Sunday, June 11, 2006

SOULOBIT: Lula Mae Hardaway

The death has been announced of Lula Mae Hardaway, songwriter and mother of Stevie Wonder.

Hardaway was born, January 1930, in Eufaula, Alabama. Her childhood was one of want: want of affection, and material want, as her biographer Stacy Brown recalls:

"She had a very, very rough upbringing. She went from house to house as a child, from relative to relative. Her parents didn't want her."

At fifteen, she moved to Indiana and found work sewing in a factory; a marriage, to the much older Calvin Judkins brought children but also misery. Judkins drank, beat her and - eventually - persuaded and bullied her into prostitution.

Hardaway wasn't going to take that, and fled with the children to Detroit. There, she survived by whatever means she had available, encouraging her blind son Stevie to sing on street corners to make some sort of living.

It was a scheme which would change their lives. Berry Gordy heard the boy's voice, and the founder of Motown and the sharecropper's daughter from Eufaula set about discussing the contract which would start Little Stevie Wonder's career.

Although she would start to take a backseat in later years, Hardaway kept a close eye on the early years of Wonder's career: she co-wrote a number of tracks with her son, including Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours and I Was Made to Love Her.