Backstage with Rod Stewart

No Lies Radio News – By Teri Perticone – Saturday January 16, 2021

Rod Stewart
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sir Roderick David Stewart CBE (born 10 January 1945)[1] is a British rock and pop singer, songwriter and record producer. With his distinctive raspy singing voice, Stewart is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold over 250 million records worldwide.[2] He has had ten number-one albums and 31 top ten singles in the UK, six of which reached number one.[3] Stewart has had 16 top ten singles in the US, with four reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100. He was knighted in the 2016 Birthday Honours for services to music and charity.[4]

Stewart’s music career began in 1962 when he took up busking with a harmonica. In October 1963, he joined The Dimensions as harmonica player and vocalist. In 1964, Stewart joined Long John Baldry and the All Stars before joining The Jeff Beck Group in 1967. Becoming the singer for the Faces in 1969, he also maintained a solo career releasing his debut solo album that same year. Stewart’s early albums were a fusion of rock, folk music, soul music, and R&B.[5][6] His third solo album, 1971’s Every Picture Tells a Story was his breakthrough, topping the charts in the UK, US, Canada and Australia. The ballad “Maggie May” off of it went to number one for multiple weeks in those same countries. His 1972 follow-up album, Never a Dull Moment, was another UK and Australian chart-topper while reaching the top three in the US and Canada. Its lead single, “You Wear It Well”, also topped the chart in the UK while being a moderate hit elsewhere.

After a handful more UK top ten hits, Stewart announced the breakup of the Faces in 1975. His next few singles were ballads with “Sailing”, off the 1975 UK and Australian number-one album, Atlantic Crossing, becoming a hit in the UK and the Netherlands (number one), Germany (number four) and other countries, but barely charting in North America. A Night on the Town (1976), his fifth straight chart-topper in the UK, began a three-album run of going number one or top three in North America, the UK and Australia with each release. That album’s “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright)” spent almost two months at number one in the US and Canada, and made the top five in other countries. Foot Loose & Fancy Free (1977) featured the major hit “You’re In My Heart (The Final Acclaim)” as well as the rocker “Hot Legs”. Blondes Have More Fun (1978) and its disco-tinged “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” both went to number one in Canada, Australia and the US with “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” also hitting number one in the UK and the top ten in other countries. Stewart’s albums regularly hit the upper rungs of the charts in the Netherlands throughout the 70s and in Sweden from 1975 onward.

After a disco and new wave period in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Stewart’s music turned to a soft rock/middle-of-the-road style, with most of his albums reaching the top ten in the UK, Germany and Sweden, but faring less well in the US. The single “Rhythm of My Heart” was a top five hit in the UK, US and other countries, with its source album, 1990’s Vagabond Heart, becoming, at number ten in the US and number two in the UK, his highest charting album in a decade. In 1993, he collaborated with Bryan Adams and Sting on the power ballad “All for Love”, which went number one in many countries. In the early 2000s, he released a series of successful albums interpreting the Great American Songbook.

In 2008, Billboard magazine ranked him the 17th most successful artist on the “Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists”.[7] A Grammy and Brit Award recipient, he was voted at No. 33 in Q Magazine’s list of the Top 100 Greatest Singers of all time[8] As a solo artist, Stewart was inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2006, and he was inducted a second time into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 as a member of Faces.[9][10]

Early life

Roderick David Stewart was born at 507 Archway Road, Highgate, North London, on 10 January 1945, the youngest of five children of Robert Joseph Stewart (26 December 1904[11]–1990)[12] and Elsie Rebecca Gilbart (14 December 1905[11]–1996).[13][14] His father was Scottish and had been a master builder in Leith, Edinburgh, while Elsie was English and had grown up in Upper Holloway in North London. Married in 1928, the couple had two sons and two daughters while living in Scotland, and then they moved to Highgate.

