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Rod Stewart

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Rod Stewart

Roderick David Stewart (born January 10, 1945 in Highgate, London) is an English singer and songwriter of Scottish descent, most known for his uniquely raspy, gravelly voice and personable singing style, as exemplified in his signature song "Maggie May".

In a career now entering its fifth decade, Stewart has sold over 100 million records worldwide. Although the quality of his recordings has dipped at times, he is widely recognised as among the best interpretive singers of recent times, and has consistently been a presence in the charts since the early 1970s.

Contents

Early life

Stewart was the youngest of five children born to Robert and Elsie Stewart. His parents owned a newsagent's shop in North London, and the family resided above the shop. Minutes before Rod Stewart was born, a German V-2 rocket hit the police station just down the street and exploded. [1] (http://www.bbc.co.uk/derby/content/articles/2005/04/15/rod_stewart_biog_person_profile.shtml)

"Rod the Mod" 1960-1969

Rod Stewart started as an apprentice footballer with Brentford F.C. based in West London. He soon switched to a career in music joining folk singer Wizz Jones in the early 1960s as a street singer travelling around Europe; this resulted in his being deported from Spain for vagrancy. Stewart also worked as a gravedigger during this period.

On his return to England, he went to Birmingham to join Jimmy Powell & the Five Dimensions as a vocalist and blues harp player. The band recorded a single for Pye Records with Stewart on blues harp. He also played the instrument on Millie Small's "My Boy Lollipop" which became a huge hit in 1964.

Rod Stewart returned to London in 1964 to join Long John Baldry's Hoochie Coochie Men which recorded a single "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" which failed to chart. The Hoochie Coochie Men evolved into Steampacket featuring Stewart, Baldry, Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger, Mickey Waller and Rick Brown. Steampacket supported the Rolling Stones and the Walker Brothers in the northern summer of 1965 and would also record an album that would not be released until 1970 when Stewart had become well-known in musical circles. Stewart also earned the nickname "Rod the Mod" in that period after an appearance on a BBC documentary,1965, on the Mod movement.

Steampacket broke up in early 1966 with Stewart joining Shotgun Express as lead vocalist with Beryl Marsden. Shotgun Express also contained Mick Fleetwood and Peter Green who would go on to form Fleetwood Mac and Peter Mardens. Shotgun Express released one single before breaking up.

Stewart then joined the Jeff Beck Group as vocalist. In 1968, their first album Truth became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic and the group toured extensively. The second album Beck-ola also was a hit in the middle of 1969 but the group broke up by the end of the year. Much of Stewart's sense of phrasing was developed during his time with the Jeff Beck Group.

Never A Dull Moment 1969-1975

The US band Cactus offered Stewart a job as lead singer but he decided to join The Faces with Ron Wood. (Wood had played bass guitar with the Jeff Beck Group, but wanted to switch to guitar. The Faces were previously The Small Faces until the departure of Steve Marriott.)

Stewart also signed a solo recording contract. An Old Raincoat Won't Let You Down became his 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, all informed by a British working-class sensibility, with both original material ("Cindy's Lament" and the title song) and cover versions (Ewan McColl's "Dirty Old Town" and Mike D'Abo's "Handbags and Gladrags") being very effective.

The Faces released their debut 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 the US, the Faces quickly earned a strong live following. Stewart would release his second album Gasoline Alley with Martin Quittenton as his lead guitarist supplying mandolin. The sound and approach was similar to his first album, as exemplified by the dynamic but haunting title track. He also launched a solo tour.

Stewart's 1971 album Every Picture Tells a Story made him a household name when the B-side of his minor hit "Reason to Believe", "Maggie May", started receiving radio play. The album and the single hit number one in both the U.S. and the U.K. simultaneously, a chart first, in September. A loss of innocence tale set off by a striking mandolin part, "Maggie May" was also named in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll, which is 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" being one of the best British Bob Dylan covers. 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 and a mostly acoustic arrangement, it is a fast, rocking, headlong romp relating the picaresque adventures of the singer.

