I had the pleasure of meeting Stew (AKA Mark Stewart) on his recent visit to UW Oshkosh, where several departments (including, I’m happy to say, the Philosophy department) had invited him to talk to students and faculty about his unique approach to art, music, and life. I’ve met a lot of “artists” in my time, mostly during my years as a musician in Los Angeles, but Stew is one of the few that I think deserves the title without the scare-quotes. He’s one of a rare breed that’s becoming rarer as the musical eclecticism of the 1970s fades into the ever-thickening fog of baby-boomer memory: a pop-rock-singer-songwriter with a unique voice and style. Here’s a song (entitled “The Curse”) off the new album, which he wrote with his ex-partner, bassist/vocalist Heidi Rodewald, about the breakup of their relationship during the Broadway production of their award-winning musical “Passing Strange” a few years ago. The photos of famous L.A. locales – with fleeting images of Frank Zappa and the two Captains (Kangaroo and Beefheart) tossed in for good measure – don’t seem related to the clever lyrics, but they probably have biographical significance for Stew, who grew up in the City of Angels during the 60s and 70s. And since I lived there for 25 years myself, they certainly tickle my nostalgia-bone a bit.
By the way, Stew talks about the new album in an interview with Terry Gross (on Fresh Air) here.