While Jermaine Stewart may be remembered as only a one-hit wonder in the U.S. (I’m sure you remember “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off”), he had a good run on the fringes of R&B and dance stardom, notable for not only a string of danceably funky hits, but also for crossing paths with several of the decade’s most influential pop and soul artists.
Jermaine initially found fame as a dancer on Soul Train in the late Seventies. It was on the set of the long-running syndicated performance show where he met Jeffrey Daniel and Jody Watley, two dancers who would go on to success as members of the pop-funk outfit Shalamar. He went on the road as a background singer for the group, and got his own deal in 1983 after doing some session work and backup vocals for acts like Culture Club (“Miss Me Blind”). His first album, The Word Is Out, came out a year later (the title track was a modest hit), but on his second album, 1986’s Frantic Romantic, he gave props to one of his benefactors and best friends, Jody Watley, by naming a song after her.
Three years removed from her Shalamar tenure, Jody was in the process of recording her debut solo album when “Jody” was released as Frantic’s second single. The funky tune was a modest hit (narrowly missing the pop Top 40), and put Jody in the position of having a hit single named for/dedicated to before she even had a single of her own on the charts (Shalamar’s success notwithstanding). I can’t say whether her massive success a year later (platinum debut album, 5 charted singles, Best New Artist Grammy) was even a partial result of Stewart’s ode, but it couldn’t have hurt, right?
Jody went on to spend much of the next half-decade or so riding the pop and R&B charts. One of the first modern-day artists to jump off the major label train, she released her first independent album in 1995 and scores hits on the dance chart to this day. Unfortunately, Jermaine never reached a similar level of success. He scored one more mid-level pop hit with “Say It Again” in 1987 before label issues derailed his career. He was in the middle of recording a new album when he passed away in 1997. Fans of ’80s dance-pop regard both artists highly, and this song means that they will be linked forever.