Stewart came after an eight-year gap following his youngest sibling; he was born at home during World War II.[13][15][nb 1] The family was neither affluent nor poor; Stewart was spoiled as the youngest, and has called his childhood “fantastically happy”.[13][15] He had an undistinguished record at Highgate Primary School and failed the eleven plus exam.[19] He then attended the William Grimshaw Secondary Modern School (later Fortismere School), Muswell Hill.[20] When his father retired from the building trade he bought a newsagent’s shop on the Archway Road and the family lived over the shop.[13][15] Stewart’s main hobby was railway modelling.[21]

The family was mostly focused on football;[22] Stewart’s father had played in a local amateur team and managed some teams as well, and one of Stewart’s earliest memories was of the pictures of Scottish players such as George Young and Gordon Smith that his brothers had on the wall.[23][24] Stewart was the most talented footballer in the family and was a supporter of Arsenal F.C. at the time.[23][25] Combining natural athleticism with near-reckless aggression, he became captain of the school football team and played for Middlesex Schoolboys as centre-half.[23]

The family were also great fans of the singer Al Jolson and would sing and play his hits.[22][26] Stewart collected his records and saw his films, read books about him, and was influenced by his performing style and attitude towards his audience.[22][24][27] His introduction to rock and roll was hearing Little Richard’s 1956 hit “The Girl Can’t Help It”, and seeing Bill Haley & His Comets in concert.[26] His father bought him a guitar in January 1959; the first song he learned was the folk tune “It Takes a Worried Man to Sing a Worried Song”; the first record he bought was Eddie Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody”.[21] In 1960, he joined a skiffle group with schoolfriends called the Kool Kats, playing Lonnie Donegan and Chas McDevitt hits.[21][27]

Stewart left school at age 15[28] and worked briefly as a silk screen printer.[27] Spurred on by his father, his ambition was to become a professional footballer.[25][28] In summer 1960, he went for trials at Brentford F.C.,[29] a Third Division club at the time.[30]

Contrary to some longstanding accounts, Stewart states in his 2012 autobiography that he was never signed to the club and that the club never called him back after his trials.[nb 2] In any case, regarding possible career options, Stewart concluded, “Well, a musician’s life is a lot easier and I can also get drunk and make music, and I can’t do that and play football. I plumped for music … They’re the only two things I can do actually: play football and sing.”[22][28]

1969–1975: Solo career established and Faces albums

Mercury Records A&R man Lou Reizner had seen Stewart perform with Beck, and on 8 October 1968 signed him to a solo contract;[68] but contractual complexities delayed Stewart’s recording for him until July 1969.[74][78] Meanwhile, in May 1969, guitarist and singer Steve Marriott left English band The Small Faces.[74] Ron Wood was announced as the replacement guitarist in June and on 18 October 1969, Stewart followed his friend and was announced as their new singer.[74] The two joined existing members Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan, and Kenney Jones, who soon decided to call the new line-up Faces.[79]

An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down became Stewart’s first solo album in 1969 (it was known as The Rod Stewart Album in the US). It established the template for his solo sound: a heartfelt mixture of folk, rock, and country blues, inclusive of a British working-class sensibility, with both original material (“Cindy’s Lament” and the title song) and cover versions (Ewan MacColl’s “Dirty Old Town” and Mike d’Abo’s “Handbags and Gladrags”). The backing band on the album included Wood, Waller and McLagan, plus Keith Emerson and guitarists Martin Pugh (of Steamhammer, and later Armageddon and 7th Order) and Martin Quittenton (also from Steamhammer).[80]

Faces released their début album First Step in early 1970 with a rock and roll style similar to the Rolling Stones. While the album did better in the UK than in the US, the Faces quickly earned a strong live following. Stewart released his second album, Gasoline Alley that autumn. Stewart’s approach was similar to his first album and mandolin was introduced into the sound. He then launched a US tour with the Faces. Stewart sang guest vocals for the Australian group Python Lee Jackson on “In a Broken Dream”, recorded in April 1969 but not released until 1970. His payment was a set of seat covers for his car. It was re-released in 1972 to become a worldwide hit.

Stewart’s 1971 solo album Every Picture Tells a Story made him a household name when the B-side of his minor hit “Reason to Believe”, “Maggie May”, (co-written with Martin Quittenton) started receiving radio play. The album and the single occupied the number one chart position simultaneously in the UK, US, Canada and Australia, a chart first, in September.[81] Maggie May top the single chart for six weeks in the US, five weeks in the UK and four weeks in Australia. Set off by a striking mandolin part (by Ray Jackson of Lindisfarne), “Maggie May” was also named in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll, one of three songs by him to appear on that list. The rest of the album was equally strong, with “Mandolin Wind” again showcasing that instrument; “(I Know) I’m Losing You” adding hard-edged soul to the mix; and “Tomorrow Is a Long Time”, a cover of a Bob Dylan song. But the ultimate manifestation of the early Stewart solo style was the Stewart-Wood-penned “Every Picture Tells a Story” itself: powered by Mick Waller’s drumming, Pete Sears’s piano and Wood’s guitar work in a largely acoustic arrangement; it is a song relating to the picaresque adventures of the singer.

