Shirley Stewart Recorded “Walk Away From Love” In One Take
We got the story behind the 80’s hit ballad that swept the region.
“How can you invite a Jamaican artist to sing a monster hit written and recorded and sang so beautifully by a Barbadian artist?” Richard Stoute asked – even if it was a bit rhetorical – making reference to promoters booking Dobby Dobson who performed “Walk Away From Love” – originally sung by Shirley Stewart.
Way before being reserved to Q in The Community and as a mainstay in Gran Gran’s cleaning playlist, in the late 80’s our elders waltzed along to the lazy horns, and fervent lyrics as “Walk Away From Love” ruled the airwaves and dance-floors.
In 2014, Stewart shared the story behind his hit with the Boston online magazine The Arts Fuse. The former lead singer of The Escorts International (Who you may know from “Lookin’ Good“) revealed that after leaving Barbados to go to the United States in 1979, he wrote the song while travelling back and forth between Boston and New York.
After he was stuck on two verses and the chorus, he reached out to former Escorts member, and best friend, Richard Walters – who penned the third verse while they were on the street.
“He knew my story – the song was a very personal song about a relationship I was having – it was why I left Barbados,” he said. It was 1984 when he went to a rock studio in downtown Brooklyn, and the rest is history.
“I went in there Sunday evening and recorded it and did the song in one take. When I was done the whole studio broke into applause,” he recollected.”The engineer said ‘Shirley, the only thing you can do with this song is f*** it up.’”
To say he didn’t would be an understatement, as the song took off back home after some friends took the record to Voice of Barbados.
“Someone called and told me that you put out a song and people are calling it a “golden oldie.” At the time that upset me tremendously because the song was only three months old! I didn’t realize that when they said that it meant the song had legs, that it was going to last.”
And boy did it last.”Walk Away from Love” went on to sell more than 300,000 copies internationally and throughout the Caribbean (“It was known as the unofficial Guyanese national anthem!”), and gave him the opportunity to tour extensively – all independently.
The government even brought him back to Barbados twice to perform it during Crop Over and he received the “Cornerstone Award” at the 2011 Barbados Music Awards.
You can listen to “Walk Away From Love” below or download it now on iTunes along with some of Stewart’s recent work.
[Image via TheArtsFuse]