Sir Rod Stewart, the British icon is one of the most famous rock legends of all time, having sold over 120 million records worldwide. He has achieved nine number one albums in the UK, as well as six number one singles. Though he is well known in many countries, there are some things that can still surprise his fans. He is 76 years old. Here are 10 facts you may not know about the singer…
Then again you may well know them if you are a true fan.
Football saved his life
He is an excellent football player and a famously big supporter of Glasgow Celtic, despite being born in London. The singer even had trials with Brentford FC in his teens but said he wasn’t committed enough to become a professional. Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s Billy Sloan, he admitted that he’d downed copious amounts of alcohol as a young rocker and football saved him. He said: “Especially Sunday mornings, I couldn’t drink too much, because it would have ruined my game. So, football sort of saved me a little bit.”
He worked as a gravedigger
Stewart once worked as a gravedigger at Highgate Cemetery, which is designated on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Garden of Special Historic Interest. It is also the final resting place for the likes of Karl Marx and George Michael. According to Stewart’s autobiography, his job there as a young man was mainly to mark out plots rather than any actual digging.
He designed wallpaper
After dropping out of school at fifteen Stewart once had a job as a screen printer designing wallpaper. When his bosses discovered he was colour blind, he was laid off. In his autobiography, he said: “That’s always going to limit your possibilities in the wallpaper industries. If you are colour-blind, one of the things you can’t be is an aircraft pilot. One of the other things you can’t be is a wallpaper designer.”
He busked the streets
In 1962, Rod Stewart began busking with a harmonica. In 1963, he became a member of a rhythm and blues group known as The Dimensions, as a harmonica player and vocalist. During this time, he also worked in his brother’s painting and picture frame shop. The group collaborated with Jimmy Powell and toured London, performing weekly at Studio 51, a club on Great Newport Street where The Rolling Stones also came to prominence.
He formed a band with Fleetwood
Shotgun Express was a short-lived British R&B band formed in London in May 1966. Rod Stewart was in a group with Peter Green and Mick Fleetwood, although it achieved little success at the time, Peter and Mick would go on to form Fleetwood Mac, which was a lot more successful.
People thought he was black
Stewart’s early music is a combination of R&B, rock, folk, and soul music. In a 2008 Esquire interview, singer Steven Van Zandt said: “I remember a kid running into band rehearsal one day, in ’68 or so, and saying, ‘You’re not gonna believe this, but Rod Stewart is white!’ We said, ‘Get outta here.’ We didn’t believe him. There was just not that many places you could see pictures of people. There wasn’t MTV and we never heard any white person sing like that.”
He was the first to make music videos
When MTV launched in 1981, they didn’t have many videos available because most American artists didn’t make them. Stewart had already made several videos, and he gained significant exposure on the fledgling network.
He skipped his Hall of Fame ceremony
In 1994, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an individual performer in the same class as John Lennon, Elton John and Bob Marley. However, the singer skipped the ceremony because an earthquake hit his Los Angeles home three days earlier and he did not want to leave his family. In 2012, Stewart missed another induction into the Hall of Fame, this time with ex band mates the Faces, due to an illness. At the time he said: “I’m absolutely devastated, shattered that I’m going to miss my second induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – and this time alongside my mates.”
He feared he would never sing again
Stewart had to re-train his voice after having a cancerous lump removed from his throat in 2000. The singer could not sing for six months and revealed he feared that he would never perform again after undergoing the emergency surgery. Luckily, he made a full recovery. At the time he said to The Sun newspaper: “It was scary – and it could have been very nasty. It was only because of a CAT scan that it was spotted. If I had left it a couple of years, it would have been a very different story.”
He was the oldest chart topper
In 2019, Stewart became the oldest male solo artist to have a number one album in the UK. The singer’s 10th chart topper ‘You’re in My Heart’ was released on 22 November 2019. However, Stewart’s title of the oldest male solo artist to top the chart was short-lived. At 79 years and one month old Bob Dylan became the oldest artist to top the tally when ‘Rough and Rowdy Ways’ debuted at #1 on the UK album chart on June 28, 2020.