Jermaine Stewart began his performing career as a teenager in Chicago, touring with the Chi-Lites and The Staple Singers and appearing on American Bandstand and Soul Train. By the mid-1980s he had worked with Shalamar, Millie Jackson, Tavares, the Temptations, and Culture Club as a background vocalist and dancer.
With the help of Culture Club member Mikey Craig, he landed his first solo recording contract with Clive Davis of Arista Records (10 Records in the UK) in 1984. His first single, "The Word Is Out," was produced by Peter Collins and was supported by a video shot in Paris. The song reached number 41 in the US R&B and Billboard charts, and was followed by an album of the same name in 1985. Two other singles from the album were issued: "I Like It" (Europe and US release) and "Get Over It" (Europe-only release).
Although The Word Is Out did much to enhance Stewart's reputation, it did not prove to be the commercial success Arista had expected. But things changed with his second album, Frantic Romantic, which involved two of the most important producers of the decade. John 'Jellybean' Benitez produced two highly danceable tracks on the album, and Narada Michael Walden, a major recording artist in his own right, wrote and produced the song that would be Stewart's biggest hit, "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off." It became an international success, reaching the Billboard Top 5 and number 5 in the UK charts.
Sales of Frantic Romantic soon reached one million, and a second single, the ballad "Jody," reached both the UK and US Top 50. A UK-only single, "Don't Ever Leave Me" made number 76.
His third album, Say It Again, was produced in part by Andre Cymone, who had worked with Prince and Jody Watley. This collection of pop and dance funk tracks was perhaps Stewart's most successful internationally.
Supported by international touring with his band The Party, the title track single became his second US Top 40 Billboard hit and reached the R&B Top 10. In the UK, the "Say It Again" single went to number 7 and the album to the Top 40.
Stewart's next three singles all received remix treatment from PWL, 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 in Germany, where "Don't Talk Dirty To Me" was one of the best selling records of 1988 and made it to the Top 5.
His fourth and final album with Arista, What Becomes A Legend Most? featured radio-friendly pop tunes but did not do well in the mainstream pop market. The first single "Tren De Amor," was a minor UK hit, reaching number 76, but "Every Woman Wants To" only went to number 95.
In 1992 Stewart collaborated with producer Jesse Saunders and Reprise Records for his last album, which has never been released. Entitled Set Me Free, the record marked a return to the dance funk style of "Say It Again." The title track was issued as a single in the US, but found little success.
In 1996-97, fighting long term illness, he recorded several songs for a new album, Believe In Me, that would remain unfinished.
Jermaine Stewart died of AIDS in Chicago at the age of 39 on March 17, 1997. —adapted by Nurit Tilles from bio by Alan Connor-Clark
The Soundtrack of My Life by Clive Davis and Anthony DeCurtis
Hardcover: 608 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (February 19, 2013)
Amazon: The Soundtrack of My Life
Amazon Kindle: The Soundtrack of My Life
In this star-studded autobiography, Clive Davis shares a personal, candid look into his remarkable life and the last fifty years of popular music as only a true insider can.
In the history of popular music, no one looms as large as Clive Davis. His career has spanned more than forty years, and he has discovered, signed, or worked with a staggering array of artists: Whitney Houston, Janis Joplin, Simon and Garfunkel, Barry Manilow, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, Dionne Warwick, Carlos Santana, The Grateful Dead, Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, and Aretha Franklin, to name a few. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, and hosted the world’s highest profile parties.
In this fully illustrated, personal account, Davis tells all, from becoming an orphan in high school and getting through college and law school on scholarships, to being falsely accused of embezzlement and starting up his own record company, J Records. His wealth of experience offers valuable insight into the evolution of the music business over the past half-century and into the future.
Told with Davis’s unmatched wit, frankness, and style, The Soundtrack of My Life exposes a trove of never-before-heard stories—some hilarious, others tragic, all revealing—that will captivate and inspire all music lovers.
More LGBT History at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Gay Classics
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