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Blessed with a raspy, unforgettable singing voice, Rod Stewart kicked off a five-decade-plus career with stints in the legendary lineups The Jeff Beck Group as well as Faces, but achieved global solo stardom. Drawing on rock, pop, glam and blue-eyed soul, the shaggy blonde singer notched an amazing run of hit singles, including "Maggie May," "You Wear it Well," "Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)," "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" "Young Turks," and "Forever Young," among many others. Exploring multiple looks and sounds throughout his career, the longtime chameleon wrote an impressive new chapter with his blockbuster, Grammy-winning pop standards "Great American Songbook" series. Famous for his high-profile romances, marriages and divorces to a string of gorgeous blondes, including Britt Ekland, Alana Stewart and Rachel Hunter, Stewart sold more than 160 million records and scored a dazzling string of high-charting albums and singles, many of which went to the top of the Billboard charts. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and known by multiple generations as a charismatic performer with a signature sound, Rod Stewart built one of the longest-lasting and most impressive musical careers of all...
Blessed with a raspy, unforgettable singing voice, Rod Stewart kicked off a five-decade-plus career with stints in the legendary lineups The Jeff Beck Group as well as Faces, but achieved global solo stardom. Drawing on rock, pop, glam and blue-eyed soul, the shaggy blonde singer notched an amazing run of hit singles, including "Maggie May," "You Wear it Well," "Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)," "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" "Young Turks," and "Forever Young," among many others. Exploring multiple looks and sounds throughout his career, the longtime chameleon wrote an impressive new chapter with his blockbuster, Grammy-winning pop standards "Great American Songbook" series. Famous for his high-profile romances, marriages and divorces to a string of gorgeous blondes, including Britt Ekland, Alana Stewart and Rachel Hunter, Stewart sold more than 160 million records and scored a dazzling string of high-charting albums and singles, many of which went to the top of the Billboard charts. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and known by multiple generations as a charismatic performer with a signature sound, Rod Stewart built one of the longest-lasting and most impressive musical careers of all time.
Born Jan. 19, 1945, in North London, England, Roderick David Stewart was the son of a Scottish father and English mother. When he was a teenager, Stewart's father retired and the family opened a newsstand and lived above it. He grew up obsessed with soccer, idolizing famous players and becoming the captain of his school's team, but he also developed a love of music. His father bought him a guitar, and Stewart would later count Al Jolson, Little Richard and Bill Haley & His Comets among his formative influences. He dropped out of school to pursue a professional soccer career and became an apprentice to a West London club, but quit after a few months. As he pondered his next step, Stewart blew through many colorful jobs and experiences around Europe, but he could not shake his innate love of music and performing.
In 1962, he briefly became the lead singer of a proto version of The Kinks before forming the short-lived Rod Stewart & The Moontrekkers. Unable to find his niche in rock, Stewart adopted the Mod look and started listening to soul and R&B music, especially Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. A short stint as a singer and harmonica player in Jimmy Powell & the Five Dimensions introduced Stewart to London's R&B community, where he crossed paths with future luminaries such as Mick Jagger. A chance encounter with singer Long John Baldry led to Stewart joining Baldry's Hoochie Coochie Men as a professional musician, often billed as "Rod the Mod" Stewart. He recorded some demos and landed a deal with Decca Records in 1964, gaining some regional exposure and performing experience. Stewart eventually struck out on his own, releasing an unsuccessful single, "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl."
The Hoochie Coochie Men broke up, but Stewart and Baldry reunited in the white soul revue Steampacket. As the group's main male singer, Stewart earned valuable experience when Steampacket toured with The Rolling Stones. A London documentary on the Mod scene, titled "An Easter with Rod," helped increase his star wattage, but Stewart's next few single releases made no impression on fans and critics. He left Steampacket in 1966 and briefly served as the male lead vocalist of Shotgun Express, but found better luck joining the Jeff Beck Group as a singer. Although his tenure with the group proved rocky at first, Stewart dazzled critics during an American tour with his increasingly raspy voice. While the lineup struggled to find success in their native England, they released a successful album in America, 1968's Truth, which showcased Stewart's unique singing style. Beck and Stewart continued to clash, and he left to join a new band, Faces, but also to continue his pursuit of solo success.
Known in England as An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down and in the U.S. as The Rod Stewart Album, the singer's 1969 solo debut became a moderate success, forcing critics and fans to pay attention to Stewart as a talent on the verge of a breakthrough. He enjoyed tour and recording success with and without Faces, including his 1970 set, Gasoline Alley, but finally achieved stardom with his 1971 solo album, Every Picture Tells a Story, which featured a minor hit, "Reason to Believe," with a B-side that eclipsed it to become a beloved No. 1 smash in the U.S. and U.K. alike as well as Stewart's quintessential song, "Maggie May." While Faces benefited from Stewart's raised profile, his solo success overshadowed theirs. Although they earned a No. 1 album with 1973's Ooh La La, Stewart on his own was the true musical force, with 1972's Never a Dull Moment spinning off the U.K. No. 1 "You Wear It Well" and his 1974 Smiler album topping the charts.
