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Musical Ambitions

Wonderful Music

Along with the drums, harmonica, and piano, Stevie began to sing. He loved voices, and from a young age was able to tell who was in the room from the sound of his or her voice. He had also learned the different calls of birds and was able to tell who was singing on the radio. Stevie loved all voices and music, and he began training his voice to sing along to radio tunes.

Lulu was part of the church choir, but never thought of herself as a musician. None of her family had ever been musically inclined, except for Stevie. He began to sing in the choir. Everyone discovered that he had a beautiful voice. They weren't surprised, though. His musical talents were already widely known. Stevie sang solo parts in the choir. He was also asked to sing at special events.

Along with choir singing, Stevie began to sing on neighborhood porches. People would give him quarters to sing or play his harmonica. When people began giving him dollar bills, he said he'd rather have the quarters, because they made noise in his pocket!

Did You Know?

While listening to the radio, Stevie learned to separate the sounds of each instrument he heard. Later, he learned to play all the instruments that he had heard in the songs he listened to.

At night Stevie listened to the WCHB radio program Sundown. He learned the tunes in his head every night. He played the notes on the piano, drums, and harmonica every day. “I played Jimmy Reed's blues,” Stevie recalled. “Bobby Blue Bland's. I used to sit by the radio and listen till sunup. Took a little of everybody's style and made it my own.”

Additional topics

Musician BiographiesStevie WonderMusical Ambitions - Radio Days, Early Instruments, Wonderful Music, A Detroit Record