In late 1974, Stewart released his Smiler album. In Britain, it reached number one, and the single “Farewell” number seven, but only number 13 on the Billboard pop album charts and the single “Mine for Me” only number 91 on the Billboard pop singles charts. It was his last original album for Mercury Records. After the release of the double album compilation The Best of Rod Stewart he switched to Warner Bros. Records and remained with them throughout the vast majority of his career (Faces were signed to Warner Bros., and Stewart’s solo releases in the UK appeared on the Riva label until 1981). In 1975, Faces toured the US twice (with Ronnie Wood joining The Rolling Stones’ US tour in between)[87] before Stewart announced the Faces’ break-up at the end of the year.[88]

1975–1988: Height of fame and critical reaction

In 1975, Stewart moved to Los Angeles. He released the Atlantic Crossing album for his new record company, using producer Tom Dowd and a different sound based on the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Atlantic Crossing marked both a return to form and a return to the Top 10 of the Billboard album charts. The first single, a cover of the Sutherland Brothers song “Sailing”, was a number-one hit in the UK, charted high in other European countries and in Australia, but only reached the Top 60 of the US and Canadian charts. The single returned to the UK Top 10 a year later when used as the theme music for a BBC documentary series about HMS Ark Royal. Having been a hit twice over, “Sailing” became, and remains, Stewart’s biggest-selling single in the UK. His Holland-Dozier-Holland cover “This Old Heart of Mine” was also a Top 100 hit in 1976.[82] In 1976 Stewart covered The Beatles’ song “Get Back” for the musical documentary All This and World War II.[89]

Later in 1976, Stewart topped the US Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks and the Australian ARIA chart with the ballad “Tonight’s the Night”, with an accompanying music video featuring actress Britt Ekland.[82] It came from the A Night on the Town album, which went to number two on the Billboard album charts and was Stewart’s first album to go platinum. By explicitly marking the album as having a “fast side” and a “slow side”, Stewart continued the trend started by Atlantic Crossing. “The First Cut Is the Deepest”, a cover of a Cat Stevens song, went number one in the UK in 1977, and top 30 in the US.[82][85] “The Killing of Georgie (Part 1 and 2)”, about the murder of a gay man, was also a Top 40 hit for Stewart during 1977.[82]

Foot Loose & Fancy Free (1977) featured Stewart’s own band, the original Rod Stewart Group that featured Carmine Appice, Phil Chen, Jim Cregan, Billy Peek, Gary Grainger and John Jarvis. It continued Stewart’s run of chart success, reaching number two. “You’re in my Heart” was the hit single, reaching number four in the US.[82]

“Hot Legs” achieved a lot of radio airplay as did the confessional “I Was Only Joking”. In appearance, Stewart’s look had evolved to include a glam element, including make-up and spandex clothes. Stewart scored another UK number one and US number one single with “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”, which was a crossover hit reaching number five on the Billboard black charts due to its disco sound.[82] This was the lead single from 1978’s Blondes Have More Fun, which went to number one on the Billboard album charts and sold 3 million albums.[90]

A focal point of criticisms about this period was his biggest-selling 1978 disco hit “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”, which was atypical of his earlier output, and disparaged by critics.[91] In interviews, Stewart, while admitting his accompanying look had become “tarty”, has defended the lyrics by pointing out that the song is a third-person narrative slice-of-life portrayal, not unlike those in his earlier work, and that it is not about him. The song’s refrain was identical to Brazilian Jorge Ben Jor’s earlier “Taj Mahal” and a lawsuit ensued. Stewart donated his royalties from “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” to UNICEF, and he performed it with his band at the Music for UNICEF Concert at the United Nations General Assembly in 1979.[citation needed]

Stewart moved to a more new wave direction in 1980 by releasing the album Foolish Behaviour. The album produced one hit single, “Passion”, which reached No. 5 on the US Billboard Charts. In August 1981, MTV was launched in the US with several of Stewart’s videos in heavy rotation. Later in 1981, Stewart added further elements of new wave and synthpop to his sound for the Tonight I’m Yours album. The title song reached No. 20 in the US, while “Young Turks” reached the Top 5 with the album going platinum.[82] On 18 December 1981, Stewart played the Los Angeles Forum, along with Kim Carnes and Tina Turner, in a concert broadcast worldwide via satellite.[92]

Stewart was criticised[by whom?] for breaking a widely observed cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa by performing at the Sun City resort complex in Bophuthatswana as part of his Body Wishes (1983) and Camouflage (1984) tours.[93]

