Amii Stewart, American origins, beloved in Italy for her great soul voice
We spoke with Amii Stewart, the great soul singer who chose Italy has her second home
Amii Stewart, raised in America and beloved in Italy for her impressive soul music, was the queen of disco in the 1970s: she became famous with her single Knock on Wood, selling eight million copies worldwide. Living in Italy since 1990, Amii splits her time between Rome and Porto Cervo. The singer chose to explore not one but one hundred different paths in the world of entertainment and music, collaborating with artists like Morricone, Moroder, Piovani, Mike Francis and Gianni Morandi. She has recently staged at the Opera di Roma to perform Nicola Piovani’s La Pietà, a piece for two female voices (soul and soprano), with an orchestra and the splendid voice of Gigi Proietti.
How did you meet Nicola Piovani?
Nicola and I met about 20 years ago by chance at a small restaurant in Testaccio, called Felice, where we both went out of our love for good Roman cuisine. Nicola designed my part based on my voice, and the piece was presented for the first time in the cathedral in Orvieto in 1999.
What was your reaction when Piovani sought you out to bring the piece to the stage again?
My first thought was “I can’t do it like I did then”. Voices change over time, both physiologically and due to the emotional experiences we each live through. I said to him, “If you allow me to do this with the emotion and changes that these 20 years have brought, I can try it,” but I was still nervous. Then, one evening, I received a beautiful text message: my deeper, richer voice was the right one for this second act. I was touched.
And what is it like working with Gigi Proietti?
Gigi is a great master and an incredible person. During rehearsals, he has the ability to make everyone feel comfortable and to lighten up even the most negative moments.
La Pietà is a contemporary Stabat Mater, a spiritual work. Are you religious?
Yes, very, and every time I sing, I feel as if I’m speaking to God.
You sang twice for Pope John Paul II. What memories do you have of him?
Pope Wojtyla will always have a special place in my heart. I remember his kindness but also his determination, as well as his ability to convey a sense of extraordinary peace when you were in his presence.
You skyrocketed to fame through your disco music, but you’ve also explored genres like pop, musicals, folk, jazz and classical music. You’re cognizant and intentional in your versatility. Is there still something you’d like to do?
I would love to act, either in movies or on the stage, but not having to sing, which would happen if I did musicals.
What is your motto for life and work?
Surround yourself with people and be involved in projects that allow you to learn something new. For example, almost all my friends have nothing to do with the entertainment industry; they’re lawyers, doctors, teachers, but thanks to them, I’m constantly encouraged to learn new things and have new experiences.
What was your first experience with music?
I was initially involved in dance, and music came later. I began dancing when I was 9 years old in a school in Washington, where I was born and raised. My sisters studied dance as well. I’m one of six kids, three boys and three girls. Today, my siblings still live in the United States. I’m the only one in the family who works in entertainment.
Why did you decide to come to Italy following your success? It’s a bit unconventional for a voice like yours…
I was looking for a place where I could pursue my career without being stuck in a specific musical style, disco. In the 1980s, if you were black, you had to sing disco or soul music. The only record label that would give me this opportunity was BNG, with Magrini, who said to me, “If you stay here, we’ll give you carte blanche.
What was your first impression of Rome?
I dream come true.
Do you walk around Rome sometimes? What are your favourite places?
I love being surrounded by art and nature, even though they seem contrary to one another. When I’m in Rome, I like to go to exhibitions, especially the ones at the Scuderie del Quirinale.
What do you like about Romans? You married one after all!
They’re happy, welcoming and fun.