Singer-songwriter Stew spins improvisatory songs drawn from his seemingly endless stable of stories and ideas. His musical Passing Strange won a Tony for Best Book in 2008.

Why you should listen

Singer/raconteur Stew combines elements of cabaret, soul and subversive pop to create a unique style he's dubbed "Afro-baroque." Frequently likened to Cole Porter and Burt Bacharach, Stew spins songs with hook-filled melodies and taut poetic narratives: "Sophisticated songs that are not likely to be heard on the radio," writes the New Yorker.

He may be underplayed, but he's far from undiscovered. Entertainment Weekly twice awarded him "Album of the Year," and he and his collaborator Heidi Rodewald have been artists-in-residence two years running at the Sundance Theater Lab, developing their musical, Passing Strange, commissioned by New York's Public Theater; the show had an award-winning preview at the Berkeley Repertory Theater in 2006 and played at the Public in 2007 before beginning its current Tony Award-winning Broadway run.

What others say

“It's a given that an African-American who fronts a group called the Negro Problem has a well-developed sense of mischief. But it's Stew's lush sense of melody and witty, journalistically detailed lyrics that make his second album ... a true treat for those who care about innovative, thought-provoking lyrics.” — Entertainment Weekly

Stew’s TED talks

Stew on the TED Blog
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Film

Spike Lee will film "Passing Strange" this weekend

July 17, 2008

Stew‘s brilliant musical Passing Strange closes this weekend on Broadway — and Spike Lee will film the final Saturday shows. On July 19, cameras will follow the matinee and evening performance; the show will also be filmed later without an audience. Read Stew’s thoughts about this — and the whole Broadway/Tony Awards/The View experience — […]

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Music

One night only: Stew reprises excerpts from his hit musical, "Passing Strange"

September 27, 2007

Last spring, singer-songwriter Stew (whose playful, provocative performance was a highlight of TED2006) rewrote the book on musicals with “Passing Strange,” a groundbreaking show that won rave reviews during its limited, sold-out run. Developed with the Public Theater as part of an ongoing effort to bring non-traditional voices into musical theater, Passing Strange was non-traditional, […]

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Singer/songwriter Stew performs "Black Men Ski" on TEDTalks

May 10, 2007

What happens when a black man visits Aspen? Singer/songwriter Stew is about to let you know, with the arch humor and clever asides that characterize all his work (Hint: “It’s a winter wonderland in the belly of the beast.”) Stew is joined on stage by his partner/collaborator Heidi Rodewald (bass) and Jon Spurney (keyboard/guitar). (Recorded […]

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Quotes from Stew

Black men go to Aspen / and rent colorful chalets, / giggle at the questions / their mere presence seems to raise.
Stew
TED2006 • 426K views May 2007
Funny, Ingenious
Some kids I’ll describe as friends / say I am race-obsessed. / The luxury of your opinion / shows that you are blessed.
Stew
TED2006 • 426K views May 2007
Funny, Ingenious