With a new standards album, Rod Stewart finds life after rock & roll.
by Austin Scaggs in Rolling Stone
t just caught us all by surprise," says Rod Stewart, 58, about the stunning success of last year's standards album It Had to Be You...The Great American Songbook, which has sold a whopping 4 million copies. Capitalizing on that success, Stewart released As Time Goes By...The Great American Songbook, Volume II, which includes tunes such as "I'm in the Mood for Love" and "As Time Goes By." The album also features a steamy duet with Cher on "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered." "I wasn't very confident on thelast album," says Stewart from his Los Angeles home. "But I'm full of it now -- I can sing anything."
What is your first musical memory?
Al Jolson, from when we used to have house parties around Christmas or birthdays. We had a small grand piano, and I used to sneak downstairs and hide underneath it and watch everybody dancing and getting drunk. They were awful dancers, really, with a collection of footwear that was quite astounding [laughs], but I think it gives me a very, very early love of music.
How did rock & roll enter your life?
The first rock & roll record I listened to was "The Girl Can't Help It," by Little Richard. Then my brother Don took me to see Bill Haley and the Comets when I was ten. I was in the balcony, which was bouncing up and down. I was scared. But what a band! Tartan jackets, and the sax player laying on his back. We had rock & roll riots in those days in England. We'd tear out chairs. After that show, the seed was sown.
How did you find your voice?
It took a lot of trying to sound like Muddy Waters. We idolized black singers. They've always been the best. Whether it be Jimmy Reed, Muddy or Elmore James, it was all absorbed, and what came out was me.
Do you remember your first time onstage?
What musician is the most fun to get drunk with?
All musicians are fun to get drunk with. Except the ones who are cleaning up their act [laughs]. We steer clear of these.
What records do you take on vacation with you?
The Essential Billie Holiday will go everywhere with me. Sam Cooke's Greatest Hits, Otis Redding's Otis Blue -- the old stuff. I love Coldplay. That lad of yours, John Mayer, he's a good lyricist, and I think he's going to develop into a really good vocalist, and I don't really take my hat off to many.
You've played with so many great guitarists. Which one best complemented your voice?
Woody [Ron Wood], without a doubt. He's my favorite guitar player of all time, really.
You've chosen covers so well over the years. Have you ever butchered anyone's songs?
Yeah. I tried to do a cover verson of [Free]'s "All Right Now." It was really disastrous, because there are certain songs that don't need to be done again. For instance, "Georgia on My Mind" -- I just think Ray Charles did the greatest version of that. Or Otis [Redding] on "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay." It would be like someone doing "Maggie May" -- I did that, and it just can't be topped.
Would you ever trade your voice for anyone else's?
Probably Sam Cooke. He could sing anything, from standards to rock & roll to R&B. There's a great album that everyone should listen to -- it's hard to get -- called Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963. God, it's brilliant. The crowd is just outrageousness, singing along. One of my all-time favorite albums.
How do you get ready for a gig?
I try to get a little rest at four in the afternoon, then warm the voice up, have a bath and a shower. Then it's just getting yourself psyched up, and a quick Bacardi and Coke before I go onstage. Once you walk out, the audience will take you there. They pay to see you, and they want you to be good, and they want you to be good, so that's half the battle over with.
People must say to you all the time, "Do you think you're sexy?" How annoying is that?
Yeah, its pretty annoying. I don't consider myself sexy at all. I see myself first thing in the morning as pretty gruesome.
Don't fear the reaper, musicians: You
by Peter Keating in Entertainment Weekly
f there's a rock & roll heaven," sang the Righteous Brothers, "well you know they've got a hell of a band." And it's a hot one. Witness the recent Grammy nominations, which singled out Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Rosemary Clooney, Celia Cruz, George Harrison, and Warren Zevon -- all passed on to that great recording studio in the sky. Then there's Forbes' annual list of the top-earning deceased celebs, which is dominated by musicians (including No. 1 Elvis Presley, who raked in $40 million for his estate September 2002-03, despite his death in 1977).
"For a musical artist, income stems from the worth of his recorded catalog -- his body of work -- and the amount of publicity he gets," says Jay Fishman, principal at Kroll, Inc., a Philadelphia company that appraises the brand value of celebrities. "Dying can give a boost to both of them." While it's nothing new for labels to release compilations or previously unreleased tracks after an artist's demise, now a media giant can exploit an amazing variety of ways to package a dead poet's material and flog it worldwide. Death is no obstacle for DJ remixes, duets, and samples -- not nto mention books (this year saw at least 10 on the Beatles, as well as the release of the Let It Be...Naked CD, boxed sets (Cash's not-so-subtly titled Unearthed), or car commercials (remember Nick Drake's ethereal "Pink Moon"?). Even live performance isn't off-limits to those no longer with us: A video resurrection of Frank Sinatra played to sold-out crowds at NYC's Radio City Music Hall for a week in October.
But Tupac Shakur, who rapped about seeing his "casket buried" and left behind a trove of unreleased tracks, truly has unleashed the perfect posthumous storm. Since his 1996 murder, he's dropped more albums (six) than while he was alive (four). His 2003 hits include the movie and soundtrack Tupac: Resurrection and the Eminem-produced single "Running (Dying to Live)." A clothing line, a new album out in February, and an upcoming authorized novel about his jail term will continue to pocket dollars for his estate, which was valued at $12 million last year, up from $7 million in 2001.
As Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) said: "Once you're dead, you're made for life."
Best of EXTRA! | EXTRA! | Main Page | Seventies Single Spotlight | Search The RockSite/The Web