Dave Stewart? He’s the multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer who was half of the Eurythmics? Yes, and no. This article features another Dave Stewart, a street busker and small-venue solo performer who gained a following on the streets of Stockholm, across Scandinavia, and on social media. Stewart has a large repertoire of covers he performs on an acoustic guitar with untreated vocals.
Originally from Scotland, Dave R Stewart has performed in a number of countries over the years. He has played as a duo (for instance with Christer Alsen – they independently released a cd) and as a band member, but mostly he has played solo and mostly in Sweden. Here is a bundled up Stewart busking Zombie on the wintery streets of Drottninggatan, Stockholm. The video has over 20M views on YouTube.
“Can’t you see, it’s not me, it’s not my family ….” As most Music Man readers know, Zombie is a mega-hit by The Cranberries. Written by the band’s singer, the late Dolores O’Riordan, the song was a response to the deaths of Johnathan Ball (3) and Tim Parry (12) by two home-made IRA explosive devices concealed in litter bins in Warrington, England, in 1993. The song continues to resonate as it questions the right of organisations and authorities to commit acts of violence in the name of others.
It is also a catchy, anthemic song. Many commentators on YouTube go as far as to suggest Dave R Stewart’s January 2015 outdoor performance may be the best version of the track. doap5641 comments, “This is by far my favourite version of this song, including the original. I am a Cranberries fan but this version haunts my dreams!” MB2340 writes, “This is the absolutely best version of this song. The voice, the style, it’s so deep and beautiful and sad. Unbelievable.” Here is another Stewart song:
That is a cover of Winds of Change by the The Scorpions. The video isn’t as well filmed as Zombie, but Stewart’s soulful musicality still shines through. In some ways the combination of his guitar playing and the pitch of his singing reminds me of John Martyn. A Music Man follower has previously commented that Stewart’s voice is like “Gravel mixed with Stardust”. I wouldn’t argue with that.
Back to Stewart’s cover of Zombie. It is interesting that many viewers of Stewart’s cover prefer it to other covers of Zombie, and sometimes even the original. There can be no getting away from the significance of the Cranberries version and the importance of the song at the time of its release. On Zombie, Dolores rocks! Nonetheless it is interesting that viewers can be so moved by a simple video of a song sung with power, feeling, and heart when the passers-by barely seem to notice the performer. In defence of the passers-by, Stewart does get tipped by striding shoppers, Swedes are famous for their reserve in public, but mostly it is bitterly cold. Notice how Stewart sticks his hands in his pockets when the song is done.
Moreover, by the time the video was filmed (it was posted on 3 January 2015), Dave Stewart had been a regular busker in Drottninggatan, Stockholm for some years. Most of the passers-by would have known that they would have a chance to listen to Stewart when it wasn’t quite so cold. So we can give the passers-by a break, I reckon, even as we appreciate the poetry of Dave Stewart performing such a powerful version of Zombie in the depths of winter to an audience that, for the most part, appears as oblivious as, well, zombies. Timothy Alexander comments, “It’s actually perfect – the art is realised because nobody stops, it brings real meaning to the song; it’s sad but it shows how true the lyrics are”.
A further recurring theme in the comments is the general point that “some of the best music was and still is being performed for free right on the street, some of the best shows you’ll ever see are free.” It’s a good point, and it’s a reason why the Music Man regularly covers street performers and buskers.
Having made his reputation in Sweden, Dave R Stewart was booked for gigs in Denmark, Norway, and Finland, as well as for entertainment on ferries in the Baltic. Unfortunately I can’t find any posts of Dave’s music or movement’s since January 2021. I have emailed his address and reached out to his management. It could be that Dave has retired from performance, but I’ll keep you posted. If you would like to see more from Dave R Stewart, you can subscribe to his YouTube channel.