Pop/R&B hits: “I Want” and “Sir Duke”. The child-celebratory “Is not She Pretty?” was written about his new child daughter Aisha, whereas songs reminiscent of “Love’s in Want of Love Right now” and “Village Ghetto Land” mirrored a much more pensive temper. Songs within the Key of Life received Album of the Yr and two different Grammys.[51] The album ranks 4th on Rolling Stones 500 Biggest Albums of All Time.[70]

Till 1979’s Stevie Surprise’s Journey Via “The Secret Lifetime of Crops” his solely additional ’70s launch was the retrospective three-disc album Wanting Again (1977), an anthology of his early Motown interval.

1980–1990: Industrial interval

The Nineteen Eighties noticed Surprise attaining his largest hits and highest degree of fame; he had elevated album gross sales, charity participation, high-profile collaborations, political affect, and tv appearances. The 1979 primarily instrumental soundtrack album Stevie Surprise’s Journey Via “The Secret Lifetime of Crops” was composed utilizing an early music sampler, a Laptop Music Melodian.[71] It was additionally his first digital recording, and one of many earliest common albums to make use of the know-how, which Surprise used for all subsequent recordings. Surprise toured briefly with an orchestra in assist of the album, and used a Fairlight CMI sampler on stage.[72] On this 12 months Surprise additionally wrote and produced the dance hit “Let’s Get Critical”, carried out by Jermaine Jackson and ranked by Billboard because the No. 1 R&B single of 1980.

Hotter than July (1980) turned Surprise’s first platinum-selling single album, and its single “Comfortable Birthday” was a profitable car for his marketing campaign to determine Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a nationwide vacation. The album additionally included “Grasp Blaster (Jammin’)”, “I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It”, and the sentimental ballad, “Recently”.

In 1982, Surprise launched a retrospective of his Nineteen Seventies work with Stevie Surprise’s Authentic Musiquarium, which included 4 new songs: the ten-minute funk basic “Do I Do” (which featured Dizzy Gillespie), “That Woman” (one of many 12 months’s largest singles to chart on the R&B facet), “Entrance Line”, a story a couple of soldier within the Vietnam Conflict that Surprise wrote and sang within the first particular person, and “Ribbon within the Sky”, one among his many basic compositions. He additionally gained a No. 1 hit that 12 months in collaboration with Paul McCartney of their paean to racial concord, “Ebony and Ivory”.

In 1983, Surprise carried out the music “Keep Gold”, the theme to Francis Ford Coppola’s movie adaptation of S. E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders. Surprise wrote the lyrics. In 1983, he scheduled an album to be entitled Individuals Work, Human Play. The album by no means surfaced and as an alternative 1984 noticed the discharge of Surprise’s soundtrack album for The Lady in Crimson. The lead single, “I Simply Referred to as to Say I Love You”, was a No. 1 pop and R&B hit in each the USA and the UK, the place it was positioned thirteenth within the checklist of best-selling singles within the UK revealed in 2002. It went on to win an Academy award for finest music in 1985. Surprise accepted the award within the identify of Nelson Mandela and was subsequently banned from all South African radio by the Authorities of South Africa.[73]

By the way, on the event of his thirty fifth birthday, Stevie Surprise was honored by the United Nations Particular Committee In opposition to Apartheid for his stance in opposition to racism in South Africa that very same 12 months (1985).[74] The album additionally featured a visitor look by Dionne Warwick, singing the duet “It is You” with Stevie and some songs of her personal. Following the success of the album and its lead single, Surprise made an look on The Cosby Present, within the episode “A Contact of Surprise” the place he demonstrated his capacity to pattern.

The next 12 months’s In Sq. Circle featured the No. 1 pop hit “Half-Time Lover”. The album additionally has a High 10 Hit with “Go House”. It additionally featured the ballad “Overjoyed”, which was initially written for Journey Via “The Secret Lifetime of Crops”, however didn’t make the album. He carried out “Overjoyed” on Saturday Evening Reside when he was the host. He was additionally featured in Chaka Khan’s cowl of Prince’s “I Really feel For You”, alongside Melle Mel, taking part in his signature harmonica. In roughly the identical interval he was additionally featured on harmonica on Eurythmics’ single, “There Should Be an Angel (Taking part in with My Coronary heart)” and Elton John’s “I Guess That is Why They Name It the Blues”.