Stewart had four US Top 10 singles between 1982 and 1988; “Young Turks” (No. 5, carrying over from 1981 into 1982), “Some Guys Have All the Luck” (No. 10, 1984), “Infatuation” (No. 6, 1984) and “Love Touch” (No. 6, 1986, a Holly Knight/Mike Chapman collaboration). “Baby Jane” reached No. 14 in 1983, but went to No. 1 in the UK, his final chart-topping single there to date.[82] The corresponding Camouflage album went gold in the UK, and the single “Infatuation” (which featured his old friend Jeff Beck on the guitar) received considerable play on MTV. The second single “Some Guys Have All The Luck” reached No. 15 in the UK and No. 10 in the US.[82]

A reunion with Jeff Beck produced a successful take on Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready”, but an attempt to tour together fell apart after a few dates. In the UK, “Every Beat of My Heart” reached number two in 1986. In January 1985, Stewart performed to a large audience at the Rock in Rio festival in Rio de Janeiro.[94]

1988–2016–present: Out of Order Tour, Vagabond Heart and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, New ventures and record labels, The Great American Songbook series and Soulbook, Christmas album and autobiography, Return to songwriting – Time and Another Country & Continuing to record – Blood Red Roses.

Personal life

In May 2000, Stewart was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, for which he underwent surgery in the same month. It had been previously reported he suffered from a benign vocal cord nodule.[135] Besides being a major health scare, the resulting surgery also threatened his voice, and he had to re-learn how to sing.[136] Since then he has been active in raising funds for The City of Hope Foundation charity to find cures for all forms of cancer, especially those affecting children.[135] In September 2019, Stewart revealed that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017, and has been given the all-clear after treatment.[137]

Before returning to the UK, Stewart played for his LA Exiles team made up of mostly English expatriates plus a few celebrities, including Billy Duffy of The Cult, in a senior soccer league in Palos Verdes, California.[138]

Despite his father being a supporter of Hibernian,[139] Stewart is a supporter of Celtic, which he mentions in “You’re in My Heart”. He supports the Scotland national team and follows Manchester United as his English side, and he explains his love affair with both Celtic and Manchester United in Frank Worrall’s book, Celtic United.[140] Stewart clarifies this more in his 2012 book (pp 163–64), Rod: The Autobiography, mentioning he “only had an attachment to Manchester United in the 1970s, but that was because they had so many great Scottish players in the 1970s, including Denis Law … When I did eventually click with a team, it was Celtic”. He presented Celtic with the trophy after they won the 2015 Scottish League Cup Final.[141]

Stewart is a model railway enthusiast. His 23 ft × 124 ft (7.0 m × 37.8 m) HO scale layout in his Los Angeles home is modelled after the New York Central and the Pennsylvania Railroads during the 1940s. Called the Three Rivers City, the layout was featured in the cover story of the December 2007, December 2010, February 2014, and June 2017 issues of Model Railroader magazine. In the 2007 article, Stewart said that it meant more to him to be in a model railroad magazine than a music magazine. The layout, which has a mainline run of 900 ft (270 m), uses code 70 flextrack and a Digital Command Control (DCC) system made by Digitrax.[142][143] Stewart has a second, smaller layout at his UK home, based on Britain’s East Coast Main Line. In a sidebar[144] to the 2014 Model Railroader article, Stewart confirmed (in an anecdote about his having unwittingly mixed red scenery texturing material into a “turf” mix he used around the bases of buildings) that he is colour-blind.[145][146]

A car collector, Stewart owns one of the 400 Ferrari Enzos. In 1982, Stewart was car-jacked on Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard while he was parking his $50,000 Porsche.[147] The car was subsequently recovered.

In September 2002, Stewart’s son, Sean, was sentenced to three months in jail for attacking a man outside a restaurant in Los Angeles. Sean Stewart was also required to pay compensation and to attend anger management, drug and alcohol treatment courses.[148]

Rod Stewart was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2007 New Year Honours for services to music. At his investiture in July 2007, at Buckingham Palace, Stewart commented: “It’s a marvellous occasion. We’re the only country in the world to honour the common man.”[149] He was knighted in the 2016 Birthday Honours for “services to music and charity”.[4]

Stewart was estimated to have a fortune of £190 million in the Sunday Times Rich List of 2019, making him one of the 10 wealthiest people in the British music industry.

Relationships and family

Stewart is known for his liaisons with women and has eight children, by five mothers.

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