William Jermaine Stewart was born in Columbus, Ohio, to Ethel and Eugene Stewart. In 1972, his family moved to Chicago, Illinois, where Stewart took his first steps toward a career in entertainment. Eventually he gained recognition as a dancer on the locally produced television show Soul Train
. While working there he befriended two other Soul Train dancers, fellow Chicagoan Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniel. After Soul Train relocated to Los Angeles, the three friends auditioned to become members of the group Shalamar, which was put together by Soul Train creator Don Cornelius and booking agent Dick Griffey. Watley and Daniels were selected for the group as backup/semi-lead vocalists, and Stewart lost out to Gary Mumford during his audition for lead vocalist. However, Stewart toured with the new group as a dancer for several years, and while in London for a show, he met Mikey Craig of Culture Club. Realizing that Stewart was a talented singer, Craig assisted him in putting together a demo tape, and Stewart was given the opportunity to sing background vocals on Culture Club's song "Miss Me Blind". As a result of the combination of a strong demo and his ties with Culture Club, he landed a recording contract with Arista Records.Stewart saw some success with the single "The Word Is Out" from the album of the same name. The album was co-written by Craig and peaked at #90 on the US Billboard Top 200 Album Chart, and #30 on the US R&B Album Chart. Stewart's next album was 1986's Frantic Romantic
, which included the US top ten hit single "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off". The song also hit the top ten in the UK, Canada, and Ireland. A second single, "Jody", was released, the inspiration being his friend Jody Watley, which reached the US R&B top twenty. Frantic Romantic
would be Stewart's most successful selling album, peaking at #34 in the US.Stewart's third album was entitled Say It Again
, with production handled largely by André Cymone. Supported by international live dates with his band The Party, the title track "Say It Again" became Stewart's second U.S. Top 40 Billboard
hit, and also reached the U.S. R&B Top 10. In the UK Singles Chart it reached number 7, which helped the album achieve its Top 40 status.The next three singles were all remixed by Phil Harding. "Get Lucky" (UK #13), "Don't Talk Dirty to Me" (UK #61), and "Is It Really Love?" found success in Europe, particularly in Germany, where "Don't Talk Dirty to Me" was one of the top five selling singles of 1988.His fourth and final album under contract with Arista Records was What Becomes a Legend Most
. The album failed to make any impact in America while the lead single "Tren de Amor" just reached the top 100 in the UK. "Tren de Amor" was featured on the soundtrack to the movie She Devil
. In 1989, Stewart sang "Hot and Cold," co-written by Andy Summers, which was featured over the opening credits of the film Weekend at Bernie's
.In 1991, Stewart teamed up with Chicago producer Jesse Saunders for his last recorded work, an album for Reprise Records, Set Me Free
. The title track "Set Me Free" was released as a single in the U.S., but sold poorly. The album remains unreleased as of 2014.Shortly before his death, Stewart returned to the studio to record a new album titled 'Believe In Me'. Although the album was not completed, the finished tracks were released on the 2005 compilation Attention: A Tribute to Jermaine Stewart
, which was released under BFG Records (which is owned by Stewart's brother).On October 18, 2010, Cherry Red Records re-issued his album Frantic Romantic
on CD for the first time since 1986. It includes bonus tracks, most notable of which are the 12" mixes of "Jody" and "Dance Floor", making their CD debut.In 2011, the song "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off" was used in a Cadbury advertisement in the UK called 'The Charity Shop'. This exposed the song to a new generation who downloaded the track, and returned it to the UK Singles Chart peaking at No. 29.
Stewart died of AIDS-related liver cancer on March 17, 1997 at age 39 in the Chicago suburb of Homewood, Illinois.