Roman Stewart

Roman Stewart: An Appreciation

In the rough and tumble world of Jamaican music, there are many stars who have never received what was due to them. Reggae luminaries such as Bob Marley, Desmond Dekker and Jimmy Cliff need no introduction even to the casual reggae fan. Then you have more esoteric artists such as Junior Byles, Alton Ellis, Johnny Clarke and Cornell Campbell – despite not being as popular as some of their more famous brethren, these artists are nonetheless well-known to reggae fans around the world.

And then you have a myriad of singers and players – Winston Jarrett, Keith Poppin, Hortense Ellis, Leo Graham, and dozens of others – who, despite creating a solid body of work over the years, remain names that are only known to serious reggae fans. Finding their music takes a lot more detective work in the land of vinyl oblivion.

Which brings us to Roman Stewart. Roman Stewart had a career that lasted for more than 30 years, which included several big hits in Jamaica. His buttery voice was equally suited to both smooth love songs and more conscious themes. He was well known and respected on the reggae scene in Jamaica and the United States, and yet...there has never been a Roman Stewart anthology or compilation, an oversight that is hard to understand.

As a "reggaeologist", I find this concept interesting: that there are many great artists whose work is really terrific, but their music remains obscure and elusive. Even with all of the excellent reggae compilations that have come out in the past 10 years, more work needs to be done.

Sadly, even if someone put out a Roman Stewart anthology tomorrow, Roman wouldn't be around to appreciate it. He died in 2004 after a heart attack.

Mick Sleeper