Jermaine Stewart
Born: 9-7-1957 Died: 3-17-1997
(
A.I.D.S. related liver cancer)
     William Jermaine Stewart was born in Columbus, Ohio, to joyful parents Ethel and Eugene Stewart. Jermaine always loved to dance. At school, he would often
give dance lessons to other children for a $1.00 a lesson, and was constantly late coming home because he enjoyed nothing better than putting on a show for a crowd
during the walk home!
    In 1972, the Stewart family (
which consisted of Mom, Dad, Jermaine, sisters Norma, Sondra, Leandra, Leanna and brother Gene) moved to Chicago. It was here
that Jermaine took his first steps towards a career in show business. He joined a local dance troupe, and went out on the road with The Chi-Lites and The Staple
Singers. This was followed by stints on both
"American Bandstand" and later "Soul Train." By the early 1980's, he joined the Hewitt/Watley/Daniels line up of
Shalamar on tour as a backing vocalist and dancer.
    The next step was to launch his own singing career. He took his first tentative steps into recording by providing backing vocals to several established acts such as
The Temptations and most noteworthy, Culture Club. Jermaine can be clearly heard as a vocal support to Boy George on the hit single
"Miss Me Blind." It was his
work with Culture Club which lead to the inevitable first solo recording contract with Clive Davis' Arista Records, thanks to the help of Culture Clubs' Mikey Craig.
    His first single
"The Word Is Out" in 1984, preceded an album of the same name the following year. A strong production by Peter Collins, with a supporting video
shot in Paris, helped to take
"The Word Is Out" into the U.S. R&B and Billboard Charts (#41). A second single from the album, "I Like It," was also issued in America.
Jermaine's third single,
"Get Over It," was a European-only release. While "The Word Is Out" album did much to enhance Jermaine's public profile with the debut
single, striking videos, and his sense of style, it did not prove to be the commercial launch pad that Arista initially intended. Jermaine's next musical project
therefore was focused much more on securing radio and club play, under the guidance of some of the hottest American producers of the 1980's.
    John "Jellybean" Benitez produced two highly danceable tracks on Jermaine's second album
"Frantic Romantic," but it was Narada Michael Walden, a hit
recording artist in his own right, who penned and produced the song that would forever be associated with Jermaine Stewart,
"We Don't Have To Take Our
Clothes Off."
The song, supported by a video with more costume changes than a Diana Ross show, became an international success, riding into the Billboard top 5, &
also hitting #-2 in the U.K. Jermaine Stewart had arrived! The
"Frantic Romantic" album quickly went on to become a million seller, and a second single, "Jody" was
released, the inspiration of the song being Jody Watley of Shalamar. A modest success,
"Jody" reached both the U.K. and U.S. top 50. Another U.K.-only single
"Don't Ever Leave Me"
was released, reaching #-76 on the British charts. The song was a ballad, and indicative of Jermaine's versatility in any musical style.
    Jermaine's third album was probably his most successful internationally. Entitled
"Say It Again," the production was handled largely by Andre Cymone who had
previously worked with Prince and Jody Watley. The result was an almost flawless collection of pop and dance funk tracks, of which almost any song could have
been a successful single. Supported by international live dates with his band
"The Party," the title track became Jermaine's second U.S. top 40 Billboard hit and also
reached the R&B top 10. In the U.K., it made it all the way to #-7, helping the album into the top 40.
    Enter PWL (Pete Waterman Ltd.) productions. His next three singles all received the remix treatment from the production company behind such hits as "You Spin Me Round" by Dead Or Alive and Rick Astley's "Never
Gonna Give You Up."
"Get Lucky," "Don't Talk Dirty To Me" and "Is It Really Love" found considerable European success, particularly Germany, where "Don't Talk Dirty To Me" was one of the biggest selling records of
1988, making the top 5.
    At this point, Jermaine was highly focused on the mainstream pop market. His fourth and final album under his contract with Arista Records,
"What Becomes A Legend Most?" was filled with radio friendly catchy pop
tunes. The first single
"Tren De Amorm" was a minor U.K. hit, reaching #-76, while the follow-up, "Every Woman Wants To," didn't fared as well, only making it to #-95. Commercial success eluded what is Jermaine's most
underrated album, and a label change soon followed.
    In 1992, Jermaine teamed up with Chicago producer Jesse Saunders for his last recorded work, an unreleased album for Reprise Records. Entitled
"Set Me Free," the album marked a return to the dance funk style of "Say
It Again."
The title track was released as a single in the U.S., but found little success. The album remains unreleased.
    The rest of the 1990's saw Jermaine battling long term illness. He did, however, begin recording a new album in 1996, which remains unfinished and unreleased. He passed away on March 17th 1997 (of liver cancer and
complications from A.I.D.S.). A service was held, attended by family and friends, and Jermaine is now laid to rest in The Homewood Memory Gardens, in Homewood, Illinois. Another great talent cut short by this
horrendous disease. Jermaine is greatly missed.