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Eileen Whelan reports for BBC News
"There may be hope that the Motown legend may have his sight restored"
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Friday, 3 December, 1999, 11:18 GMT
Stevie Wonder bids to regain sight
Stevie Wonder has been in the music industry since he was 10

Soul legend Stevie Wonder is to undergo an operation in an attempt to regain his sight.

The singer broke the news to fellow worshippers at a church in Detroit, Michigan.

He told the congregation: "I am about to undergo an operation that helps the blind to become sighted with the help of some sort of chip."

The 400-strong congregation, which included the Rev Jesse Jackson, leapt to their feet to applaud.

Wonder, 49, hopes to have an operation which involves inserting a chip into his retina, at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University.

The operation has reportedly been performed on 15 patients, with the chip restoring vision by stimulating healthy cells in the retina.

A UK spokeswoman for Wonder's label, Motown, told BBC News Online it was not yet known when he would be undergoing the surgery.

The operation can only offer the prospect of a partial restoration of vision - as many of the cells in the retina will still not function at all.

Blind since birth

The singer went blind within hours of his birth, and his mother would not let him out of the house as he was growing up.

To amuse himself, he kept rhythm with the music he heard on the radio by beating spoons on pots, pans, and anything else he could find.

He became proficient on real instruments, and was signed by Motown boss Berry Gordy at the age of 10. Among his best known hits are Uptight (Everything's Alright) in 1966 and Superstition in 1973.

More recently, he has become known for his campaigning work. At a charity auction he drove a car featured in the James Bond films onto a stage before it was sold off.

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03 Dec 99 |  Health
Stevie Wonder's eye operation

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