Amii Stewart

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Amii Stewart
Amii Stewart at the Capri Film Festival, December 2013
Amii Stewart at the Capri Film Festival, December 2013
Background information
Birth nameAmy Paulette Stewart
Born (1956-01-29) January 29, 1956 (age 67)
OriginWashington, D.C., USA
GenresSoul, disco, dance-pop[1]
Occupation(s)Singer, dancer
Years active1977 – present
LabelsAriola, RCA
WebsiteAmii Stewart

Amy Paulette "Amii" Stewart (born January 29, 1956) is an American disco and soul singer and dancer who found prominence with her 1979 U.S. Billboard number 1 hit cover of Eddie Floyd's song "Knock on Wood", often considered a classic of the disco genre.[2][3] Stewart scored further international hits including "Light My Fire" (1979) and "Friends" (1985). Stewart is the stepsister of actress-singer Miquel Brown and aunt to Brown's daughter, singer Sinitta.


Amy Stewart, the fifth of six children, was born into "a big, [strictly Catholic, but] fun loving, country style family... as my mum was one of thirteen children".[4][5] Her father, Joseph Stewart II, signed her up for singing and dancing lessons in 1960, when she was four years old. An Amy Stewart was already registered with the Actors' Equity Association, so she changed the spelling of her first name to Amii. She briefly enrolled in the Howard University in Washington but soon left for the Classical Repertory Dance Ensemble (CRDE) to study ballet and modern dance.[5][4]

In 1975, prior to her signing a contract at Ariola Records, Stewart worked at the touring company for the stage production of the musical revue Bubbling Brown Sugar, relocating to places of production, like Miami, then New York city's Broadway and eventually London's West End, where she met Barry Leng, songwriter and record producer for Hansa Records.

The song "You Really Touched My Heart", a Leng/Simon May composition and produced by Leng, was Stewart's first recording, published by the end of 1977. An album followed, released in February 1979, which contained five Leng/May songs, one Leng/Morris song and three cover versions. The album yielded the single releases "Knock on Wood" and "Light My Fire/137 Disco Heaven".

Stewart's first single release, a disco cover version of the 1966 Eddie Floyd composition "Knock on Wood", reached number one of the U.S. Billboard single charts in April 1979 and earned her a platinum record and a Grammy Award nomination. It also ranked high in the single charts throughout Europe and reached No. 6 in the UK and No. 2 in Australia.[6] Another single, a medley cover song of the Doors classic "Light My Fire" and "137 Disco Heaven", entitled "Light My Fire/137 Disco Heaven" was released in the same year, entering the charts and reached No. 5 in the UK, No. 14 in Australia[6] and No. 69 in the US.

New Trends[edit]

By the end of the decade, disco music had, to a great extent, reached its technical limits, and growing anti-disco sentiment eventually affected the US Music community. A new generation of musicians and fans, tending to idealise authenticity and purity, rejected disco as artificial, mindless and consumerist.[7] The media, industry and markets, always intent on re-invention, were abandoning disco and feverishly scouting for new trends.[4]

Generally moderate US interest in Stewart's Paradise Bird album, released in September 1979, came as no surprise. However, success and media feedback in Europe was unchanged. Europe's music industry and scene was the sum of many small and diverse parts. New ideas would certainly be adopted but old ones preserved. Not declaring disco dead, the UK, for example, was left with a somewhat controverse[definition needed] culture, that fed cynicism. "The rest was a mess", where punk rock and Diana Ross co-existed. Paradise Bird yielded two European single releases, "Jealousy" (No. 58 UK, No. 4 Italy, No. 5 Switzerland) and the double A-side "The Letter/Paradise Bird" (No. 39 UK 1980).[8] Stewart, however, remained confident about her career. She told her production team and record label to be "changing styles slowly, so as not get caught in the shuffle". The source of inspiration would be her artistic background in theater, modern dance and melodic music.[4]

Following her success in Europe, Stewart relocated to Italy in the mid-1980s.[9] and released the recordings "Friends" and "Together", produced in collaboration with Italian composer/musician Mike Francis. "Friends" was a big hit in the UK, Italy and the Philippines.