The second Faces album Long Player was released in early 1971 which enjoyed greater chart success than First Step. The Faces also got their only US top forty hit with "Stay With Me" from their third album A Nod is as Good as a Wink to a Blind Horse released in late 1971. This album reached the top ten on both sides of the Atlantic on the back of the success of Every Picture Tells A Story. Throughout this period there was a marked dichotomy between Stewart's solo and group work, the former being meticulously crafted while the latter tended towards the boozy and sloppy. The Faces were unable to perform Stewart's solo work effectively in concert, as the subsequent Rod Stewart/Faces Live album would show; faithful renditions of those songs would have to wait two decades until Stewart's MTV Unplugged appearance. However Steve Jones from The Sex Pistols regarded The Faces very highly and named them as a main influence on the British punk rock movement.

The Faces had an extensive tour in 1972 with growing tension in the band over Stewart's solo career enjoying more success than the band's. Stewart released Never A Dull Moment in the same year. Repeating the Every Picture formula for the most part, it reached number two on the US album charts and number one in the UK and enjoyed further good notices from reviewers. "You Wear It Well" being a hit single that reached number 13 in the US, while "Twisting the Night Away" made explicit Stewart's debt to Sam Cooke.

For the body of his early solo work Stewart earned tremendous critical praise. Rolling Stone's 1980 Illustrated History of Rock & Roll includes this in its Stewart entry:

Rarely has a singer had as full and unique a talent as Rod Stewart [...] a writer who offered profound lyricism and fabulous self-deprecating humor, teller of tall tales and honest heartbreaker, he had an unmatched eye for the tiny details around which lives turn, shatter, and reform [...] and a voice to make those details indelible. [... His solo albums] were defined by two special qualities: warmth, which was redemptive, and modesty, which was liberating. If ever any rocker chose the role of Everyman and lived up to it, it was Rod Stewart.

The Faces released their final album Ooh La La which reached number one in the UK and number 21 in 1973. The Faces went on their final tour in 1974 to support Ooh La La and the single "Pool Hall Richard". The band formally broke up in 1975 with Ron Wood joining The Rolling Stones as their guitar player and Stewart pursuing his solo career.

Stewart would release the Smiler album in late 1974 which proved to be a disappointment reaching only number 13 on the Billboard pop album charts with the single "Mine For Me" only reaching number 91 on the Billboard pop singles charts. Smiler is generally regarded as Stewart's weakest album of the seventies.

Atlantic Crossing 1975-1980

In 1975, Rod Stewart moved to the US, applying for citizenship due to his love affair with Britt Ekland and a fight with the UK tax authorities. He released the Atlantic Crossing album with 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 "Sailing" was a massive number one hit in the UK, while it only reached the top 60 of the US charts. Holland-Dozier-Holland cover "This Old Heart of Mine" was also a top 100 hit in 1976. Musically, the album showed Stewart was clearly distinguishing his slow material (such as Danny Whitten's wrenching "I Don't Want To Talk About It") from his largely by-the-numbers rockers (such as "Three Time Loser").

Later in 1976, Stewart topped the Billboard singles charts for eight weeks and the Australian singles charts with the glossy seduction ballad "Tonight's the Night" (an accompanying video featured Ekland). It came from the A Night on the Town album, which went to #2 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 top 30 in the US in 1977 and number 1 in the UK (even though "God Save the Queen" by the Sex Pistols is widely believed to have sold more records in that week). "The Killing of Georgie (Part 1 and 2)", about the killing of a gay man, was also a top 40 hit for Stewart during 1977.

Foot Loose & Fancy Free from 1978 continued Stewart's run of chart success, again reaching #2 and featuring much the same sound as from A Night on the Town. "You're In My Heart" was the hit single, reaching #4 in the US. The rocker "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, included make-up, spandex clothes, and the like.

