Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.
This week fans celebrated the birthday of Elvis Presley. He would have been 83 on Monday.
In a radio documentary produced following Elvis’ death at the age of 42 that I recorded and still have on cassette, singer Pat Boone said “We’ll never know what an old Elvis would have been like. He’ll just always be the King.”
Not so with another birthday boy this week.
On Wednesday Rod Stewart turned 73.
I’m fascinated by this aging rock star’s history, and he and his longevity are the subject of this week’s segment.
January 10, 1945. London, England.
Roderick David Stewart was born.
Growing up he wanted to sing and in the 1960’s he bounced around from band to band.
In 1966 he was with the blues-influenced Jeff Beck Group. Tours and albums followed.
Then in 1969, he joined the group “Faces” and performed with them on TV in 1972.
I must admit. I was not a fan.
Why did the gals love this guy?
Look at that stupid haircut.
Nose job? I thought one was necessary.
But Stewart became more popular than the entire group.
You know what that meant.
Time to go go solo.
And once he did it didn’t take long for Stewart to become a sex symbol, and the subject of sexual escapades.
“I was never ever a good-looking guy, but I knew I had a certain amount of charm, and most importantly I was the singer in a rock group.”
Yes, that unusual female banter at the end was all part of the recording, followed by a string of hits.
“Da Ya Think I’m Sexy”
And then came the dry spell.
A lengthy one.
Stewart hadn’t had a hit in years.
Now it’s 2002. I’m visiting my mother on a Saturday night. Naturally she’s in front of the tube.
There’s a male vocalist in front of a huge orchestra. The bandstands all had the initials RS emblazoned on them. I recognized the performer easily.
But he looked different. Much different. He was singing “Moonglow.”
It must have been Moonglow,
Way up in the blue,
It must have been Moonglow,
That led me straight to you
Seeing and hearing this spectacle for the first time, my immediate thought was this is awful (I’d grow to love and appreciate later).
“Mom, do you know who that is?”
She wasn’t sure. I knew she had never heard of him.
“Do you know he used to be a rock star?”
Nope. And she didn’t really care.
“You like the way he’s singing?”
“You don’t think he’s murdering that song?”
Not at all.
It was at that point my conscience landed on my shoulder like something out of a Flintstones cartoon and told me with no subtlety to knock it off and let my mother enjoy.
Rod Stewart was singing and promoting the first of a string of albums featuring the Great American Songbook, as he would do in other specials, like this one.
Mom was enraptured (Thank you, Mr. Stewart). And Stewart would do several more songbook CDs. Mom had all of them.
“My musical taste has always been wide. I started out as a folky, before I moved on to blues and soul. I took a huge chance with those old standards, though. I remember the night before it came out, I said to my manager, ‘ah —-, I’ve committed rock-and-roll suicide,'” said Stewart.
His songbook albums sold more than 30 million copies.
This track is from the original Stewart songbook CD.
Why so popular?
Stewart spoke with the Associated Press:
“The only answer I can give you is it’s absolute gorgeous songs, and my voice, which is not so bad, and great marketing from (record mogul) Clive (Davis) and J Records.”
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend.
Before Stewart recorded one last Songbook album he went another direction in 2009 with a project called “Soulbook,” a collection of classic ’60’s and ’70’s era Soul favorites.