Later career[edit]

In the 1998 movie 54, actress/singer Mary Griffin portrayed Stewart, performing the song "Knock on Wood", at the famed discothèque Studio 54 in New York City. While performing, Griffin wore an apparently very similar extravagant outfit (and particularly the headgear) to that which Stewart wore in the official video to "Knock on Wood" in 1979. Although it was obvious that Griffin was portraying Stewart, the credits at the end of the movie have Griffin's character listed as Disco Star.

In 2000, Stewart toured Italy, playing the part of Mary Magdalene, in a revival of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. The play also starred Carl Anderson, who revived his role of Judas Iscariot from the 1973 movie.

In 2004, Stewart published the studio album Lady Day, that contains sixteen cast recordings of the 2003 musical Lady Day, produced and co-written by Stewart and theater director Massimo Romeo Piparo.[10] Based on the life of American jazz and blues singer Billie Holiday, Stewart starring as Holiday herself, states: "The idea for the musical was born from my passion for the wonderful voice of the 'Queen of Swing', but also for the music of the 1930s and 1940s and for the black renaissance of the time, of which she was the protagonist." and further: "In that period of racism the foundations were laid for the rebirth not only of Blacks, but also of world music."[11]

Since 2001, Stewart has been working as a goodwill ambassador for Unicef Italia and has been involved in numerous projects such as "Uniti per i bambini, Uniti contro l'AIDS" ("United for the children, united against AIDS"). In 2006, she recorded the charity single "Love Song" for UNICEF in four different languages, once again returning to work with Ennio Morricone. The following year saw her return to duet with Mike Francis on the track "Nothing Can Come Between Us". In 2006, Stewart and long-time friend and collaborator Ennio Morricone released the 5 track single "Love Song", sung in English, Italian, French, Spanish as well as a multilingual version. All proceeds from the single went to Unicef's campaign "Check Out For Children".

In May 2007, Stewart again participated in the Sanremo Music Festival, performing the duet "Schiavo D'Amore" with Piero Mazzocchetti.

In 2014, she took part in the prime-time Rai TV show La Pista as teamleader of the "Virality" dance troupe. Stewart and the dance team became the overall competition winners. Other well known singer-contestants included Tony Hadley and Sabrina Salerno.

Stewart has been greatly affected by Italy, and living in Rome since the mid-1980s, has become fluent in Italian.[4] UNICEF Italia introduces her in a mutually cordial tone, pointing out: "The one between Amii Stewart and Italy is a beautiful love story." And that she "has been 'adopted' by our country and has certainly returned the affection received".[12]



  1. ^ Sfetcu, Nicolae (May 9, 2014). Dance Music. Nicolae Sfetcu. pp. 117–. GGKEY:N0SQHH2X92N.
  2. ^ Moroder, Giorgio (July 20, 2016). "The 35 Best Disco Songs Ever". Billboard. Retrieved November 11, 2020.
  3. ^ "Eddie Floyd, KNOCK ON WOOD, LocoBop L2I-004" (PDF). LOCOBOP. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 26, 2022. Retrieved November 7, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e Arena, James (July 7, 2017). Europe's Stars of '80s Dance Pop: 32 International Music Legends Discuss Their Careers. McFarland. pp. 200–. ISBN 978-1-4766-7142-0.
  5. ^ a b "Disco Profiles - Amii Stewart". January 27, 1979. Archived from the original on February 11, 2012. Retrieved April 26, 2012.
  6. ^ a b Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 294. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  7. ^ Flynn, Daniel J. (February 18, 2010). "How the Knack Conquered Disco". Rock Online Italia. Archived from the original on November 25, 2011. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  8. ^ Savage, Jon (February 17, 2011). England's Dreaming. Faber & Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-26119-2.
  9. ^ "Amii Stewart: "Sarò per sempre grata a 'Knock on wood' e alla disco" - Intervista". (in Italian). October 17, 2017. Retrieved October 18, 2019.
  10. ^ Amii Stewart (January 9, 2011). "Lady Day (Cast Album Interpretations, Digital Version)". Napster. Retrieved November 7, 2020.
  11. ^ "Amii Stewart racconta Billie Holiday: 'Lady Day' a Milano dal 20 novembre" (in Italian). Rock Online Italia. November 12, 2003. Retrieved November 7, 2020.
  12. ^ "Amii Stewart - Quella tra Amii Stewart e l'Italia è una bella storia d'amore" (in Italian). Unicef. Archived from the original on April 14, 2008. Retrieved November 7, 2020.

Sources and external links[edit]