Even after three decades of success in Nashville, Tenn., Michael Dean Stewart called Aiken home, and after his passing, he will be laid to rest in that home.
Stewart, 63, of Aiken, who made a career as a songwriter, musician and producer, passed away on Friday, Jan. 18.
Born in Oak Ridge, Tenn., Stewart grew up in Aiken, attended the University of South Carolina then moved on to Nashville, where he would find fame.
He would go on to write a No. 1 hit, work with some of the greats of country and popular music, as well as write many memorable jingles for national television commercials.
“This is a guy who, from an artistic standpoint, had so much creativity in him. A guy who loved creating,” said Tony Baughman, program manager for WKSX radio, and a close friend of Stewart.
Stewart’s number one hit “Don’t You Know How Much I Love You,” was performed by Ronnie Milsap. He would also find success helping to write and produce the song “Sexual Power” for The Pointer Sisters, which became a top 10 hit.
Stewart worked closely with some of Nashville’s biggest stars and some of the biggest names in pop – including being contracted by Quincy Jones as a songwriter.
Beyond chart music, some of the Aikenite’s best-known work came in commercials. His 1987 “Momma’s Got the Magic of Clorox 2” spot was so memorable it is still stuck in many heads, and was named as one of the 15 most memorable jingles of the 1980s and 1990s.
But despite the decades of songwriting and performing as well as over 2,000 regional and national commercials, Stewart is still remembered as a kind and generous individual, who never let go of his love for his home.
“He left Aiken to go to Nashville, and he pursued a passion. And, he did very well, but his heart was always in South Carolina,” Baughman said.
Baughman recalled a “generous artist” who would gladly help local bands and musicians to find their foothold. A man who would return to Aiken for the Steeplechase to co-host Baughman’s radio show, would present three-dozen Walmart chicken wings and beer to help fuel the broadcast of the upper-crust event.
Funeral services for Stewart will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 21, at the Chapel of George Funeral Home in Aiken. Burial will follow in Aiken Memorial Gardens, and the family will receive friends from noon to 2 p.m. prior to the service at the funeral home.