Top 10 Rod Stewart Songs

Sir Rod Stewart and DNCE Perform from Las Vegas for the 2017 VMAs
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01
of 10

"Maggie May" (1971)

Rod Stewart Maggie May
Rod Stewart - "Maggie May". Courtesy Mercury

"Maggie May" kicked Rod Stewart's solo career into high gear with a shot heard round the world. It went to #1 simultaneously on the UK and US pop singles charts along with the album Every Picture Tells a Story. Stewart's reputation as a gifted storyteller was established by this tale of a young man mesmerized by an older woman and slowly coming to terms with the likely impact of his obsession. The witty, respectful (of Maggie), and self-deprecating lyrics are a pop music masterpiece. "Maggie May" was originally released as the B-Side of "Reason To Believe." However US DJs quickly became more enamored of "Maggie May" and it shot up the charts to #1. In the US it was the second biggest hit of the year for 1971.

In 2015, Rod Stewart told the Wall Street Journal, "At first, I didn't think much of Maggie May. I guess that's because the record company didn't believe in the song. I didn't have much confidence then."

Prior to his solo success, Rod Stewart earned acclaim through his work with guitarist Jeff Beck and the rock group Faces. His debut album An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down had little commercial success, but Gasoline Alley did better breaking into the top 30 of the US album chart and laying the groundwork for Every Picture Tells a Story.

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02
of 10

"Tonight's the Night (Gonna Be Alright)" (1976)

Rod Stewart Tonight's the Night
Rod Stewart - "Tonight's the Night (It's Gonna Be Alright)". Courtesy Warner Bros.

"Tonight's the Night" is one of the most blatant seduction songs in pop history. In the song, Rod Stewart makes his intentions abundantly clear to a young virgin. The extended album version closes with erotic whispers and moans from Swedish actress Britt Ekland, Stewart's girlfriend at the time. Britt Ekland appears in the accompanying music video but we never see her face. Radio stations frequently edit out the closing section of the song deeming it too sexually explicit for airplay. The BBC also initially banned it for the line, "Spread your wings and let me come inside." No other song is more firmly identified with Rod Stewart's reputation as a womanizer than "Tonight's the Night." Dan Peek of the folk-rock group America claims that Rod Stewart's inspiration for this song was America's "Today's the Day." "Tonight's the Night" spent eight weeks at #1 on the US charts. It also climbed to #2 on the adult contemporary chart. A live recording of "Tonight's the Night" is available on the Unplugged...and Seated album.

Much of "Tonight's the Night" was recorded at the legendary Muscle Shoals studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. However, the final vocals were recorded at James William Guercio's Caribou Ranch studio in Colorado where Elton John recorded his album Caribou. 

 

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03
of 10

"Downtown Train" (1989)

Rod Stewart Downtown Train
Rod Stewart - "Downtown Train". Courtesy Warner Bros.

The words of revered singer-songwriter Tom Waits and Rod Stewart's familiar raspy voice were a magical combination in this hit single. Tom Waits released his version of the song on the album Rain Dogs in 1985. Rod Stewart's cover went to #3 on the US pop chart while topping the adult contemporary and rock radio charts. It was Rod Stewart's highest charting song in 11 years in the US. He received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal. "Downtown Train" was a new track included on Rod Stewart's massive four disc Storyteller anthology released in November 1989. A shorter one disc collection titled Downtown Train was released in March 1990.

Guitarist Jeff Beck, one of Rod Stewart's employers early in his career, plays slide guitar on Rod Stewart's version of "Downtown Train." Patty Smyth covered "Downtown Train" in 1987 and took her version to the top 40 on the rock radio chart in 1987. Rocker Bob Seger recorded the song in 2011 and climbed into the top 20 on the adult contemporary chart.

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04
of 10

"Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" (1978)

Rod Stewart Da Ya Think I'm Sexy
Rod Stewart - "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy". Courtesy Warner Bros.

Still one of Rod Stewart's most controversial records, "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" remains one of the most commercially successful forays into disco by a major rock artist. Stewart lost a plagiarism lawsuit that determined the chorus was lifted from a song called "Taj Mahal" by Brazilian musician Jorge Ben Jor. The song itself is a very simple, straightforward tale of a guy meeting a girl in a bar and heading home for some late night entertainment. The record was a #1 hit in both the US and UK. Rod Stewart donated his royalties from "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" to UNICEF.

