By Jessica Williamson
My Momma and Granny used to ride the dirt roads in search of some flowers to dig up or a forgotten old juke joint. Every weekend, they would ride with me and my sister in the back seat and play music. I can remember the first time that I ever heard his voice. I was a little girl sitting in the back seat of the car when my momma put the tape in. That unforgettable voice came pouring out of the speakers, and I was hooked. They listened to mostly country music, but sometimes they would throw something else into the mix. That day it was Rod Stewart’s greatest hits. Rod has been making women fall in love with his voice since he started singing in the mid-sixty’s, and I was no exception. At five years old, I was in love.
It wasn’t long before I was belting out “Maggie May” with the best of them. I thought that a man who sounded like that must know everything about love. I wonder if the way that I began to think about love was influenced by his songs. Probably. I wasn’t the only one that liked “Maggie May”. It was that song, from his album titled Every Picture Tells a Story, which took him to the top of the billboard for the first time in 1971. Eight years later, he made platinum success with a song that I loved to sing when I was a little girl: “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”
It is a song that not many musicians could have pulled off. Stewart makes it believable, though, thanks to his unique raspy sound and his ability to pour so much emotion into his music. Emotion and drama seem to be his signature style. He gets the emotion from mimicking his favorite artists, who include: Billie Holiday, Otis Redding and John Mayer, the drama is all his own. I was too little to have ever seen him in concert at his heyday or to have even had a clear picture of what kind of a show that he put on. From my research, I have found out that he was rather flamboyant. One biography that I read about him says that he is “known for his dyed-blonde haystack head of hair, his makeup, his outrageously foppish costumes, including skin-tight pink pants, and his penchant for low comedy and broad melodrama” (Stewart n. pg). As distasteful as all this sounds to the adult me, all it would take is for me to hear “Tonight’s the Night” play and I would be in love all over again. The man is remarkable, and I think it would be unfair to say that he has not had an impact on the revolution of American rock music.
How many high school graduations have played the song “Forever Young”? How often has Stewart’s rough and sexy voice been heard at wedding receptions and senior proms? It is even worth considering how much of the blame lies at his feet for the drama and costume of the rock genre today. I will answer these questions with this quote from the New York Times (June 7, 1979) regarding his performance in Madison Square Garden:
He gave an old fashioned rock-and-roll show, and it was a humdinger… He pranced and strutted about the stage with real enthusiasm, and the enthusiasm was contagious. [He] is a lithe and extremely sexy man [who] also happens to be about the best male singer in rock, with a fervent, husky, plaintive tenor that he phrases with real musicality. His band is a confident one, and his tunes are catchy and melodic… [Stewart] doesn’t approach the great work of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and so on. But as an entertainer he has few peers (Scaggs n. pg).
From Lady Gaga’s voyeurism to Adele’s sultry voice, Rod Stewart’s influence can be found throughout today’s most popular music.
Scaggs, Ausin. “Rod Stewart.” Rolling Stone 934 (2003): 33. Biography Reference Bank (H.W. Wilson). Web. 17 Sept. 2012.
“Stewart, Rod.” Current Biography (Bio Ref Bank) (1979): Biography Reference Bank (H.W. Wilson). Web. 17 Sept. 2012.