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PHOTO ESSAY

Motown

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Little Stevie Wonder

"Little Stevie Wonder." Courtesy of James Kriegsmann/Photofest.

"Little Stevie Wonder," as Berry Gordy dubbed Steveland Judkins after his audition at Motown studios, was only 12 years old when he recorded his first hit, "Fingertips, Pt. 2," a seven minute live track of frenzied blues harmonica and call-and-response. (A young Marvin Gaye played drums on the song.) The 12 Year Old Genius, the 1963 album containing "Fingertips," was also a success, becoming Motown's first LP to reach the number 1 position on the Billboard 200 albums chart. For the first time in Billboard history, an album and a single by the same artist were simultaneously at the top of the charts; additionally, "Fingertips" was the first live single to reach number 1 on Billboard since 1952. In 1964 Wonder dropped "Little" from his name, and a year later recorded "Uptight (Out of Sight)," one his most well-known songs. Much more than his earlier work, "Uptight" was a uniquely Motown-sounding track: a simple, repeating melody over a driving beat by studio drummer (Funk Brother) Benny Benjamin. Wonder would go on to become one of the best-selling and highly-acclaimed artists of the twentieth century.

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