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Steve was inducted into the South African Rock Hall of Fame in October 2003.

Steve Louw
Steve Louw, September 2022 | Credit: Jacqui Van Staden

Stephen Geoffrey Louw was born on the 16th September 1955 in Den Hague, The Netherlands. Three months later his family moved to Pinelands, Cape Town, South Africa. He is of Dutch / Scottish descent.

Steve Louw is a South African singer-songwriter and rock musician. Winner of Best South African Rock Act in 1996, and a member of the SA Rock Hall of Fame since 2003, Steve is one of SA rock’s most talented and unassuming singer-songwriters. Steve has collaborated with musicians such as Brian May of Queen, Anastacia and Bono, and played and recorded with the likes of Sixto Rodriguez, Blondie Chaplin and Kevin Shirley.

Louw played piano from an early age and switched to guitar when he found a discarded Gallotone Champ in his garage. He formed his first band Atlantic Rose in 1969 at SACS high school in Cape Town with classmate Paul Jarvis. Jarvis went on to form The News with fellow classmates Malcolm McDonald and Richard "Dish" Devey. Devey would later play drums in Louw's 80's band All Night Radio. Louw's professional music career started in 1981.

Louw married Erna Pienaar in 1988. The song "Wind In Your Hair" (off Headlight Dreams) is written for her. They have 3 daughters.

Louw formed Big Sky in 1990.


by Stephen Thomas Erlewine, April 2021

“One thing’s clear, it’s just great to be alive”

Steve Louw sings those words on “Don’t Wait,” a song that arrives not more than a few tunes into Headlight Dreams, the first album the singer/songwriter has released in nearly thirteen years. Such an extended hiatus effectively resets the clock for an artist like Louw, offering an opportunity for the rocker to reintroduce himself not only with his fans in his native South Africa but to listeners around the world.

Headlight Dreams may arrive many decades into a long career yet it serves as a perhaps ideal summation of Louw’s generous spirit and soulful rock & roll. Produced by Louw’s longtime friend and collaborator Kevin Shirley (Joe Bonamassa, John Hiatt, Robert Cray Band, the Black Crowes), the album is a collection of ten sharp and sturdy songs which blend Americana grit with the anthemic, empathetic big music of the 1980s, an era where Louw cut his teeth.

Louw’s career as a professional musician began in the early 1980s, when he fronted All Night Radio. The group released two albums—including 1986’s The Killing Floor, the record where Louw struck up his partnership with Shirley—before he formed Big Sky, the outfit that became his vehicle to stardom in South Africa. Waiting For The Dawn, Big Sky’s first album, arrived in 1990, just as the country began moving away from rule under apartheid, and the group’s music helped soundtrack a decade of positive revolution. Big Sky released four albums over the next fifteen years, including 1995’s acclaimed Horizon, assembling a songbook of South African radio perennials in the process. They also saw their share of industry support, winning the FNB Music Award for Best SA Rock Act in 1996. Two years later, Big Sky opened for Rodriguez on his triumphant tour of South Africa, an experience chronicled in the 2012 Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man. All this acclaim raised Louw’s international profile, leading to his collaboration with Queen’s Brian May and Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart on “Amandla,” a song on 2003’s Nelson Mandela-inspired AIDS awareness project 46664.

Louw entered a period of relative quiet after 2008’s Trancas Canyon, a silence Headlight Dreams breaks in rousing fashion. Louw’s sculpted compositions were captured swiftly, so they retain a sense of freshness. Much of this is due to how he trusts Shirley, who produced Headlight Dreams at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. Shirley assembled a crew of studio pros, including Grammy-nominated keyboardist Kevin McKendree, guitarist Rob McNelley, bassist Alison Prestwood and drummer Greg Morrow to support Louw, surrounding his old pal with a sympathetic band who would instinctively know how to flesh out his compositions. On one occasion, he invited a superstar colleague into the studio. Joe Bonamassa appears on “Wind In Your Hair,” elevating its buoyant and rough-hewn romance with his lovely, lyrical solo.

Bonamassa’s cameo crystalizes how the blend of new and familiar on Headlight Dreams winds up quite beguiling. The album sounds crisp and bright, a by-product of its quick recording, but it’s impossible to ignore how the entire proceedings beat to a passionate heart. That soulfulness rises to the surface on the slower songs, such as the simmering “Get Out Of My Heart,” but it’s also palpable on “Heavy Weather,” an insistent and indignant protest song disguised as an infectious blues.

“Heavy Weather” provides a direct line to the earliest years of Steve Louw, when he was singing in favor of social justice, but no knowledge of his prior work is needed to have Headlight Dreams resonate deeply. Like all meaningful art, it exists entirely in the present, playing upon the past, shared experiences, and personal insight to create an experience that’s simultaneously personal and universal.

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