Amy 'Amii' Paulette Stewart (born January 29, 1956) is an American contemporary R&B/disco/dance-pop singer, dancer and actress most famous for her hit disco record "Knock on Wood". Stewart is the stepsister of actress-singer Miquel Brown and aunt to Brown's actress-singer daughter Sinitta.
Amy Stewart was the fifth of six children. Amii Stewart's father Joseph Stewart II, signed her up for singing and dancing lessons in 1960, at the age of four. There already was an Amy Stewart registered with Actor's Equity, so she changed the spelling of her name to Amii. She began attending Howard University in Washington but soon left to work with the D.C. Repertory Dance Company, studying ballet and modern dance. Before being signed to Ariola Records, Stewart was in the touring company of the stage production Bubbling Brown Sugar in 1975, firstly in Miami, then Broadway, and eventually London's West End, where she met Barry Leng, a record producer for Hansa records.
At the end of 1977, "You Really Touched My Heart" a Leng/Simon May composition, produced by Leng, was Stewart's first recording. An album followed, which contained five Leng/May songs, one Leng/Morris song and three cover versions.
Her first single, a disco cover version of the 1966 Eddie Floyd hit "Knock on Wood" (Floyd/Cropper), reached number one in the U.S. in April 1979, and earned her a platinum record and a Grammy Award nomination. It also reached number 6 in the U.K., and number 2 in Australia. In the same year, Amii Stewart followed up with another cover of an old song, "Light My Fire", which reached #5 in the UK, although only managed a lowly #69 in the US. She recorded it as a medley, incorporating "Light My Fire/137 Disco Heaven". Stewart had achieved several Top 10 and Top 20 hits in the U.S. dance chart. Peter Boita, the well known U.K. session drummer, synced up a Linn Drum Computer to a non click track driven master tape to overdub a much more heavy and contemporary drum beat and sound. Peter then manually overdubbed SImmons SDS7 tom toms using his unique technique of hitting four Simmons pads simultaneously with just two drum sticks! This layering of drum sounds gives the track an enormous depth of sound making the track instantly recognisable after just a couple of opening bars. Peter also overdubbed an 18" length of suspended hollow scaffolding pole ( originally from the Victoria Palace Theatre in London ) played with two triangle beaters, at Trident Studios in London's St. Anne's Court ( the studio in which Elton John recorded his first album in the early 1970s ). This overdub is not noticeable on the single track ( although it contributes subtly to the overall rhythmic feel ) but is brought to the fore as an intro to one of the later "megamixes" continuing to add a percussive dimension to the whole track.
Among her other successes in music recordings, there is the song entitled "Friends" in 1985. This song was a collaboration with the Italian composer/music artist Mike Francis and was a big hit in the UK and the Philippines.
In the 1998 movie 54, actress/singer Mary Griffin portrayed Amii Stewart, performing the song; Knock on Wood, at the famed discothèque: Studio 54. While performing, Griffin wore a similarly extravagant outfit that Stewart wore in the video to "Knock On Wood" back in 1979. Although it was obvious that Griffin was portraying Stewart, the credits at the end of the movie have Griffin's character listed as Disco Star.
In 2000, Stewart toured Italy, playing the part of Mary Magdalene, in the revival of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. The play also starred Carl Anderson, who revived his role of "Judas Iscariot" from the 1971 movie.
In 2003, Stewart starred in the musical Lady Day, in the role of Billie Holiday; the musical was written and produced by her.
Since 2001 Stewart has been working as a goodwill ambassador for Italian Unicef and has been involved in a large number of projects such as "Uniti per i bambini, Uniti contro l'AIDS" (translated as "United for the children, united against AIDS"). In 2006, she recorded the charity single "Love Song" for UNICEF in four different languages, once again returning to work with Ennio Morricone. The following year saw her return to duet with Mike Francis on the track "Nothing Can Come Between Us". In 2006 Stewart and long-time friend and collaborator Ennio Morricone released 5 track single "Love Song", sung in English, Italian, French, Spanish as well as a multilingual version. All proceeds from the single went to Unicef's campaign "Check Out For Children".
In May 2007 Stewart again participated in the Sanremo Music Festival, performing the duet "Schiavo D'Amore" with Piero Mazzocchetti.