Rod Stewart's 15 greatest songs ever, ranked
12 August 2020, 16:25
Sir Rod Stewart is undoubtedly one of the greatest popstars of all time.
From his days with the Faces, to his hugely successful solo career to his various albums of big band covers, he has sold over 100 million records worldwide.
He even holds the record for the largest free gig of all time, when he performed to over 3.5 million people in Brazil in 1994. Let that sink in!
To celebrate Rod Stewart's amazing career, we've collected just a handful of his very best songs. Is your favourite in there?
Handbags and Gladrags
Manfred Mann's Mike D'Abo wrote this song, with Chris Farlowe releasing the first version.
Rod's version from 1969 was never a hit in the UK, but it received a new resurgence in 2001 after a different version was used as the theme for The Office, and Stereophonics had a hit with yet another cover.
Have I Told You Lately
Van Morrison first recorded this song in 1989, and Rod later performed his own version two years later.
The version which was the biggest hit was a live performance for his 1993 album Unplugged and Seated. It reached number five in both the UK and US.
This Old Heart of Mine
This track was originally a hit for The Isley Brothers in 1966. Nine years later, Rod scored a hit with a cover version of the song.
In 1989, Rod released another version, this time with Ronald Isley. This release reached the US top 10.
Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?
Rod fully embraced the disco era with this number one song from 1978, even if it was intended as something of a disco spoof.
It was also the subject of a plagiarism case, when Brazilian musician Jorge Ben Jor claimed the chorus of the song had been liftedn from his song 'Taj Mahal'. The case was "settled amicably", and Rod admitted in his 2012 autobiography to "unconscious plagiarism".
You're in My Heart
Taken from his 1977 album Foot Loose and Fancy Free, this gave Rod a top 5 hit around the world including the UK and US.
It later became the title of his chart-topping 2019 album with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
The First Cut is the Deepest
Cat Stevens first recorded this song in 1967, and Rod scored a number one hit with a cover version 10 years later.
It was recorded at the iconic Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama in the States. In 2003, Sheryl Crow released yet another version of the song.
I Don't Want to Talk About It
Originally by American band Crazy Horse, Rod scored a more successful version several years later.
As part of a double-A side with 'The First Cut is the Deepest', the song became rather infamous in the UK, after it was widely believed to have benefitted from chart manipulation by the BBC in order to keep the Sex Pistols' 'God Save The Queen' off the top of the chart. Everything but the Girl later scored their own hit with a cover version.
All for Love (with Bryan Adams and Sting)
Following Bryan Adams’s huge success with ‘Everything I Do (I Do it for You)’ from the Prince of Thieves soundtrack in 1991, he was recruited for the 1993 Three Musketeers movie starring Kiefer Sutherland and Charlie Sheen.
Rod Stewart and Sting joined him on the track, which was inspired by the Musketeers’ motto: “All for one, and one for all”. What an underrated song!
The Sutherland Brothers first recorded this anthemic song in 1972. Gavin Sutherland once said: "Most people take the song to be about a young guy telling his girl that he's crossing the Atlantic to be with her. In fact the song's got nothing to do with romance or ships; it's an account of mankind's spiritual odyssey through life on his way to freedom and fulfillment with the Supreme Being."
Rod Stewart covered the song three years later, and despite him not wanting it to be the lead single from Atlantic Crossing, it gave Rod his biggest ever hit in the UK, reaching number one for four weeks.
Tonight's the Night
Taken from his 1976 album A Night on the Town, this song was inspired by America's song 'Today's the Day'. Dan Peek later said: "I played 'Today's the Day', the song I had been working on. Rod said that he liked it and that it gave him an idea for a song."
Of course after his recording of 'Tonight's the Night' came out I laughed when I remembered what he'd said. I'm sure I probably smacked my forehead and said: 'Why didn't I think of that?'"
The title ‘Young Turks’ never actually appears in this song, which centres on the phrase ‘young hearts be free tonight’.
The term ‘Young Turk’, which originates from the same-named secular nationalist reform party of the early 20th century, is slang for a rebellious youth who acts contrary to what is deemed normal by society. It helped bring Rod into the new wave/synthpop era of the early 1980s.
The Killing of Georgie
This tells the tale of a friend of the narrator’s, a gay man name Georgie. The song follows Georgie through his life, including being cast out by his parents, before becoming successful and popular in Manhattan’s upper class.
However, he is attacked by a gang and killed. Rod said: “That was a true story about a gay friend of The Faces. But he was knifed or shot, I can’t remember which.” On tackling a gay theme back then, he said: “I think it was a brave step, but it wasn’t a risk. It was a subject that no one had approached before.”
Tom Waits first recorded this song in 1985, but Rod scored the biggest hit with a cover four years later.
It was only a matter of time before Rod had a hit single with the word 'train' in the title, considering his pure love for model railways.
Taking on a more contemporary synthpop sound, this remains Rod's final UK number one single. Speaking about his writing process, he later said he usually puts off writing words until the last minute.
He said: “The way I do it is hum and hah along while the band are playing. I sing whatever comes into my head and nine times out of 10 that will be the title of the song. Either that or I’d just write down a good title - like ‘Young Turks’ or ‘Baby Jane’ - and wait until the right vehicle comes along for it.”
This classic song expresses Rod's own experience he had with an older woman. He later recalled: “‘Maggie May’ was more or less a true story, about the first woman I had sex with, at the 1961 Beaulieu Jazz Festival.
”The woman’s name was not Maggie May, and Rod has stated that the name was taken from “an old Liverpudlian song about a prostitute”.
It was actually the B-side to ‘Reason to Believe’, but DJs preferred to play this instead.