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Reggae History: the Legendary Roman Stewart

Ms. Inglish has been a professional writer and critic of films, books, music and theater for over 20 years.

A man holding a Jamaican Celebration Flag and wearing his country's official colors.

A man holding a Jamaican Celebration Flag and wearing his country's official colors.

Forty Happy Years of Reggae Music

Tinga and Roman "Romeo" Stewart are Jamaican brothers that entertained appreciative audiences with Reggae music from the 1960s to the early 2000s. Those fans still talk about the singing duo with admiration.

Roman was the younger brother, but followed his big brother into music at just age 11 in 1968. His career started later in life than did either Michael Jackson's or Sammy Davis Jr.'s at age five, but Roman Stewart made a big impression in Reggae circles and music in general.

Roman Stewart on the cover of his 1978 album "Running Away From Love."

Roman Stewart on the cover of his 1978 album "Running Away From Love."

Reggae Movement in the 1970s and 1980s

Reggae did not win popularity in my community until the 1970s - 1980s, but Reggae singers and musicians began to be featured at small clubs and The Ohio Sate Fair in my county. In the 1970s, popularity of the style caught on with larger club managers that began booking talent.

Roman Stewart moved from Jamaica with Tinga in 1976 to New York City and developed a career by offering friendliness and polite manners. People liked him.

Frequently visiting record shops just to spend time and talk, he cut some records through the relationships he made there. He also was not against singing for free at parties of his friends and new people he met. He was a generous person with good manners and a friendly personality. It is well known in music circles that for this he was nicknamed Mr. Special.

Early Success of the Stewart Brothers

Tinga Stewart, who was born Neville Stewart in 1955, is still living and active in music at this time. He has won numerous music contests. Thus, he is is writing, recording and producing albums even now. Very popular, Tinga has amassed growing numbers of fans in both Jamaica and the USA.

Tinga and brother Roman attended St. Aloysius and Trench Town Comprehensive Schools in Jamaica. Tinga first began singing professionally at only age 15 in 1960 and became the lead singer for the Boris Gardner Happening from 1971 - 1974. He was quite good and showed much talent early on.

The final year of the collaboration with Gardner saw him win the Jamaica Festival Song Competition for the first of three times at age 29. He later won a second time as a singer and a third time as a song writer, landing a contract for an album almost simultaneously.

Brother Roman also won the competition in first place once as a singer in 1975 with a song written by Tinga - Hooray Festival. Both brothers were talented.

Mario Lanza, an important early influence on the music of Roman Stewart.

Mario Lanza, an important early influence on the music of Roman Stewart.

Influence of Mario Lanza

Interestingly, Roman, born in 1957, was a Mario Lanza Tribute Artist in the early 1970s. notably at Victoria Pier in Kingston, Jamaica.

Listeners at the very popular pier venue quite enjoyed his performances of Mario Lanza numbers. Unfortunately, Lanza died in 1959 and never heard Roman's tribute performances. Some of the favorite Lanza numbers for Roman to perform were Be My Love and other love songs.

Victoria Pier in 1970.

Victoria Pier in 1970.

Performing at the Pier

Different love songs from Lanza's also appeared in Roman Stewart's albums, but Lanza was a large influence. Mario Lanza influenced not only future opera tenors, but this great Reggae star as well.

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The range of musical styles that the Stewart Brothers performed together was unexpected. Not only did they handle Reggae with aplomb, but they were just as effective with songs of the Gospel (Peace In the Valley) and even Country-related songs, Wolverton Mountain being a memorable one.

Both men were quite handsome and drew large crowds of both men and women to their performances. They were well liked by many people in America and Jamaica and other parts of the world.

Roman's Death:Two Songs at a Party

Roman Stewart was actively performing through the years until the night of his death in 2004. There were no warning signs or physical symptoms prior to this night.

On January 25, Roman had been attending a Freddie McGregor (from Victoria Pier days) concert in NYC. When the concert was completed, Roan attended a party afterwards. There, he sang two songs, and stopped singing, because of chest pains. Later that evening, he simply fell into a coma. He had suffered some sort of event that led to cardiac event.

Heart surgery was performed for Roman and he is said to have awoken afterwards and spoken of quitting alcohol and drugs. However, he entered another coma from which he did not awaken. On January 26, 2004 he died in Long Island Jewish Hospital of heart failure at age 46. His brother Tinga continues to work in the music industry.

Roman Stewart & the Heptones: Rain A Fall

Albums by Roman Stewart

Album Title Record Label Year of Release 

 

 

 

Running Away From Love 

Island In the Sun 

1978

How Can I Love Someone

LP Productions

1979

Ruling and Controlling

Park Heights

1987

Diplomat (new release on Controlling, TP, 2001)

Super Power 

1991

Brother to Brother

Emperor Records 

June 6, 1998 

Break Down the Barrier

JamHill

unknown

Wisdom of Solomon

Gussie P

2001

Man of Dignity

Sing a Hit Song

Sources

  • Album cover notes: Tinga and Roman Stewart. Break Down the Barrier; Brother to Brother.
  • Barrow, Steve & Dalton, Peter. The Rough Guide to Reggae, 3rd Edition. Rough Guides. 2004.
  • Walters, Basil. Roman 'Hit Song' Stewart Is Dead. Jamaican Observer. January 27, 2004.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Patty Inglish MS

Comments

Maren Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on October 18, 2011:

Thanks for this article!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 11, 2011:

That's why I couldn't find a recent release by he two of them. I hope Tinga keeps performing. Thanks Cardisa!

Carolee Samuda from Jamaica on October 10, 2011:

Ninja Man is a Dance Hall artist that used to be very popular in the 80s. He is also a known felon who is now in prison for murder. I think they did a couple of songs together, but recently artists like Tinga has been keeping far from the likes of Ninja. He is also a drug user.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 10, 2011:

Hi Cardisa - I'm glad you stopped by with your post. We can hear their recordings sometimes on Reggae stations now in Ohio, but hearing them in Jamaica in their early endeavors would have been great!

I see Tinga sings with someone kown as Mr. Ninja and I don't know anything about that gentleman.

Carolee Samuda from Jamaica on October 10, 2011:

As a Jamaican I am proud to read this and must commend you Patty on your accuracy. We love Tinga Stewart but most of us are not too familiar with Roman. Most people might remember him as "Mr. Special" or "Romeo"....Jamaicans like nicknames and tend to remember them more easily.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 10, 2011:

I can envision Roman singing Mario Lanza numbers as a teenager - O Sole Mio, Be My Love, and others. Freddie McGregor would pass the hat after Roman sang. Roman must have been quite a personable young man; I'm sorry so many fall into substance abuse.

FloraBreenRobison on October 09, 2011:

I'm not familiar with Roman Stewart, despite being interested in a wide variety of genres and eras of music. However, I'm quite familiar with Mario Lanza and his singing in the movies.

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