Not merely the mother of Motown immortal Stevie Wonder, Lula Mae Hardaway was also his songwriting collaborator on some of the most enduring hits of the 1960s. Born January 11, 1930, in Eufaula, AL, Hardaway was the product of a sharecropping family. She shuttled between various relatives throughout adolescence, eventually relocating to Chicago in the months following World War II and landing a factory job. There Hardaway married Calvin Judkins, an older man who abused her and forced her into prostitution. She eventually saved enough money to escape to the Detroit area, however, and after settling in Saginaw, MI, she gave birth to her third son, Steveland, on May 13, 1950. The child was born prematurely and placed in an incubator, where excessive oxygen levels resulted in his permanent blindness. When the family relocated to Detroit three years later, Hardaway feared for the boy's safety and insisted he remain indoors at virtually all times. With little to occupy his time, Steveland began banging on pots and pans in emulation of the rhythms he heard on radio, and in quick succession he mastered the harmonica, the piano, and the drums. After joining the local church choir, Steveland's local renown as a child prodigy grew, and in 1962 Ronnie White of the Miracles brought the 11-year-old to Motown Records. After negotiating a contract with Hardaway, owner Berry Gordy renamed his new protégé Little Stevie Wonder, and in 1963 he scored his first number one hit, "Fingertips, Pt. 2." While Hardaway later received songwriting credits on smashes including "I Was Made to Love Her" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours," it is difficult to gauge the extent of her creative contributions to Wonder's career. Nevertheless, when his masterpiece Innervisions earned the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1973, he refused to accept the honor unless Hardaway accompanied him to the podium, where he declared "her strength has led us to this place." In 2002 Hardaway published an autobiography, Blind Faith: The Miraculous Journey of Lula Hardaway, Stevie Wonder's Mother. She died in Los Angeles on May 31, 2006, at the age of 76.
Lula Mae Hardaway Biography
by Jason Ankeny