Surprise was in a featured duet with Bruce Springsteen on the all-star charity single for African Famine Reduction, “We Are the World”, and he was a part of one other charity single the next 12 months (1986), the AIDS-inspired “That is What Buddies Are For”. He performed harmonica on the album Dreamland Categorical by John Denver within the music “If Ever”, a music Surprise co-wrote with Stephanie Andrews; wrote the monitor “I Do Love You” for the Seashore Boys’ 1985 self-titled album; and performed harmonica on “Cannot Assist Lovin’ That Man” on The Broadway Album by Barbra Streisand. In 1987, Surprise appeared on Michael Jackson’s Unhealthy album, on the duet “Simply Good Buddies”. Michael Jackson additionally sang a duet with him entitled “Get It” on Surprise’s 1987 album Characters. This was a minor hit single, as had been “Skeletons” and “You Will Know”.

1991–1999: Continued launched new materials, 1996 Summer time Olympics

Surprise backstage on the 1990 Grammy Awards

After 1987’s Characters album, Surprise continued to launch new materials, however at a slower tempo. He recorded a soundtrack album for Spike Lee’s movie Jungle Fever in 1991. From this album, singles and movies had been launched for “Gotta Have You”, “Enjoyable Day” (remix solely), “These Three Phrases” and “Jungle Fever”. The B-side to the “Gotta Have You” single was “Feeding Off The Love of the Land”, which was performed in the course of the finish credit of the film Jungle Fever however was not included on the soundtrack. A piano and vocal model of “Feeding Off The Love of the Land” was additionally launched on the No one’s Little one: Romanian Angel Enchantment compilation. Dialog Peace and the stay album Pure Surprise had been launched within the Nineties.[75]

Amongst his different actions he performed harmonica on one monitor for the 1994 tribute album Kiss My Ass: Traditional Kiss Regrooved;[76] sang on the 1996 Summer time Olympics closing ceremony;[77] collaborated in 1997 with Babyface on “How Come, How Lengthy”, a music about home violence that was nominated for a Grammy award;[78] and performed harmonica on Sting’s 1999 “Model New Day”.[79] In Might 1999, Rutgers College introduced Surprise with an honorary doctorate diploma in superb arts.[80] In December 1999, Surprise introduced that he was involved in pursuing an intraocular retinal prosthesis to partially restore his sight.[81]

2000–current: Later profession

Into the twenty first century, Surprise contributed two new songs to the soundtrack for Spike Lee’s Bamboozled album (“Misrepresented Individuals” and “Some Years In the past”).[82] Surprise continues to file and carry out; although primarily occasional appearances and visitor performances, he did do two excursions, and launched one album of recent materials, 2005’s A Time to Love. In June 2006, Surprise made a visitor look on Busta Rhymes’ album The Massive Bang, on the monitor “Been via the Storm”. He sings the chorus and performs the piano on the Dr. Dre- and Sha Cash XL–produced monitor. He appeared once more on the final monitor of Snoop Dogg’s album Tha Blue Carpet Therapy, “Conversations”. The music is a remake of “Have a Discuss with God” from Songs within the Key of Life. In 2006, Surprise staged a duet with Andrea Bocelli on the latter’s album Amore, providing harmonica and extra vocals on “Canzoni Stonate”. Surprise additionally carried out at Washington, D.C.’s 2006 “A Capitol Fourth” celebration. His key appearances embody performing on the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Paralympics in Salt Lake Metropolis,[83] the 2005 Reside 8 live performance in Philadelphia,[84] the pre-game present for Tremendous Bowl XL in 2006, the Obama Inaugural Celebration in 2009, and the opening ceremony of the 2011 Particular Olympics World Summer time Video games in Athens, Greece.[85]

Surprise in 2006

Surprise’s first new album in ten years, A Time to Love, was launched in October 2005 to decrease gross sales than earlier albums, and lukewarm evaluations—most reviewers showing pissed off on the finish of the lengthy delay to get an album that primarily copied the model of Surprise’s “basic interval” with out doing something new.[86] The primary single, “So What the Fuss”, was launched in April. A second single, “From the Backside of My Coronary heart”, was successful on adult-contemporary R&B radio. The album additionally featured a duet with India Arie on the title monitor “A Time to Love”.