Stewart scored another US #1 single with "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" which was a crossover hit reaching #5 on the Billboard black charts due to its disco sound. This was the lead single from 1979's Blondes Have More Fun which went to #1 on the Billboard album charts and sold 4 million albums. It was to be Stewart's last number one album for 25 years.

There are two schools of critical thought about this whole period of Stewart's career. One is exemplified by the same 1980 Rolling Stone History entry quoted above, as it actually begins:

Rarely has a singer had as full and unique a talent as Rod Stewart; rarely has anyone betrayed his talent so completely. Once the most compassionate presence in music, he has become a bilious self-parody—and sells more records than ever. [...] full of the rewards he received for his work, and seemingly without noticing, he exchanged passion for sentiment, the romance of sex for a tease, a reach for mysteries with tawdry posturing ...

The other school acknowledges that Stewart has never surpassed his earliest work, but states that by Never a Dull Moment and certainly Smiler it was clear that that formula had run dry, and that he needed to make a musical change in direction. Furthermore, Stewart's early solo work had inadvertantly benefited from The Faces drawing off his less-inspired, straight-rocking party efforts; without The Faces around, this side of him became more manifest in his solo work. Given that, this view concludes that his albums during this period are not so bad and in particular Atlantic Crossing and A Night on the Town are more than occasionally inspired.

A focal point of this debate was "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy". To detractors, this was the epitome of Stewart's egotism and the nadir of his career. Supporters defend the music by saying this was Stewart's try at the disco sound, much in the same way as Paul McCartney did "Silly Love Songs" or The Rolling Stones did "Miss You". 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 not about him. In any case, the song's refrain was identical to Brazilian Jorge Ben Jor's earlier "Taj Mahal"; a lawsuit ensued, and Stewart ended up donating his royalties from the song to UNICEF. [2] (http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tw/04-13-95/music.htm)

Out of Order 1981-2001

In 1981, Stewart added elements of new wave and synth pop to his sound for the Tonight I'm Yours album. The title song and "Young Turks" both reached top 5 of the Billboard charts with the album going platinum.

Stewart's career then went into a relative slump. He only had three top ten singles between 1982 and 1988 and only 1983's Camouflage album went gold in the UK. 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 1988, he returned with Out Of Order produced by Duran Duran's Andy Taylor and by Bernard Edwards of Chic. "Forever Young" and "Lost in You" from that album were both significant hits on the Billboard Hot 100 and mainstream rock charts. ("Forever Young" was an unconscious revision of Bob Dylan's song of the same name; the artists reached an agreement about sharing royalties.)

His version of the Tom Waits song "Downtown Train" went to #2 of the US singles charts. This song was taken from a four CD compilation set called Storyteller. The Vagabond Heart album continued his comeback with "Rhythm of My Heart" and "Motown Song" both reaching the top 10.

In 1993, he recorded "All For Love" with Sting and Bryan Adams for the soundtrack to the movie The Three Musketeers; the single reached #1 on the US charts.

Also in 1993, Stewart reunited with Ron Wood and a talented backup group to record an MTV Unplugged special. For the first time Stewart's early solo pieces were done justice in concert; highlights included a heartfelt "Handbags and Gladrags", a furious "Cut Across Shorty", and four selections from Every Picture Tells A Story. The show also featured an acoustic version of Van Morrison's "Have I Told You Lately" which topped the Billboard adult contemporary chart and went top ten on the Billboard Hot 100. A rendition of "Reason to Believe" also garnered considerable airplay. The Unplugged album reached #2 on the Billboard album charts.

Stewart was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

In 1995, Stewart released "A Spanner in the Works" containing a cover of Tom Petty's "Leave Virginia Alone" which reached the top 10 of the adult contemporary charts. The latter half of the 1990s was not as commercially successful with If We Fall In Love Tonight not making much of an impression on the charts.

When we Were the New Boys from 1998 contained versions of Britpop acts such as Oasis and Primal Scream. Hoever, it only reached #44 on the UK album charts. Human, his final album on the Warner Brothers label only just reached the top 50 in 2001 with the single "I Can't Deny It" going top 40 in the UK and top 20 in the adult contemporary.

