Setlist History: 13-Year Old Stevie Wonder Records First Hit

Stevie Wonder had his first #1 hit 60 years ago today when "Fingertips Pt II" became all the rage.

Recorded during a live performance at Chicago's Regal Theater during Motown Records' star-studded Motortown Revue in April of 1963, the 13-year-old's improvisational call-and-response added a little something special that the previous studio recording lacked.

Stevie Wonder performing "Fingertips" at the Apollo in Harlem in 1963.

In '62 Motown execs released two records of the blind child they advertised as being a genius: The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie, which originally contained "Fingertips" but was heavy on flute,

The first song on this album is "Fingertips" but it's not Stevie on flute, which is high up in the mix, but bongos. Who is listening to the bongos on this?

and Tribute to Uncle Ray, where Stevie was being likened to Ray Charles.

Neither album was embraced by audiences.

One song was all that was needed that night for Stevie to take off.

But Motown founder Berry Gordy (and most who saw Stevie live) believed in him. And so when it was time to caravan from Detroit to nearby Chicago for the April Motortown Revue, Gordy placed Wonder on the bill along with the Miracles ("Shop Around"),

The Motortown Revue when it hit Harlem, in NYC in 1963.

the Contours ("Do You Love Me"), the Marvelettes ("Please Mr. Postman"), Marvin Gaye ("Hitch Hike"), and the Vandellas ("Dancing In The Street").

"Fingertips" was the only tune Stevie was set to play, so after three minutes, his handler escorted him off stage as the audience applauded. But the young musician quickly headed back to the mic and not only played more but improvised the lyrics that got the crowd going.

Sharp-eyed viewers might notice that none other than Marvin Gaye is on the drums. Gaye played drums on a number of Motown hits in his early days at the label.

Decades later, "Fingertips" was used in the trailer of Jordan Peele's "Nope" (2022).

When Motown released the live version of "Fingertips" from that performance it originally cut the second half off when Wonder had returned to the mic. That second half was titled "Fingertips Pt II" and was placed on the B-side. Quickly the label realized fans loved the energy of "Pt II" and made that the A-side, and not only a hit was born, but also a star.

Little Stevie Wonder became the youngest solo artist to go #1, and the song became the first #1 single that was from a live performance. .

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Last updated: 10 Dec 2023, 12:46 Etc/UTC