Rod Stewart was born Roderick David Stewart on January 10 in Highgate, in North London. As he grew up, soccer became his main interest, having played football on his school team and in the amateur ranks as well – in fact he excelled very much in this sport.
He worked a series of odd jobs, including newspaper delivery boy, silk screen printer and gravedigger. Music was also his passion, and as he became older he decided that this should be his future career. During the 1960s, Stewart began actively pursuing a singing career. He had been considered for the lead singer of the Ray Davies Quartet, who would later be known as The Kinks. Stewart joined several various bands. In 1967, Stewart became a member of the Jeff Beck Group, formed by former Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck. In the group Stewart was the lead vocalist and would sometimes contribute songs for the group as well. This was the first time that he gained prominence in the UK music scene.
After Beck broke up his group in 1969, Stewart and his JBG bandmate Ron Wood joined the Faces, which was formed by former members of the Small Faces (Ian MacLagan, Ronnie Lane and Kenney Jones). Like in the Jeff Beck Group, Stewart was also the lead vocalist of the Faces.
Actually, during his time with the Jeff Beck Group and Faces, Stewart had already started pursuing a solo career, releasing his own first album An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down in 1969. The album features a variety of genres including folk, pop, R&B, country and blues. As the Faces gained popularity, especially in their homeland, Stewart forged on with his solo career separately, releasing his second LP Gasoline Alley in 1970. He managed to perform for the Faces while maintaining his solo career until the band would break up in 1975.
Stewart experienced a breakthrough in his solo career when he released his third solo album Every Picture Tells A Story which featured the song “Reason To Believe.” It was made as a single, b/w “Maggie May” which featured a prominent mandolin number by Lindsfarne’s Ray Jackson. Both sides of the single became equally popular and were fused as one unit as “Reason To Believe”/”Maggie May,” which topped both the US and the UK singles charts in 1971. “Maggie May” was a surprise hit; even Stewart himself was baffled and amused by the success of the B-side. He said that the song has “nice chords, but no melody.” “Maggie May” remains one of Stewart’s best and most popular works. That same year, his band Faces also scored a hit, “Stay With Me,” which stayed on the Top 10 UK and Top 20 US charts in 1971.
Now a household name, Stewart eventually moved to the US in 1975. There, he continued to achieve success both as a recording artist and a performer. The following year, he had another #1 US hit with “Tonight’s The Night” from his album A Night On The Town. As the years went on, Stewart’s style had taken on the smoother pop approach. At the height of his success and fame, he led a wild lifestyle and had a wild reputation, excessively partying and dating models and actresses. He continued to scored a lot of hits, such as “You’re In My Heart,” and most especially “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” which topped on all US Hot 100, US dance and UK singles charts in 1978.
During the 1980s, Stewart’s career underwent a relative lull. Although his album Tonight I’m Yours went platinum, his following albums, Body Wishes, Camouflage, and Every Beat Of My Heart didn’t fare as well especially in the US, although they sold relatively well in other countries. These albums received harsh critical reception as well. However, Stewart bounced back from his relative slump and returned to form with 1988’s Out Of Order, which went double platinum in the US. The album’s songs “Forever Young” and “My Heart Can’t Tell You No” proved to be successful on the charts.
Stewart’s take on the Tom Waits song “Downtown Train” appeared on his sixth compilation album Storyteller – The Complete Anthology: 1964-1990 in 1989. The song was a big hit, going to #3 on the US Hot 100 and #10 on the UK singles chart; it also topped both the US adult contemporary and rock charts as well.
Stewart continued beating on the comeback trail with his 1993 live album Unplugged…and Seated capturing his appearance on MTV Unplugged. The album featured a live version of a Van Morrison original “Have I Told You Lately” (which was also a previous single of Stewart’s 1992 album Vagabond Heart) which eventually made it to #5 on both the US Billboard Hot 100 and the UK singles chart, and #1 on the US adult contemporary singles charts in 1993.
Ushering in the new millennium, Stewart seemed not to show any signs of slowdown. Instead, he released a series of successful albums interpreting the Great American Songbook: It Had To Be You: The Great American Songbook, As Time Goes By: The Great American Songbook 2, Stardust: The Great American Songbook 3, Thanks For The Memory: The Great American Songbook, Volume IV and Fly Me To The Moon…The Great American Songbook Volume V. With his famously throaty voice taking on the standards, this approach worked: all of albums peaked at the Top 10 on the Billboard 200 became platinum sellers (with the exception of the fifth volume). For the first time ever, Stewart won a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album in 2005 for Stardust…The Great American Songbook 3.
Stewart also recorded and released Still The Same…Great Rock Classics Of Our Time where he covered songs by other rock artists such as Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bob Dylan, Bread, Badfinger, Eric Clapton and others. It topped the US Billboard 200 album chart in 2006.
He took time off from making music to write and his memoir Rod: The Autobiography which was published in 2012. After spending years of covering songs, Stewart returned to writing and performing his own original material, culminating in an impressive album Time, his latest work, which was released in May 2013. He also served as a co-producer of the album.
Rod Stewart is one of the most successful artists of all time, having sold over 100 million records worldwide. He has scored numerous charting singles in the UK and the US, and his contributions to popular music earned him many awards and accolades. One of these honors was his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice: once as a solo artist in 1994 and again in 2012 as a member of Faces. He is also included on the “all-time” lists by Billboard and Rolling Stone, as well as having received the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) from Queen Elizabeth II in New Year’s Honours in 2007.