The Story So Far: the Very Best Of a greatest hits album compiled from his time at Warner Brothers went to the top ten in the UK and reached number 1 in places like Belgium and France in 2001.

Crooner 2002-

In recent years, Stewart has concentrated on singing 1930s and 1940s pop standards from the "Great American Songbook", written by songwriters such as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, with great popular success but middling critical success. These albums have been released on Clive Davis's J Records label and have seen Stewart enjoy album sales equal to the 1970s.

The first album from the songbook series, It Had to Be You ... The Great American Songbook, reached #4 on the US album chart, #8 in the UK and #10 in Canada when released in late 2002. The track "These Foolish Things" reached #13 on the Billboard adult contemporary charts and #2 in Taiwan. "They Can't Take That Away From Me" went top 20 on the world internet charts and top 30 on the adult contemporary charts.

The second series album, As Time Goes By ...The Great American Songbook Volume II, reached #2 in the US, #4 in the UK and #1 in Canada. "Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered", a duet with Cher went top 20 on the US adult contemporary charts and top 5 in Taiwan. "Time After Time" was another top 30 track on the US adult contemporary charts.

A musical featuring many of Stewart's songs opened November 7, 2003 at London's Victoria Palace theatre. It is written and directed by Ben Elton, who previously created a similar production, We Will Rock You, with music by Queen.

In 2004, Stewart is reuniting with Ron Wood for concerts of The Faces material. A Rod Stewart and the Faces best of Changing Faces reached the top 20 of the UK album charts. Five Guys Walk Into A Bar, a Faces box set compilation, went in to the shops, and it is widely regarded as a "must have" in Rock & Roll history. Together with Ron Wood he is still working on the album You Sing I'll Strut.

In late 2004, Stardust ... The Great American Songbook Volume III, the third album in the series, was released. It was his first US number 1 album in 25 years, selling over 200,000 albums in its first week. It also debuted at #1 in Canada, #3 in the UK and top ten in Australia. His version of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World", featuring Stevie Wonder has made the top 20 of the world adult charts. Stewart won his first ever Grammy Award for this album.

Current life

In 2000 Stewart was detected as having thyroid cancer. Besides being a major health scare, the resulting surgery also threatened his famous voice, and he had to re-learn how to sing. [3] (http://edition.cnn.com/2001/SHOWBIZ/Music/02/03/stewart/) 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. [4] (http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/spotlight/2001-02-22-stewart-thyroid.htm)

Stewart has remained physically active in recent years, playing in a senior football league and still kicking balls into the audience during concerts. As a fan he is a well-known supporter of Celtic F.C. In appearance Stewart still maintains his trademark rooster-style haircut.

Throughout his career Stewart has been known for his liaisons with attractive women. This has included a long relationship with Britt Ekland, as well as marriages to Alana Hamilton (ex-wife of George Hamilton) and Rachel Hunter. Regarding the latter, he was quoted as saying that he'd rather have his penis cut off than cheat on her. He was later sued for divorce on the grounds of adultery.

Stewart has fathered six children with four different women; as of 2005 they range in age from 41 down to 10. With new fiance Penny Lancaster, he is expecting a seventh child in December 2005, with marriage to Lancaster planned for 2006. [5] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/music/4599259.stm)

Quotes

  • Bar none, he's the best singer I've heard in rock'n'roll. He's also the greatest white soul singer. (Elton John on Rod Stewart).

Awards and recognition

List of bands

During his career, Rod Stewart has been a member of a number of groups including:

  • Jimmy Powell and the Five Dimensions 1963;
  • the Hoochie Coochie Men later Steampacket 1964-1965;
  • Shotgun Express 1966
  • the Jeff Beck Group 1966-1969
  • the Faces 1969-1975

Discography

References

See also

External links

nl:Rod Stewart ja:ロッド・スチュワート pl:Rod Stewart sv:Rod Stewart fr:Rod Stewart

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