Stevland Hardaway Judkins, aka Stevie Wonder

Happy Monday, everybody! Today we are ready to induct a living legend into the Funny Names Hall of Fame. Which is totally a thing. And totally exists. In fact, the FNHOF is actually housed inside a building somewhere. We just haven’t figured out where yet.

It’s a well-known fact that we here at Funny Names HQ appreciate and cherish all of our inductees, but sometimes there’s a person that really pushes the envelope, and darn tootin’ if today’s subject ain’t one of them!

Apparently some 13-year-olds don't have an awkward phase... Lucky ducks!

Apparently some 13-year-olds don’t have an awkward phase… Lucky ducks!

We have theories on fellas with Funny Names growing up to be tough guys, a la A Boy Named Sue. We’ve christened this  the Kermit Can Kill Conjecture, and it’s one of our favorite Funny Names Theories (just kidding – naming a favorite Funny Names Theory is like deciding which of my children I’d like to eat*).

* Until I have reason to do otherwise, I’m calling Clif Bars my children… they’re all so delicious!

But our list of accomplished musicians with funny names may have an even richer history. BoFN historians may recall that Taffy Nivert was my first post ever on this blog (and for several months it was responsible for half of our incoming traffic), and we’ve covered quite a few others: Danbert Nobacon, Dolores O’Riordan, Toots Thielemans, Ethel Merman, Green Gartside and more recently Don Van Vliet aka famous Mascara Snake raconteur Captain Beefheart, just to name a few.

But today’s inductee may be the most accomplished musician profiled yet. Stevland Hardaway Judkins is better known as Stevie Wonder, and was born among a concordance of funny names – including those of his parents Calvin Judkins and Lula Mae Hardaway and his birth town of Saginaw, Michigan (not quite as funny as my favorite Michigan town Ypsilanti, but close).

And if being surrounded by names like that wasn’t enough, the guy is just ridiculously accomplished and makes me wonder what the heck I’ve been doing with my life.

Born six weeks premature, he had retinopathy of prematurity, meaning that an underdeveloped circulatory structure in his eyes caused his retinas to detach slightly after birth, and lifelong blindness.

Now some people would probably use natal blindness as a justification for striving for less in life. Stevland Hardaway Judkins instead became Stevie Wonder, releasing an album at age 12 and becoming the youngest person to reach #1 on the Billboard Charts with “Fingertips (Pt. 2)”, at AGE THIRTEEN!!!?!!!

The next time somebody complains about having a tough lot in life, just remember that a twelve-year-old blind kid sang and played three instruments (with a young Marvin Gaye accompanying on the drums), landing a #1 hit a year later.

So that’s a pretty awesome accomplishment. A #1 hit at that awkward age when most boys are just trying to work up the courage to, I dunno… talk to a girl(!). That’s a pretty epic win right there. Might as well call it a career, right?



Instead, Stevie Wonder went on to write and perform three more Top 3 hits, including “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” and then let his Motown contract expire on his 21st birthday.

Why? He wanted full creative control of his music. Now he’s not the first person to want that, but his approach was pretty awesome.

Stevie Wonder went out and wrote two whole albums, which he used as bargaining chips in his negotiations with Motown.

When asked about his only regret, Stevie replied: "I'm just bummed I don't get to see how cool I look" (Citation needed)

When asked about his only regret, Stevie replied: “I’m just bummed I don’t get to see how cool I look” (Citation needed)

Well played, Wonder, well played!

Oh, and I guess I should mention that he was also married by that point, to a lovely lady and musician named Syreeta Wright. Their marriage ended amicably in divorce two years later. In 2001, he remarried, this time to fashion designer Kai Millard Morris. Stevie recently filed for divorce, perhaps because he realized that nobody can keep up with Stevie Wonder.

Case in point: he has recorded more than thirty Billboard Top Ten hits (including ten number 1 hits), and his 22 Grammys are the most of any solo artist. Oh, and throw in a Lifetime Achievement Grammy too. And an Academy Award (for best song). And induction into both the Rock ‘n Roll and Songwriter’s Halls of Fame. (Not to mention the Funny Names Hall of Fame).

