In the clip, Stevie talks about his early days with Motown, his first encounter with racism and how he got the nickname “Nappy Wonder.” (He even attempts to do a British accent.)
“I remember once I woke up one time, I was asleep on the bus and The Temptations were there. I don’t know, I was half asleep, I said, “Oh, my hair hurts me!” [laughs] He says, “What?” I think it was Paul Williams said, “You’re hair is so nappy, it hurts. Your hair that hurts you. Your hair is hurting you.” So they used to call me Nappy Wonder,” he explained.
As for growing up poor, he says that he “didn’t really understand the severity of the situation or the circumstances.”
“I think I was so in love with my mother, and my brothers, my sister, my friends, and just in love with the discovery of life itself that my focus was not on those things,” he said. But that all changed when he went down south.
“I think I discovered a whole thing of color when I went down south once when my grandmother passed away. There were some kids, white kids that lived nearby or whatever. The kids said, “Hey, n—–!” Whatever they said.” But a young Stevie Wonder wasn’t having it.
“I think I may have heard it, but I said, ‘What, I’m from Detroit.’ I started throwing rocks over. ‘Oh you better not do that, you’ll get into trouble.’ I said, ‘I don’t care.’ I hit the kid, I kept throwing stuff. I just…I have never accepted stupidity and ignorance as making me then determine how good I was or how less I was.”
Hear the entire interview in the animated clip above.