Some critics complained that Rod Stewart was selling out to disco, but if that was the case, he was in good company. The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, and Elton John all released disco records around the same time. "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" topped the disco chart in the US and also reached the top 5 on the Soul chart in addition to its pop success. It is the centerpiece of the album Blondes Have More Fun which hit #1 and sold more than two million copies.

The pop and disco success of "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" brought Rod Stewart a whole new generation of fans, but it also alienated many of those who enjoyed his harder rocking work with Faces. Despite critical lambasting since its release, Rolling Stone listed "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" as one of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

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05
of 10

"Have I Told You Lately" (1993)

Rod Stewart Have I Told You Lately
Rod Stewart - "Have I Told You Lately". Courtesy Warner Bros.

"Have I Told You Lately" is a perfect example of Rod Stewart's later career powers as an interpreter of the songwriting work of others. "Have I Told You Lately," written by Van Morrison, is made into a signature Stewart tune by his simultaneously sensitive and powerful command of the emotions in the song. This performance was part of Rod Stewart's Unplugged...and Seated album created from his performances on MTV's Unplugged series. Van Morrison included the song on his album Avalon Sunset. He reached #12 on the adult contemporary chart with his version while Rod Stewart's interpretation spent five weeks at #1.

"Have I Told You Lately" is included on the 1991 album Vagabond Heart, but it wasn't released as a single until the live version appeared two years later. Another live recording of "Have I Told You Lately" can be heard on Rod Stewart's deluxe version of the 2013 album Time.

Many observers believe that Van Morrison was referring to his relationship with God on "Have I Told You Lately," but Rod Stewart turned it into an earthbound love song. Van Morrison recorded a version of the song with the Irish band the Chieftains in 1995. It earned a Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with vocals. In 1997 performed it live with Sinead O'Connor on the Late Show with David Letterman.

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06
of 10

"You're In My Heart (The Final Acclaim)" (1977)

Rod Stewart
Rod Stewart. Photo by Tony Buckingham / Redferns

Many critics called it lazy, but for others it's a grand singalong for the pub. Lyrically, "You're In My Heart" dishes great praise for a steadfast partner, said to be former girlfriend Britt Eklund, who remains true despite the attempts of others to steer Rod Stewart off course. Rod Stewart himself has said that the song could have been about anyone he met during the period. However, another line that seems to point in the direction of Britt Eklund is the reference to "Beardsley prints," meaning the Victorian artist Aubray Beardsley. Eklund was noted for having refined artistic tastes. The lyrics of the song also reference Rod Stewart's two favorite Scottish football (soccer) teams in the phrase "Celtic, United." They are Glasgow Celtic and Dundee United. "You're In My Heart (The Final Acclaim)" hit #4 in the US, #3 in the UK, and #1 in Canada and Australia.

"You're In My Heart (The Final Acclaim)" was the biggest hit single from Rod Stewart's album Foot Loose & Fancy Free, the follow up to A Night On the Town. It reached #2 on the album chart and also included the top 30 charting singles "Hot Legs" and "I Was Only Joking."

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07
of 10

"Young Turks" (1981)

Rod Stewart Young Turks
Rod Stewart - "Young Turks". Courtesy Warner Bros.

With "Young Turks" Rod Stewart discovered the 80s New Wave beat and sounded completely comfortable. The lyrics are another example of Stewart's great storytelling ability with a tale of Billy, Patti, teenage dreams of freedom, and the reality of teen pregnancy. The term "young Turks" has been used as slang for young rebels dating back to a Turkish reform party seeking to limit the powers of the Ottoman Empire's rulers in the early 20th century. Rod Stewart's song peaked at #5 on the US pop chart and went to #11 in the UK.

Rod Stewart's band says that he was trying to be on the cutting edge when he recorded "Young Turks." He used sequencers and drum machines in putting together the recording. Songwriter Duane Hitchings gives some credit to the popularity of Devo for inspiring the uptempo synth groove.

