Is Stevie Wonder really blind? Truth behind rumors after singer caught mic stand dropped by Paul McCartney

Wonder once promptly greeted Shaquille O'Neal, saying 'What’s up Shaq? How you doin’ big dawg?' even though O'Neal didn't alert him about his presence


                            Is Stevie Wonder really blind? Truth behind rumors after singer caught mic stand dropped by Paul McCartney
Stevie Wonder performs onstage at Q85: A Musical Celebration for Quincy Jones (Getty Images)
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Deemed a child prodigy and with 22 Grammys to his name, Stevie Wonder is one of the most influential musicians alive and his legacy is nothing short of legendary. Wonder is often credited as a musical pioneer, whose use of synthesizers had a massive influence on R&B as a genre.

He has also gone on to serve as inspiration for artists from all different genres. Although blinded at a young age, Wonder never let that stop him and found comfort and expression through music.

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How did Stevie Wonder lose his eyesight?

Stevland Hardaway Judkins was born in Saginaw, Michigan, on May 13, 1950, to Lula Mae Hardaway and Calvin Judkins. Wonder was born 6 weeks prematurely and had to be kept in an incubator because of the same. On account of the high oxygen levels, Wonder ended up with a condition known as Retinopathy of Prematurity. Retinopathy of Prematurity or ROP occurs when the growth of the eyes stops and the retinas get detached, causing blindness. This happens when abnormal blood vessels spread through the retina. The abnormal blood vessels are fragile and can leak, which can then pull the retina out of its position.

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In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Wonder opened up about his condition. "I was premature. My doctor didn't know what's known now about the right amount of oxygen, so I was given too much and an area of my eyes was destroyed. A girl who was born one minute before me actually died. She couldn't withstand that much oxygen," he explained.

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When asked if he was angry at the doctor for such a mistake, Wonder said he knew the intent wasn't to harm him. "No," he said, when asked if he was bitter. "Once when I went to Saginaw, Michigan, and visited the hospital where I was born, there was this big hoopla—they gave me a special award. I think people were scared I was planning to sue that doctor's ass. But he didn't have any intent to harm me." Wonder added.

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He also explained how his mother truly meant everything to him, seeing that we once told her that she should not worry about him being blind, because he was happy. "It bothered me that my mother was crying all the time. She thought God might be punishing her for something," he said, explaining why he reassured her.

"She lived during a time when things were particularly difficult for a woman in her circumstances. I used to say that if something happened to my mother, I wanted to die with her. That's because I loved her so much. I want to live so I can carry out the essence of what she has shown me: kindness and goodness." he added.

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Popular American musician and singer Stevie Wonder plays the harmonic with one hand, 1963. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

How does he play music?

Although blind, Wonder's passion for music blossomed at a young age. As reported by Smooth Radio, Wonder was five years old when he taught himself to play the harmonica. At eight, he learned how to play the drums. He did so by listening to the radio and then trying to replicate the rhythm on any surface he could find.

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By the time he was 10, he learned how to play the piano, harmonica and drums. Wonder's music career begin when he was still quite young, see that he composed and performed 'Lonely Boy' for Ronnie White of the Miracles. White saw his potential and had him audition for Motown CEO Berry Gordy, who signed the 11-year-old to Motown's Tamla label.

Producer Clarence Paul christened him with the name 'Little Stevie Wonder.' Under Paul, Wonder recorded two albums -- 'Tribute to Uncle Ray,' which included covers of Ray Charles' music, and 'The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie', an instrumental album of Paul's compositions, along with two other songs he co-wrote with Wonder, namely 'Wondering' and 'Session Number 112'.

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Recording artist Stevie Wonder performs onstage during 'The Night That Changed America: A GRAMMY Salute To The Beatles' at the Los Angeles Convention Center (Getty Images)

Rumors about Wonder's eye condition

There has been a significant amount of rumors regarding if Wonder is truly blind. One instance that led to the speculation in 2010, when Paul McCartney knocked a mic stand over while performing 'Hey Jude at the White House. Wonder was seen catching the stand just as it was about to fall.

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In 2019, Shaquille O'Neal spoke about how Wonder noticed him while he stood silently near the musician. In an episode of 'Inside the NBA,' he recounted the incident, stating that he stood next to Wonder who promptly greeted him by saying "What’s up Shaq? How you doin’ big dawg?" even though O'Neal didn't alert him of his presence. Even Lionel Richie spoke about he believes the singer can see, and spoke about the same on the 'Kelly Clarkson Show.'

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"I’ve been spending my whole life with him thinking he can see," he said, having seen Wonder steer a car down a driveway in reverse. "I know he can see," Richie added. Even Anthony Anderson has insisted that the artist can see, seeing that he challenged Wonder to a charity free-throw and lost to him.

P.Diddy once said that Wonder was able to describe an outfit he had had. When asked about the same by TMZ, Wonder joked and said, "It could be."

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However, the truth remains that he is blind. As reported by Gossip Cop, Wonder took off his glasses while giving his acceptance speech when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. His eyes appeared significantly damaged, which is proof of the same.

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American singer, songwriter, musician and record producer Stevie Wonder, UK, 27th June 1970. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The 2021 Billboard Music Awards will be held at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles and will be streamed live on NBC at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT. Fans can also catch all the action on several other live TV streaming services including Sling TV, fuboTV, Hulu With Live TV, AT&T TV and YouTube.

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