Singer C.J. Lewis was not shy about a few cover versions in the mid-1990’s. But what happened when he tried something original?
Steven James Lewis (b.1967) was born in South London and used the stage name “C.J. Lewis” when he started rapping at the age of 21. He signed to MCA Records in 1994 and released a cover of The Drifters 1961 hit “Sweets For My Sweet” as his debut single in April that year. His version did better than the original in the UK and peaked at No.3, becoming one of the top 40 best sellers of the year. The follow up, a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” from 1965, also went top ten in the UK that Summer as ‘C.J.’ prepared to release his first album, “Dollars”, that Autumn.
“Dollars” was not a commercial hit and neither was the title track, which just scrapped into the UK top 40. More successful was a third cover, this time of The Emotions 1977 hit, “Best of My Love”, which ‘C.J.’ took to No.13 at home. Eager to record his own original material, ‘C.J.’ made a hasty return in 1995 with a new composition, “R To The A”, although this only matched “Dollars” chart placing at No.34, although it was more successful in New Zealand, where the song put him back in the top ten for a second time (“Sweets For My Sweet” being the other one). Commercial success now came to an end in the UK but the top ten hits kept coming in kiwi land as the follow up, “Rough’N’Smooth” reached No.7.
His second album, also titled “Rough’N’Smooth”, reached No.11 there, higher than his debut had done just twelve months earlier. ‘C.J’ released the single and album “Roadblock” in 1998, but the only attention these received were in New Zealand and after a best of later in the year. ‘C.J.’ was dropped by MCA and drifted off into the sunset. He has continued to release a number of tracks independently since then, the post recent of these was “Your Body”. He formed the group American Yard in the 2000’s and released the song, “No You Didn’t” in 2009. Perhaps ‘C.J.’ will become wanted once more as the 30th anniversary of “Sweets For My Sweet” comes round all too soon…?
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