Surprise did a 13-date tour of North America in 2007, beginning in San Diego on August 23; this was his first U.S. tour in additional than 10 years.[87] On September 8, 2008, he began the European leg of his Surprise Summer time’s Evening Tour, the primary time he had toured Europe in over a decade. His opening present was on the Nationwide Indoor Enviornment in Birmingham within the English Midlands. Through the tour, he performed eight UK gigs; 4 on the O2 Enviornment in London (filmed in HD and subsequently launched as a live-in-concert launch on DVD and Blu-Ray, Reside At Final[88]), two in Birmingham and two on the M.E.N. Enviornment in Manchester.[89]

Surprise’s different stops within the tour’s European leg additionally discovered him performing within the Netherlands (Rotterdam), Sweden (Stockholm), Germany (Cologne, Mannheim and Munich), Norway (Hamar), France (Paris), Italy (Milan) and Denmark (Aalborg). Surprise additionally toured Australia (Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane) and New Zealand (Christchurch, Auckland and New Plymouth) in October and November.[89] His 2010 tour included a two-hour set on the Bonnaroo Music Pageant in Manchester, Tennessee, a cease at London’s Onerous Rock Calling in Hyde Park, and appearances at England’s Glastonbury Pageant, Rotterdam’s North Sea Jazz Pageant, and a live performance in Bergen, Norway, and a live performance in Dublin, Eire, on the O2 Enviornment on June 24.[89]

Barack Obama presenting Surprise with the Gershwin Prize in 2009

Surprise’s harmonica taking part in may be heard on the 2009 Grammy-nominated “By no means Give You Up”, that includes CJ Hilton and Raphael Saadiq.[90]

He sang on the Michael Jackson memorial service in 2009,[91] at Etta James’ funeral, in 2012,[92] a month later at Whitney Houston’s memorial service,[93] and on the funeral of Aretha Franklin in 2018.[94][95]

Surprise appeared on singer Celine Dion’s studio album Beloved Me Again to Life performing a canopy of his 1985 music “Overjoyed”.[96] The album was launched in October 2013. He was additionally featured on two tracks on Mark Ronson’s 2015 album Uptown Particular.

In October 2020, Surprise introduced that he had a brand new vainness label launched by way of Republic Data, So What the Fuss Data, marking the primary time his music was not launched via Motown Data. The announcement was paired with the discharge of two singles: “Cannot Put It within the Palms of Destiny”, a “socially-conscious” funk monitor, and “The place Is Our Love Track”, whose proceeds will go in direction of the group Feeding America.[97][98][99]

Future tasks

By June 2008, Surprise was engaged on two tasks concurrently: a brand new album referred to as The Gospel Impressed By Lula, which can cope with the assorted religious and cultural crises dealing with the world, and Via The Eyes Of Surprise, an album he has described as a efficiency piece that can mirror his expertise as a blind man. Surprise was additionally retaining the door open for a collaboration with Tony Bennett and Quincy Jones regarding a rumored jazz album.[100] If Surprise had been to affix forces with Bennett, it will not be for the primary time: their rendition of “For As soon as in My Life” earned them a Grammy for finest pop collaboration with vocals in 2006.[51]

In 2013, Surprise revealed that he had been recording new materials for 2 albums, When the World Started and Ten Billion Hearts, in collaboration with producer David Foster, to be launched in 2014.[101] The albums haven’t seen launch.

