This paper is going to compare the hardships and careers of Ludwig Van Beethoven and Stevie Wonder. Both of these men are exceptional musicians whom of which had to deal with physical disabilities during their careers. Stevie Wonder’s condition is attributed to a dislocated nerve in one eye and a cataract in the other. He was born prematurely which exposed him to a condition known as Retinopathy of Prematurity. It is an eye disease where the blood vessels in the eye don’t grow properly for an unknown reason. During the 1940s there was an outbreak of this disease with close to 12,000 premature children as a result suffering from blindness this included Stevie Wonder. Being premature by one month, as a baby he was put into an incubator which also may have contributed to his loss of sight. Stevie Wonder’s life was hugely impacted by his impairment, but his spirit was never restrained by it. He often quoted that he was glad he was blind as it gave him the gift of never judging a book by its cover.
However, whereas Stevie was born with is disability Beethoven gradually became deaf in his mid-life. Although the cause was never fully proven, it was considered it could be from either arterial disease or to contracting typhus in 1796. A discredited theory of lead poisoning has also been recently noted. A finalized cause for his mid-tile loss of hearing has never been defined.
Wonder began to develop his ear to the sounds of the world as a young child. Being blind forced Wonder to adapt and focus on his ability to hear and fine-tuned it. His mother and brothers helped him to pay close attention to sound and develop skills to decipher its origins. As a result of the help of his family Wonder’s hearing became extremely good at a young age. Music had become a very important aspect of Wonder’s life as a child. His mother sang gospel music at the local church and encourage her son to participate. At age 2 Wonder’s rhythm skills were noted when he was using spoons as drums. He was able to create a complex rhythm and play it persistently. As he grew, drums continued to be an interest along with many other instruments. His dedicated interest in the harmonica became a “gateway to excellence as he was able to find the impressive range on the instrument. In order to improve on the harmonica, he began to listen to blues records and imitate their sounds. It wasn’t long before the music began to take over his life. Wonder used to practice singing with a friend named John Glover, cousin to Ronnie White (founding member of recording music group Miracles). Glover contacted his cousin to come to hear Wonder sing and this is where he was first discovered. His career took flight at age 11 thanks to friend Ronnie White, who introduced him to the record label “Tamla Records”. He was signed under the name Little Stevie Wonder and was coached by many of the senior musicians at the label. After trying out many different styles, Stevie Wonder released his first album in 1962 called The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie Wonder. It was an instrumental album with no vocals. It showcased his musical talent towards several different instruments. His next album was named Tribute to Uncle Ray and was a homage to Ray Charles. Neither of these albums were big hits as he hadn’t developed his own sound yet. In order to make his name known, the label put Wonder on the countrywide Motown River tour, where a tutor joined in order to fulfill his educational requirements. This tour is where he developed his stage persona and skills. On tour, Wonder found his first hit single, entitled “Fingertips- Part 2”. This was the song that made him famous and entitled him as a boy genius in music.
Musical talent ran in the family, especially in Beethoven’s grandfather. He had a fantastic singing voice and at the age of 21 was a court musician. His grandfather was a Kapellmeister (the head of all court music) before age 50. Beethoven’s father was also a good singer as well but fell victim to alcoholism. His grandfather had hopes of Beethoven achieving the Kapellmeister position just like himself. so he began his musical education at a young age. They discussed great composers of the time and sang together. This ended at age 3 when Beethoven’s grandfather passed away. After his passing, Johann took over the musical teachings and hired a piano, oboe and flute musician to teach Beethoven. This teacher taught with Beethoven for a year but then moved out of the country. Another teacher named Christian Gottlob Neefe was Beethoven’s new teacher. He was a composer himself and helped Beethoven note on paper his first compositions. The first performance Beethoven ever gave was on the 26th of March, 1778 at 7 years old where he played various pieces of the piano. Within the first year that Neefe started teaching him, he published his first work. This composition was called Variations on a March by Dressler. Although good, these variations produced very little attention. In 1783 at age 12, Beethoven published his first composition that was entirely his own. These three piano sonatas were called Kurfursten Sonatas Wo0 47. Shortly after, Johann was unable to manage his alcoholism and provide income for his family. Beethoven formally requested an official appointment as Assistant Court Organist, and despite how young he was, he got the job. In 1787 the court decided to send Beethoven to Vienna to study with Mozart. A few short weeks into the study he learned that his mother was ill and rushed back home. His mother died a short few months later which put him into a depression.
Therefore Beethoven and Wonder both has very similar starts to their careers and both battled with adversity in the form of a disability. They were both successful and have become legends in the musical world and are still discussed today and will be forever.
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