Stevie Wonder has been dominating the world of music for almost as long as he can remember. While most 13-year-old’s spend their days wasting time, causing mischief and not doing anything particularly of note, Stevie Wonder proved he has always been different from the rest of the pack.
Music is something that has been in his blood since he was in the womb, and it didn’t take him long to capture the hearts of a nation. When he was just 10-years-old, Wonder could be spotted on the streets of Detroit singing to enthralled crowds, all of whom knew that they were witnessing a prodigy right in front of their very eyes.
A year later, in 1961, Wonder’s relationship with Motown Records began when he was only 11-years-old, and this love affair lasted for over half a century until it came to an end in 2020. Back when he joined the label, he wasn’t even Stevie Wonder, and still went under his real name, Steveland Hardaway Morris, before he was rebranded as ‘Little Stevie Wonder’.
At the same time, Motown Records wasn’t the household name that it is today; instead, only finding minimal moments of radio play. Wonder’s first three singles failed to chart, and nobody expected ‘Fingertips’ to become a hit that it ultimately did.
The live version that eventually became the single is a cut taken from Recorded Live: The 12 Year Old Genius. However, by the time the album was out, Wonder had celebrated his 13th birthday just a month prior to the album release in June 1963.
Live tracks have never dominated the charts, and when Wonder’s effort eventually rose to the top spot, it became the first-ever live recording to achieve this feat. Suddenly, Wonder’s life changed instantly, and he entered superstardom when he simultaneously became a teenager.
“All of this was recorded by accident, I never thought it would be a single,” Stevie later said about the track. Looking back about his early years as a performing artist, he reflected: “You wouldn’t really call it performing. Doorsteps, porches, back yards, alleys. I did a lot of work in church. My mother told me that even before I was born, she had a dream that she had a child who was a musician.”
The track isn’t lyric heavy, and instead, Wonder unleashes hell on the bongos and harmonica with the occasional bit of infectious impromptu singing thrown in for good measure. Nothing about the track would make it a traditional pop hit, but it’s exhilarating, and the footage below of Wonder performing ‘Fingertips’ is even more riveting.
Despite being just a child, Wonder’s performance oozed charisma, and he looked like he was born to be on the stage. Although he was called Little Stevie Wonder, there’s nothing little about his stage presence which filled New York’s famous Apollo Theater.
‘Fingertips’ was Wonder’s break-out moment, but like most child prodigies, this wasn’t his only moment in the sun, and he’s since gone on to sell over 100 million records throughout his spectacular career, which is still thriving almost 60-years later.