Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Jermaine Stewart

Jermaine Stewart born 7 September 1957 (d. 1997)

Jermaine Stewart was an American dancer and singer best known for the worldwide hit We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off.

Born in Columbus, Ohio, William Jermaine Stewart always loved to dance. At school, he would often give dance lessons to other children for a $1 a lesson.

In 1972, the Stewart family moved to Chicago. It was here that Jermaine took his first steps towards a career in show business. He joined a local dance group, 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 1980s, he joined the classic 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 by providing backing vocals to several established acts such as The Temptations and notably, Culture Club. Jermaine can be clearly heard as a vocal support to Boy George on the track Miss Me Blind.

It was his work with Culture Club which lead to a solo recording contract with Clive Davis' Arista Records (10 Records in the UK), thanks to the help of Culture Club's Mikey Craig. His first single The Word Is Out in 1984, preceded an album of the same name the following year. The Word Is Out charted in the US R&B and Billboard Charts.

Despite some initial success his debut didn't prove to be the career launch pad that Arista initially intended. Jermaine's next album therefore was focused much more on securing radio and club airplay, under the guidance of some of the hottest American producers of the 1980s.

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 strong video, became an international success, riding into the Billboard Top 5, & also hitting number 2 in the UK.

The 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. Jody reached both the UK and US top 50.

Jermaine's third album, Say It Again, was probably his most successful internationally. The title track became Jermaine's second major US hit. In the UK, it reached number 7, helping the album into the top 40. His next three singles were remixed by 80s pop supremos PWL, helping Jermaine secure widespread European success. At this point, Jermaine was highly focused on the mainstream pop market. His fourth and final album under his contract with 10/Arista Records, What Becomes A Legend Most? was filled with radio friendly catchy pop tunes. The first single Tren De Amor was a minor UK hit but commercial success eluded the album, and a label change 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 his earlier style. The title track was released as a single in the US, but found little success. The album remains unreleased.

The rest of the 1990s saw Jermaine battling long term illness. He did, however, begin recording a new album in 1996, which remains unfinished and unreleased.

Jermaine Stewart died on 17 March from liver cancer caused by HIV/AIDS.

Ironically, his biggest hit We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off, with its safe sex message, was one of the first mainstream pop responses to the AIDS crisis.

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