The accompanying music video was directed by Australian Russell Mulcahy. He is noted for such new wave classics the Vapors' "Turning Japanese" and the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star." It was filmed in downtown Los Angeles in the summer of 1981. It has been given credit for being the first major music video played on MTV to feature breakdancing. Rod Stewart also filmed a live rooftop performance of the song in Los Angeles. 

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08
of 10

"All For Love" with Bryan Adams and Sting (1993)

Rod Stewart All For Love
Rod Stewart - "All For Love" with Bryan Adams and Sting. Courtesy A&M

"All for Love" is a big budget romantic ballad put together for the soundtrack to the movie The Three Musketeers. It was inspired by the motto of the musketeers, "All for one, and one for all." The star power of Bryan Adams, Sting, and Rod Stewart carried the romantic hit immediately to the top of the charts in many countries around the world. It remained at #1 on the US pop chart for three weeks and sold more than a million copies earning a platinum certification. In the UK it peaked at #2. Co-written and co-produced by Bryan Adams, the hit came two years after he hit #1 around the world with another movie ballad,  "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" from the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves soundtrack. The Swedish band E.M.D. covered "All For Love" in 2007 and hit #1 on the pop singles chart in Sweden.

"All For Love" was co-produced by Chris Thomas, a seminal figure in the development of pop and rock music in the UK. He gained some of his first major studio experience sitting in for George Martin on sessions for the Beatles White Album. He also played keyboards on four songs from the album. Later credits including mixing Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, producing the Sex Pistols, and helping guide Chrissie Hynde's early work with the Pretenders.

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09
of 10

"Passion" (1980)

Rod Stewart Passion
Rod Stewart - "Passion". Courtesy Warner Bros.

"Passion" is the standard bearer for a number of Rod Stewart's hits that are ultimately forgettable but still carry an instantly catchy melody line. "Passion" updated the disco sound of "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" with a bit of 80s rock guitar and that result brought Stewart right back into the pop top 5. "Passion" is a single from the album Foolish Behaviour. It reached the top 20 on the UK pop singles chart.

The album Foolish Behaviour was the follow up to Rod Stewart's massive hit album Blondes Have More Fun. Its success was much more muted. The collection of songs ended a streak of four consecutive top 10 charting albums by reaching only #12. Rod Stewart didn't hit the top 10 again until eleven years later with Vagabond Heart. "Somebody Special," the only other charting single from the Foolish Behaviour album, peaked at #71 on the pop chart.

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10
of 10

"Forever Young" (1988)

Rod Stewart Forever Young
Rod Stewart - "Forever Young". Courtesy Warner Bros.

When "Forever Young" was first written, the similarity to a song of the same name by Bob Dylan from his 1974 album Planet Waves was recognized. Ultimately, Rod Stewart and Bob Dylan agreed on a royalty sharing agreement over the new song. Rod Stewart says "Forever Young" is a heartfelt song about his kids. He said that he suddenly realized that he'd missed about five years of the childhood of his son Sean and daughter Kimberly because of his heavy touring schedule. Rod Stewart identifies it as one of his personal favorites of the songs that he's recorded.. It has become a favorite of fans although it only reached #12 on the US pop singles chart. It climbed to #3 at adult contemporary radio. "Forever Young" has been used frequently in advertising campaigns. Andy Taylor of Duran Duran co-produced "Forever Young" and he plays the guitar solo.

There are at least four more recorded versions of "Forever Young" by Rod Stewart available. The 1996 greatest hits album If We Fall In Love Tonight includes a completely new recording of the song. A version with only solo piano accompaniment appears on the 2009 release The Rod Stewart Sessions 1971-1998. The live MTV Unplugged interpretation of "Forever Young" appeared on Rhino Records' collector's edition re-release of Unplugged...and Seated in 2009. A 2013 live recording of "Forever Young" appears on the deluxe edition of Rod Stewart's 2013 album Time.

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Lamb, Bill. "Top 10 Rod Stewart Songs." ThoughtCo, Nov. 17, 2017, thoughtco.com/top-rod-stewart-songs-4027790. Lamb, Bill. (2017, November 17). Top 10 Rod Stewart Songs. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/top-rod-stewart-songs-4027790 Lamb, Bill. "Top 10 Rod Stewart Songs." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/top-rod-stewart-songs-4027790 (accessed November 17, 2017).