Librarian of Congress James Billington, who announced the prize Tuesday, noted that the prize honors an artist whose work transcends musical styles to bring diverse listeners together and foster mutual understanding. It recognizes a musician's lifetime of work.
Wonder, 58, will receive the award on Feb. 23, 2009. The first Gershwin Prize was awarded in 2007 to Paul Simon.
Self-taught on piano, harmonica and other instruments, Steveland Morris was just 12 when he first wowed national TV audiences on shows like Dick Clark's "American Bandstand." He was "Little Stevie Wonder" back then, a name he says someone at Motown Records - he can't remember exactly who - came up with.
From his earliest days as a prodigy covering Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" through such songs of his own as "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," "My Cherie Amour" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours," his music has sought to uplift and inform as well as entertain.
Among his albums: "Talking Book," "Innervisions," "Fulfillingness First Finale" and "Songs in the Key of Life," the last of which included his classic single "Love in Need of Love Today."