And he’s still going strong.

I think I might have to pull a Becky and just say “Oh ruddy heck! How accomplished can one guy be?”

The answer: if it’s a guy born with the name Stevland Hardaway Judkins, as accomplished as he wants!

Reflecting sunglasses upon reflecting sunglasses. Stevland Hardaway Judkins' take on an M.C. Escher painting.

Including this well-intentioned take on an M.C. Escher tribute, involving an infinite loop of reflecting sunglasses.

About Dave

Based out of San Diego, California. Co-founder of the Blog of Funny Names.
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22 Responses to Stevland Hardaway Judkins, aka Stevie Wonder

  1. marksackler says:

    Hall of Fame? Oh yeah, I left that out of my awards proposal. We need a formal Funny Names Hall of Fame with its own permanent page on here.

    • Dave says:

      That sounds pretty good. At this point, I’ve been considering the A-Z page our “Funny Names Hall of Fame,” into which we enshrine several new people per week. Perhaps a more formal one is in order, though… Mark, you’re full of ideas!

  2. kerbey says:

    That is a great example of how we can feel burdened by our circumstances and have a pity party, or realize that we were created this way for a specific destiny and press forward. Props to Stevland!

    • Dave says:

      I totally agree. Writing funny names posts is actually quite motivational!

      Oh, and I love the phrase “Props to Stevland!”. I’ll need to find a way to fit that into my daily conversations 🙂

  3. Liz says:

    Well played, Dave, well played! Good information (lots of research here) and a good read. Who knew? Like the compilation of music names, too. Seems you’re setting BoFN up for some sort of category award? 😉

    Though I will take exception, as a mom and as a food freak, at your comment about eating your children. Nice save with the parenthetical (Clif bars are your children? you may need to put down your power point and get out a bit more, dear brother.), though it still smacks a bit of Hansel and Gretel. haha, enjoyed your post.

    • Dave says:

      Haha, a comedian friend used that line and I thought it was funny, but then realized that since I don’t have any children, I might as well name tasty Clif bars my children instead 🙂

      Hmmm… setting up for a category award… I didn’t even think about that, but it conveniently seems to fall in line with…something…

      Stay tuned… 🙂

  4. wdydfae says:

    Great! I love that post!

    In my Toots Theilemans post I almost put up this Stevie Wonder and Toots duo, but didn’t have enough space:

  5. Love this post. And Mark’s suggestion for a permanent page for the hall of fame.

    However, I may never look at Clif Bars the same way again. 😉

  6. ksbeth says:

    i’m sure it’s housed somewhere in a building with a funny name – perhaps in ypsilanti? i live in ann arbor, ypsi is my cousin who lives nearby )

    • Dave says:

      That’s so awesome! Next time you’re in Ypsi (love the nickname, by the way 🙂 ), see if you can spot it anywhere. We’d love to find the location for the Funny Names Hall of Fame, so then we can satisfy our supreme overlords of funny namedness!

      • ksbeth says:

        so, you prefer ypsi (ip-see), to kalamazoo? both are odd names, but ypsi has the higher crime rate.

        • Dave says:

          Mmm…. that’s a tough one! For some reason it never occurred to me that those two cities are both in Michigan. I’ll have to get back to you on that one. Ypsi has some stiff competition, for sure!

  7. Yeahhhhh ruddy heck!!! Best phrase ever!!! 🙂

  8. Arto says:

    Oh Stevland, what a name (and man)! He did some fantastic musical interludes for the sorta-documentary The Secret Life of Plants where he sings about the Secret Life of Plants while wandering through fields of plants. It’s great. Isn’t Stevland just something?! He’s so cool he deserves that interrobang. Whoo!

  9. Pingback: Cryptoquote Spoiler – 03/06/14 | Unclerave's Wordy Weblog

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