In October 2020, whereas selling his two current singles, Surprise talked about each Via the Eyes of Surprise and The Gospel Impressed by Lula as tasks in growth, with the previous as an album which will characteristic each singles, and the latter as a future album he could file along with his former label Motown.[102]


Surprise receiving a standing ovation within the East Room of the White Home in 2011

Surprise is without doubt one of the most notable common music figures of the second half of the twentieth century. He is without doubt one of the most profitable songwriters and musicians.[103] Nearly a one-man band throughout his peak years, his use of synthesizers and additional digital musical devices in the course of the Nineteen Seventies helped develop the sound of R&B.[104] He’s additionally credited as one of many artists who helped drive R&B into the album period, by crafting his LPs as cohesive, constant statements with advanced sounds.[104]

He recorded a number of critically acclaimed albums and hit singles, and likewise writes and produces songs for a lot of of his label mates and out of doors artists as effectively. In his childhood, he was finest recognized for his harmonica work, however right this moment he’s higher recognized for his keyboard expertise and vocal capacity. He additionally performs the piano, synthesizer, harmonica, congas, drums, bongos, organ, melodica and Clavinet. Surprise has been credited as a pioneer and affect to musicians of assorted genres together with pop, rhythm and blues, soul, funk and rock.[105]

Surprise’s “basic interval” is usually agreed to be between 1972 and 1976.[106][107][108] Some observers see points of 1971’s The place I am Coming From as sure indications of the start of Surprise’s “basic interval”, reminiscent of its new funky keyboard model which Surprise used all through the basic interval.[108] Some decide Surprise’s first “basic” album to be 1972’s Music of My Thoughts, on which he attained private management of manufacturing, and on which he programmed a collection of songs built-in with each other to make an idea album.[108] Others skip over early 1972 and decide the start of the basic interval to be Speaking Guide in late 1972,[109] the album during which Surprise “hit his stride”.[108]

Surprise’s albums throughout his “basic interval” had been thought of very influential within the music world: the 1983 Rolling Stone Report Information stated they “pioneered stylistic approaches that helped to find out the form of pop music for the subsequent decade”;[48] In 2005, American recording artist Kanye West stated of his personal work, “I am not making an attempt to compete with what’s on the market now. I am actually making an attempt to compete with Innervisions and Songs within the Key of Life. It sounds musically blasphemous to say one thing like that, however why not set that as your bar?”[110] Slate journal’s pop critic, Jack Hamilton, stated, “Most Individuals comply with up their twenty first birthdays with a hangover; Stevie Surprise opted for arguably the best sustained run of creativity within the historical past of common music. Surprise’s “basic interval”—the well mannered phrase for when Stevie spent 5 years ferociously dunking on your complete historical past of common music with the releases of Music of My Thoughts, Speaking Guide, Innervisions, Fulfillingness’ First Finale, and Songs within the Key of Life […] We have by no means heard something prefer it since, and barring one other reincarnation, we by no means will once more.”[111]

“Let me put it this fashion: Wherever I am going on the planet, I all the time take a duplicate of Songs within the Key of Life. For me, it is the very best album ever made, and I am all the time left in awe after I hearken to it. When individuals in many years and centuries to come back speak in regards to the historical past of music, they are going to speak about Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles and Stevie Surprise […] he [Wonder] advanced into a tremendous songwriter and a real musical pressure of nature. He is so multitalented that it is exhausting to pinpoint precisely what it’s that makes him one of many biggest ever. However first, there’s that voice. Together with Ray Charles, he is the best R&B singer who ever lived.” – Elton John[112]

Surprise has recorded greater than 30 U.S. high ten hits, together with ten U.S. number-one hits on the pop charts, effectively as 20 R&B primary hits. He has offered over 100 million information, 19.5 million of that are albums;[113] he is without doubt one of the high 60 best-selling music artists with mixed gross sales of singles and albums.[114] Surprise was the primary Motown artist and second African-American musician to win an Academy Award for Finest Authentic Track, which he received for his 1984 hit single “I Simply Referred to as to Say I Love You” from the film The Lady in Crimson. Surprise received 25 Grammy Awards[51] (probably the most ever received by a solo artist) in addition to a Lifetime Achievement Award. His albums of the “basic interval”, Innervisions (1973), Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974) and Songs within the Key of Life (1976), all received the Grammy Award for Album of the Yr, making him the tied-record holder for probably the most Album of the Yr wins, with three. He’s additionally the one artist to have received the award with three consecutive album releases. He has been inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Music Corridor of Fame, Rock and Rock Corridor of Fame and Songwriters Corridor of Fame, and has acquired a star on the Hollywood Stroll of Fame.[115][116][117] He has additionally been awarded the Polar Music Prize.[118] Rolling Stone named him the ninth biggest singer and fifteenth biggest artist of all time.[119][120] In June 2009 he turned the fourth artist to obtain the Montreal Jazz Pageant Spirit Award.[121]

