Stevie Wonder, whose given name is Stevland Hardaway Morris, was born in Saginaw, Michigan and grew up in Detroit, Michigan.
Wonder is a devout Christian who, like so many of the great black musicians of his time, got his start in music at church. In his case, it was the Whitestone Baptist Church in Detroit.
To this day, faith plays strongly into Wonder’s life. You can hear it in his music, such as in the song “Have a Talk With God,” where he repeatedly sings: “When you feel your life’s too hard, just go have a talk with God.”
According to Wonder, it was God who gave him the ability and opportunity to rise to the top in the music industry despite his handicap. He said:
Many years ago, there were those who said, ‘Well, you have three strikes against you: You’re black, you’re blind and you’re poor.’ But God said to me, ‘I will make you rich in the spirit of inspiration, to inspire others as well as create music to encourage the world to a place of oneness and hope and positivity.’ I believed Him and not them.
Wonder takes issue with the mishandling of religion, particularly for violent ends–and that goes for Christians, Muslims and whoever else. He said:
The God that I believe in doesn’t believe in bombing, and the Allah that I respect for Muslims doesn’t believe in terrorizing innocent people.
Politics is another topic Wonder doesn’t shy away from. And for the most part, Wonder thinks the world of social relations, geo-politics and governance should revolve around love and understanding. Speaking of (what some interpret as) the extreme xenophobia of the American Tea Party, Wonder said:
No Tea Party — I don’t care. You want to be a supremacist? Then be the supreme of getting people together.
He regularly speaks out against America’s wars, and his sentiments might best be summed up by the lyrics of his hit song, “Higher Ground,” where he sings:
Soldiers keep on warrin’…/Powers keep on lyin’/While your people keep on dyin’.
But despite his high-minded, transcendental political stances, Wonder is a Democrat at the end of the day. His financial political donations have all been to Democrats or their support organizations and he’s endorsed various Democratic candidates including Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, and his 2012 campaign. For example, in 2008, Wonder played the Democratic National Convention and in 2012, Wonder played an Obama benefit concert, with tickets starting at $44 a piece.
But certain ideas of Wonder’s conflict with the Democratic Party platform, such as his sentiments toward gay people. When rapper Frank Ocean famously outed himself and the hip-hop world reeled, Wonder threw in his two cents, saying:
I think honestly, some people who think they’re gay, they’re confused. People can misconstrue closeness for love. People can feel connected, they bond.
He quickly issued an apology after some public outrage, but one has to wonder if Wonder’s true feelings came out for a moment.