Amii STEWART (Jan 29 1956 – ) is one of those singers who always get labelled a “one hit wonder”. In terms of chart action, that is partially correct, as she hit the top of the Hot 100 in the US just once; In 1979 with her discofied version of “Knock on wood”. She might also be considered one of the true disco divas, but she took her career in a completely different direction, and I will focus on her musical merits in other fields in this post.

Amii burst on the scene in 1979 when her break-through hit “Knock on wood” was a big success, its sales giving her a platinum record and a Grammy nomination along the way. She followed this one up with several other songs in the same style; Her 8 minute “Light my fire/137 Disco heaven” might be a little over the top, but at least her very fast reworking of The Doors’ classic hit proves that she has a very big and flexible voice that can scale the octaves in a way most singers could never do. She named her first album “Knock On Wood”, and in addition to the two afore-mentioned songs it also included “You really touch my heart” and “Get your love back”. Her next album “Paradise Bird” was released within the same year, and she had further hits with “Jealousy” and “The Letter”. This album also included the fabulous “Step into the loveline”.

Amii in her "Knock On Wood" gear!

Amii has stated that she was never really fond of disco, even though her success in that category started her career. She settled in Europe in the early 80’s (and now seems to have made Italy her permanent home), and her 1981 album “Images” was recorded and released in Europe only. On this album she steers away from disco, spreading her gorgeous voice over a lot of different styles; she’s funky on “Tonight”, soulful and sexy with duet partner Johnny Bristol on “My Guy/My Girl”, tantalizingly sensual on “Love is bad for your health” and she’s a subdued but still soulful pop singer on “Save this night for love” and Randy Edelman’s “Don’t let go of me”. The last song must have been one of the most popular that year, as it was also recorded by (Mrs. Edelman) Jackie DeShannon, Letta Mbulu and Jane Olivor… “Images” was given a new name, “I’m gonna get your love” and under that name saw a limited release in the US in 1982.

The 1981 single with soul man Johnny Bristol

For the rest of the 80’s, Amii put out several great albums; Her 1983 “Amii Stewart” was a pop slanted record, seeing her having some success in Europe with the single “Working late tonight”. “Try Love” from 1984 was a more urban contemporary production, and after her 1985 single “Friends” was a hit, it was included on the new pressings of the album.  She worked with Giorgio Moroder and the Dutch Bolland brothers on 1986 “Amii” which was an electro-up tempo affair, and the only one of her later albums that really show any connection at all to the 70’s disco diva she once was…. “Time For Fantasy” came out 1988 and is a rather soft and quiet album, quite unlike anything you’d expect from someone with Amii’s voice. It’s a record for late night cuddling!

Amii’s albums of the 1990’s present an interesting collection, as she spread her talents to even other different musical genres: Having settled in Italy, what was more natural than making a collection of Ennio Morricone’s music – the album was called “Pearls” (1990). 1992 saw her collaborating with Narada Michael Walden and the British team of Climie & Fisher, resulting in the album “Magic” and it’s two singles “Don’t stop” and “Don’t be so shy”. This album also included the totally stunning “Le Storie Lunghe”. Next up were her two “tribute” albums, “Lady To Ladies” (1994) and “The Men I Love” (1996). The first one sees Amii doing songs made famous by Streisand, Ross, Nina Simone, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Labelle and other female singers. Without ever falling into the trap of copying any of the original singers styles, it proves that Amii can sing anything! The male “counter-part” that came out 2 years later took on a similar approach, with Amii interpreting songs by The Beatles, Neil Diamond, Rod Stewart, Sting and Elton John, and it is another proof of her power as a song interpreter of the first order… She did more urban contemporary stuff on 1996 “Love Affair” which also includes a beautiful duet with Salvatore Campanile, “How could I know”. Her next album “Unstoppable” contained 2 new songs; The title track and “Can I come home”, the other songs are Amii’s re-recordings of her previous hits, and these are very good too, even if I don’t really see the point – as the originals are just great!

Lady Stewart as "Lady Day" 2004

In addition to making records, Amii has also done stage work, and her 2004 musical “Lady Day”, written and performed by herself had an original cast recording put in the shops. Her last album so far, “Caracciolo Street” was released in 2010, and it’s a 2 disc album, where one disc is entirely in Italian, the other in English – but it’s the same songs.

A few words about her stage work and other interests: Even before she started out as a recording artist, Amii starred in the musical “Bubbling Brown Sugar” on Broadway, and staying with the play when it reached London’s West End. Returning to the stage, she played Mary Magdalene in the 2000 revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar”, and then her own cabaret-musical “Lady Day” in 2003/2004. Also, since 2001 she’s been appointed a goodwill ambassador for Italian UNICEF, concentrating her affords towards children with AIDS. She’s recorded a single to raise funds for these causes: “Love Song” (2006), followed by a 2007 single made as a duet with Mike Francis called “Nothing can come between us”. She also performed one of the entries at the 2007 San Remo Festival, a song called “Schiavo d’amore” performed with Piero Mazzocchetti. Having lived in Italy for many years, Amii is fluent in Italian…

With Ivo Monte, early 2000's

My hope is that this little blog post will show all of you that Amii Stewart, for all her “disco diva” status, is so much more, and that she instead deserves to be regarded as one of the finest singers since the 70’s who just happened to make a great disco hit somewhere along the way….