In 2003, Rolling Stones 500 Biggest Albums of All Time checklist included Innervisions at quantity 23,[122] Songs within the Key of Life at quantity 56,[123] Speaking Guide at quantity 90,[124] and Music of My Thoughts at quantity 284.[125] And in 2004, on their 500 Biggest Songs of All Time checklist, Rolling Stone included “Superstition” at quantity 74, “Residing for the Metropolis” at quantity 104, “Greater Floor” at quantity 261, and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” at quantity 281.[126]

Surprise can be famous for his work as an activist for political causes, together with his 1980 marketing campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a federal vacation in the USA.[127] On October 21, 1974, with the Boston busing desegregation underway, Surprise spoke and led college students in music at a lounge on the College of Massachusetts Boston the day after he carried out on the Boston Backyard.[128]

Private life


Surprise has been married 3 times. He was married to Motown singer-songwriter and frequent collaborator Syreeta Wright from 1970 till their amicable divorce in 1972. From 2001 till 2012 he was married to designer Kai Millard.[129] In October 2009, Surprise and Millard separated; Surprise filed for divorce in August 2012.[130] In 2017 he married Tomeeka Bracy.[131]


Surprise has 9 youngsters by 5 ladies.[132] The mom of Surprise’s first youngster is Yolanda Simmons, whom Surprise met when she utilized for a job as secretary for his publishing firm.[133] Simmons gave delivery to Surprise’s daughter Aisha Morris on February 2, 1975.[134][135] After Aisha was born, Surprise stated “she was the one factor that I wanted in my life and in my music for a very long time”.[133] Aisha was the inspiration for Surprise’s hit single “Is not She Pretty?” She is now a singer who has toured together with her father and accompanied him on recordings, together with his 2005 album A Time to Love. Surprise and Simmons additionally had a son, Keita, in 1977.[136]

In 1983, Surprise had a son named Mumtaz Morris with Melody McCulley.[137][138] Surprise additionally has a daughter, Sophia, and a son, Kwame, with a lady whose id has not been publicly disclosed.[136] Surprise has two sons with second spouse Kai Millard Morris; the elder is called Kailand and he sometimes performs as a drummer on stage along with his father. The youthful son, Mandla Kadjay Carl Stevland Morris, was born on Might 13, 2005, his father’s fifty fifth birthday.[129]

Surprise’s ninth youngster, his second with Tomeeka Robyn Bracy, was born in December 2014, amid rumors that he could be the daddy to triplets.[139] This turned out to not be the case, and the couple’s new daughter was given the identify Nia,[140] which means “objective”–one of many seven rules of Kwanzaa.[139]
The identify of Surprise’s first youngster with Bracy is unknown.


On Might 31, 2006, Surprise’s mom Lula Mae Hardaway died in Los Angeles on the age of 76.[141] Throughout his September 8, 2008, UK live performance in Birmingham, he spoke of his choice to start touring once more following his loss: “I wish to take all of the ache that I really feel and have fun and switch it round.”[142]

Surprise was launched to Transcendental Meditation via his marriage to Syreeta Wright.[143] In step with that religious imaginative and prescient, Surprise turned vegetarian, and later a vegan, singing about it in October 2015 on The Late Late Present with James Corden in the course of the present’s “Carpool Karaoke” phase.[144][145][146]

Surprise joined Twitter on April 4, 2018, and his first tweet was a five-minute video honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Dozens of well-known personalities had been rounded up within the video, which was titled “The Dream Nonetheless Lives”. Every particular person concerned shared their dream, calling again to King’s common speech in 1963. Surprise’s first tweet took the Web by storm, and he additionally inspired viewers to share their very own movies about their goals with the hashtag #DreamStillLives.[147]

Surprise has been a longtime Baptist affiliated with black church buildings.[148][149][150]

