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Compare & Contrast
&
THEN
& NOW
STEVIE TAYLOR
LITTLE
STEVIE WONDER
Born blind, he dazzled the
world with his singing and
songwriting talents
T
Two remarkable journeys
to stardom
TAYLOR SWIFT
And what a wonder he was. Stevie was born in 1950,
blind in both eyes—but his blindness never held him
Once bullied and ignored, she is
now a worldwide superstar
back. As a kid, he climbed trees. He played ball. He sang
solos in his church choir. Above all, he made his own
F
music. He taught himself how to play the piano and
other instruments. By the age of 4, he was writing
songs for the harmonica and bongos.
In 1954, Stevie and his family moved to Detroit.
or a certain sixth-grader, a field trip to Nashville,
Tennessee, was life-changing. She loved
Taylor Swift,
now and then
the Country Music Hall of Fame.
he year was 1961. A group of executives were
In the 1960s, Detroit was home to one of the most
packed into a recording studio. They were raving
important record companies in the world: Motown
about a musician who had just auditioned. He
Records. Its president, Berry Gordy Jr., was known
part was going to all the record
at the Bluebird Cafe, a local spot where
was only 10 years old, and his name, Stevland
for finding superstars. When Little Stevie Wonder
companies to drop off recordings
musicians tested out new songs. It was there
Hardaway Judkins, was a mouthful. But he was so
walked into his studio, Gordy found one of his
of her songs. None of the studio
that Taylor got her big break. She was offered
sensational that they had offered him a contract on the
brightest stars yet.
executives took her seriously—
a record contract before she could drive a car!
spot. They also gave him a new name: Little Stevie Wonder.
the Wildhorse Saloon. But the best
but they should have. Why?
Within two years of his first audition, Stevie had his
airwaves in 2006, she has been an international
sensation. In 2009, Taylor became the youngest artist
listened to Shania Twain and Dolly Parton albums until
ever to win the Country Music Association Award for
she knew every word of every song. She performed at
Entertainer of the Year. Today, she is the world’s top-
karaoke contests and county fairs near Wyomissing,
selling digital artist, with more than 24.3 million digital
Pennsylvania, where she grew up. At age 12, she taught
tracks and 10 million albums sold.
to win a Grammy for Best Album of the Year, for his
album Innervisions. Since then, he has won 24 more
Grammys, including a Lifetime Achievement Award.
He has the most Grammys of any male solo artist
in American history.
When Stevie was just starting out in his career, people
told him he’d never make it. Today, at age 60, he
has more than 40 albums under his belt—
and he is still performing. He smiles when
he remembers those who doubted him.
“People said that because I was blind, I
couldn’t do what others did,” Stevie said.
“I never believed that. And I never will.”
•
©RAHAV SEGEV/RETNA/CORBIS; INSET: ©ANDREW ORTH/RETNA/CORBIS
with singing since she was a little girl. She
guitar. He wrote dozens of songs. Each year, his skills
©PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES; INSET: EVENING STANDARD/GETTY IMAGES
voice, but he also played the piano, synthesizer, and bass
grew. In 1973, Stevie became the first African-American
SCHOLASTIC SCOPE • JANUARY 10, 2011
Taylor’s first album, Taylor Swift, hit the
Taylor, now 21, has been obsessed
And the hits kept coming. Not only did he have a soulful
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The rest is history. From the moment
Because that girl was Taylor Swift.
first No. 1 single, “Fingertips: Part 2.” He was 12 years old.
Stevie Wonder,
now and then
She devoured the barbecue at
herself to play guitar and wrote her first song.
While making music came easily to Taylor, making
friends did not. Kids would move to a different table
What makes Taylor so popular? Fearless, the title
of her second album, says it all. “It’s all about following
your gut,” she says. “And listening to your heart.”
when she tried to sit with them at lunch. “They all
thought I was weird,” Taylor remembers. “I spent a lot
of time alone.” So Taylor focused on her music.
Taylor’s parents knew their daughter had talent,
so they moved to a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee—the
center of the country-music industry. By the age of 14,
Taylor was working part-time as a songwriter at Sony/
ATV Publishing, a music label. She also performed
•
COMPARE & CONTRAST
Find two ways that Taylor Swift and Stevie Wonder
are similar and two ways they are different. Then take
this activity further. Go to Scope online and use
GET THIS
ACTIVITY
ONLINE
our guide to write a (painless!) compare-andcontrast essay.
SCHOLASTIC.COM/SCOPE • JANUARY 10, 2011
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