The Faces broke up at the end of 1975, but Stewart charged ahead, more popular than ever. In a high-profile romance with the gorgeous Swedish actress Britt Ekland, he moved to the United States and released Atlantic Crossing, which included the U.K. No. 1, "Sailing." The following year, his A Night on the Town proved a bigger hit, going platinum and launching the international smash, "Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)," which featured Ekland's sexy whispering, as well as a well received Cat Stevens cover, "The First Cut Is the Deepest." Stewart, who maintained his trademark shaggy blonde hair, had begun to shed his Mod trappings in favor of a more pop/glam look, and was able to effortlessly navigate the rise of disco, which killed the careers of many of his peers. 1977's Foot Loose & Fancy Free contained the top five hit, "You're In My Heart," but 1978's Blondes Have More Fun or do they? was the blockbuster, hitting No. 1, going four-times platinum, and topping charts on both sides of the pond with the hard-driving, glittery single, "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?"
The campy song's success proved both a blessing and a curse for Stewart, who found it becoming his signature number despite critics bemoaning his transformation from promising blue-eyed-soul-singer to spandex-clad, soulless popster. Stewart successfully shook off the criticisms, as well as an ensuing plagiarism lawsuit over the tune, with self-deprecating humor, a hefty donation to UNICEF, and a cheeky but pragmatic view of the entire affair. Demonstrating the chameleon nature so necessary to remaining musically relevant, he released 1980's New Wave-inspired Foolish Behaviour, which yielded the hit "Passion," and 1981's synthesizer-heavy Tonight I'm Yours, featuring "Young Turks." His videos even began receiving rotation during the early years of MTV, and he played a successful, highly televised concert with Kim Carnes and Tina Turner at the end of the year.
While Stewart notched a handful of moderate hits during the decade, including "Some Guys Have All the Luck," "Infatuation," "Every Beat Of My Heart" and the eternally popular "Forever Young," overall his star began to cool during the 1980s. He ended the decade with the successful career retrospective Storyteller - The Complete Anthology: 1964-1990, which included the hit single, "Downtown Train." As the music industry began another transformation period, Stewart surprised many critics by resuscitating his career with the smash Vagabond Heart album in 1991, which spawned five radio-conquering singles: the top five hit "Rhythm of My Heart," "Broken Arrow," "Have I Told You Lately," "The Motown Song" and the Tina Turner duet, "It Takes Two." His renaissance continued when he joined fellow telegenic blondes Sting and Bryan Adams for "The Three Musketeers" (1993) power ballad "All for Love," which went to No. 1. On an upswing, Stewart's heartfelt trip through his considerable library on "MTV Unplugged" (1989- ) resulted in another successful album and breathed radio life into a wistful new take on "Reason to Believe."
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, Stewart finished out the 1990s on a quieter professional note, although he memorably covered Faces's classic "Ooh La La" on 1998's When We Were the New Boys. With more than 100 million records sold thus far but lacking upward career momentum, Stewart found himself at a professional crossroads. Signed to Clive Davis's J Records, the notoriously hard-living, glamorously debauched Stewart completely reinvented himself as the elegantly raspy singer of 1930s and 1940s pop standards. Surprising fans and critics alike, Stewart's masterful It Had to Be You: The Great American Songbook in 2002, As Time Goes By: The Great American Songbook 2 in 2003, the Grammy-winning Stardust: The Great American Songbook 3 in 2004, Thanks for the Memory: The Great American Songbook 4 in 2005 and Fly Me to the Moon The Great American Songbook Volume V in 2010 became critically acclaimed, multi-platinum blockbusters, showering Stewart with a new aura of respectability and powered a new wave of touring and radio and chart success.
Throughout his career, a major part of Stewart's image was his playboy, womanizing persona, and his legendarily stormy dalliances and frequent divorces were an inescapable facet of his public face. From his first recorded romance in 1963, which resulted in a child born out of wedlock and given up for adoption, Stewart's flings with a string of wealthy women, models and actresses added to his bad-boy reputation. Among his notable conquests included model Dee Harrington, Ekland, Alana Hamilton (George Hamilton's ex-wife), model Kelly Emberg, model Rachel Hunter and model Penny Lancaster-Stewart. Married three times and fathering eight children, Stewart became a popular punchline for comedians; he himself demonstrated a self-deprecating sense of humor about the financial and emotional toll of so many couplings.
The singer survived a thyroid cancer diagnosis and surgery in 2000, forcing him to relearn how to sing and igniting his dedication to raise funds for cancer-related charities. A jukebox musical based on Stewart's oeuvre, Tonight's The Night, kicked off a year-long run in 2003, and interest in his work with Faces was also rekindled, with a box set and greatest hits package making an impact. Younger audiences enjoyed multiple opportunities to acquaint themselves with Stewart, including the reality show "Sons of Hollywood" (A&E Network, 2007) which starred Stewart's son, Sean, as well as the singer himself, and the gossip blog fame of daughter Kimberly, a sometime friend of celebutante Paris Hilton. He appeared on the eighth season of "American Idol" (Fox, 2002- ), mentoring the contestants and performing "Maggie May" on the season finale. Inspired by the Songbook success, Stewart also revisited and reinterpreted beloved classics of different genres with Still the Same Great Rock Classics of our Time in 2006 and Soulbook in 2009. Showing no signs of retiring, Stewart's amazing career continued to flourish, and he delighted fans when he announced that he and rock goddess Stevie Nicks would perform across North America on The Heart & Soul Tour, scheduled to kick off in spring 2011.
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