On August 31, 2018, Surprise carried out on the funeral of Aretha Franklin at Detroit’s Larger Grace Temple. He closed the ceremony with a rendition of the Lord’s Prayer and his music “As”.[151]

At a live performance in London’s Hyde Park on July 6, 2019, Surprise introduced that he could be present process a kidney transplant in September.[1]

Awards and recognition

Grammy Awards

Surprise has received 25 Grammy Awards,[51] in addition to a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996.[152] He’s one among solely two artists and teams who’ve received the Grammy for Album of the Yr 3 times as the primary credited artist, together with Frank Sinatra. Surprise is the one artist to have received the award with three consecutive album releases.

Yr Nominee / work Award Outcome
1967 “Uptight” Finest Rhythm & Blues Recording Nominated
Finest Rhythm & Blues Solo Vocal Efficiency, Male or Feminine Nominated
1969 “For As soon as in My Life” Finest Rhythm & Blues Vocal Efficiency, Male Nominated
1971 “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I am Yours” Finest Rhythm & Blues Track Nominated
Finest R&B Vocal Efficiency, Male Nominated
1972 “We Can Work It Out” Nominated
1974 “Superstition” Received
Finest Rhythm & Blues Track Received
“You Are the Sunshine of My Life” Finest Pop Vocal Efficiency, Male Received
Report of the Yr Nominated
Track of the Yr Nominated
Innervisions Album of the Yr Received
1975 Fulfillingness’ First Finale Received
Finest Pop Vocal Efficiency, Male Received
“Boogie On Reggae Lady” Finest R&B Vocal Efficiency, Male Received
“Residing for the Metropolis” Finest Rhythm & Blues Track Received
“Inform Me One thing Good” Nominated
Stevie Surprise Finest Producer of the Yr Nominated
1977 Received
“Contusion” Finest Pop Instrumental Efficiency Nominated
Finest Instrumental Composition Nominated
“Have A Discuss With God” Finest Inspirational Efficiency Nominated
Songs within the Key of Life Album of the Yr Received
Finest Pop Vocal Efficiency, Male Received
“I Want” Finest R&B Vocal Efficiency, Male Received
1981 “Grasp Blaster (Jammin’)” Nominated
Stevie Surprise’s Journey Via The Secret Life Of Crops Finest Album of Authentic Rating Written for a Movement Image or a Tv Particular Nominated
Stevie Surprise Producer of the Yr (Non-Classical) Nominated
“Let’s Get Critical” Finest Rhythm & Blues Track Nominated
1983 “That Woman” Nominated
“Do I Do” Nominated
Finest R&B Vocal Efficiency, Male Nominated
Finest Instrumental Association Accompanying Vocal(s) Nominated
“Ebony and Ivory” Report of the Yr Nominated
Finest Pop Efficiency by a Duo or Group with Vocal Nominated
“What’s That You are Doing” Finest R&B Efficiency by a Duo or Group with Vocal Nominated
1985 “I Simply Referred to as to Say I Love You” Track of the Yr Nominated
Finest Pop Vocal Efficiency, Male Nominated
“I Simply Referred to as to Say I Love You (Instrumental)” Finest Pop Instrumental Efficiency Nominated
The Lady In Crimson Finest R&B Vocal Efficiency, Male Nominated
1986 In Sq. Circle Received
“Half-Time Lover” Finest Pop Vocal Efficiency, Male Nominated
1987 “That is What Buddies Are For” Finest Pop Efficiency by a Duo or Group with Vocal Received
Report of the Yr Nominated
1988 “Skeletons” Finest Rhythm & Blues Track Nominated
Finest R&B Vocal Efficiency, Male Nominated
1989 Characters Nominated
1992 “Gotta Have You” Nominated
Finest Track Written Particularly for a Movement Image or for Tv Nominated
“Jungle Fever” Nominated
1996 “For Your Love” Finest Male R&B Vocal Efficiency Received
Finest Rhythm & Blues Track Received
1997 “Kiss Lonely Goodbye (Harmonica with Orchestra)” Finest Pop Instrumental Efficiency Nominated
1998 “How Come, How Lengthy” Finest Quick Kind Music Video Nominated
Finest Pop Collaboration with Vocals Nominated
1999 “How Come, How Lengthy” (Reside) Nominated
“St. Louis Blues” Finest Male R&B Vocal Efficiency Received
Finest Instrumental Association Accompanying Vocal(s) Received
2003 “Love’s In Want Of Love Right now” Finest R&B Efficiency by a Duo or Group with Vocal Received
“Christmas Track” Finest Pop Collaboration with Vocals Nominated
2005 “Moon River” Nominated
2006 “A Time To Love” Nominated
A Time To Love Finest R&B Album Nominated
“So What the Fuss” Finest Male R&B Vocal Efficiency Nominated
“How Will I Know” Finest R&B Efficiency by a Duo or Group with Vocals Nominated
“So Wonderful” Received
“From The Backside Of My Coronary heart” Finest Male Pop Vocal Efficiency Received
2007 “For As soon as in My Life” Finest Pop Collaboration with Vocals Received
2009 “By no means Give You Up” Finest R&B Efficiency by a Duo or Group with Vocals Nominated
2010 “All Concerning the Love Once more” Finest Male Pop Vocal Efficiency Nominated

Different awards and recognition

Surprise has been given a variety of awards, each for his music and for his civil rights work, together with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Nationwide Civil Rights Museum, being named one of many United Nations Messengers of Peace, and incomes a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2014.

In December 2016, the Metropolis of Detroit acknowledged Surprise’s legacy by renaming a portion of his childhood road, Milwaukee Avenue West, between Woodward Avenue and Brush Avenue, as “Stevie Surprise Avenue”. He was additionally awarded an honorary key to the town, introduced by Mayor Mike Duggan.[154]

Honorary levels

Stevie Surprise has acquired many honorary levels in recognition of his music profession. These embody:

State Date Faculty Diploma
 District of Columbia Might 14, 1978 Howard College Physician of Humane Letters (DHL)[173]
 Alabama June 2, 1996 College of Alabama at Birmingham Physician of Music (D.Mus.)[174]
 New Jersey Might 19, 1999 Rutgers College Physician of Advantageous Arts (D.F.A.)[175]|-
 Connecticut Might 22, 2017 Yale College Physician of Music (D.Mus.)[176]


  • The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie (1962)
  • Tribute to Uncle Ray (1962)
  • With a Track in My Coronary heart (1963)
  • Stevie on the Seashore (1964)
  • Up-Tight (1966)
  • All the way down to Earth (1966)
  • I Was Made to Love Her (1967)
  • Sometime at Christmas (1967)
  • Eivets Rednow (1968)
  • For As soon as in My Life (1968)
  • My Cherie Amour (1969)
  • Signed, Sealed & Delivered (1970)
  • The place I am Coming From (1971)
  • Music of My Thoughts (1972)
  • Speaking Guide (1972)
  • Innervisions (1973)
  • Fulfillingness’ First Finale (1974)
  • Songs within the Key of Life (1976)
  • Stevie Surprise’s Journey Via “The Secret Lifetime of Crops” (1979, soundtrack)
  • Hotter than July (1980)
  • The Lady in Crimson (1984, soundtrack)
  • In Sq. Circle (1985)
  • Characters (1987)
  • Jungle Fever (1991, soundtrack)
  • Dialog Peace (1995)
  • A Time to Love (2005)

See additionally

  • Checklist of Billboard Sizzling 100 chart achievements and milestones
  • Checklist of artists who reached primary on the Sizzling 100 (U.S.)

  • Official web site Edit this at Wikidata
  • Stevie Surprise on Twitter
  • Stevie Surprise discography at Discogs Edit this at Wikidata
  • Stevie Surprise at IMDb
  • “Stevie Surprise collected information and commentary”. The New York Occasions.
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • Stevie Surprise Interview NAMM Oral Historical past Library (2016)
  • Picture of Stevie Surprise and Patti LaBelle performing on the Shrine Auditorium, 1978. Los Angeles Occasions Photographic Archive (Assortment 1429). UCLA Library Particular Collections, Charles E. Younger Analysis Library, College of California, Los Angeles.

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