Rod Stewart: What I've Learned

The singer shares his life lessons

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I’ve tried to have a regular haircut, but it just pops back up again, so this is the way it’s going to be.


The lesson me mum taught me was, “Eat all the food on your plate or your brothers are going to take it.” She was always mindful of food, because the rationing continued even after the war years. I was the youngest. So it was make sure the little sparrow got his food.


You want to know what it was like back then? There’s a great picture in the book – Rod: The Autobiography (Cornerstone, 2012) – of me and my pals Kevin and Clive proudly displaying our harmonica. Our harmonica. Our one-shilling harmonica. It was the only one we had. We shared it! We cherished it! “Can I have a go at it now?” “Oh, you just blew some peanuts in it!”

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I used to be embarrassed to sing 'Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?' but people love it. So it’s in the show.


It’s true. I had all of my wives over one Christmas. I think all the children were here and they all asked for their mum, and it’s hard to say no to your kids. And they probably all said to their mother, “Come up and see dad.” And how could their mothers say no? They all arrived around 11 o’clock on Christmas Day, and they all decided to stay. It was great. But it surely won’t happen again, trust me.

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I’ll tell you what I love. Sending back bottles of wine that aren’t right in restaurants in France! Whoa! I love the French but I do find their wine snobbery something unbearable.


There’s a place on the Left Bank, in Paris, where I busked outside when I was younger and had absolutely nothing. I remember singing “Cocaine Blues” there. I went back with my wife a few years ago and there was a guy busking in the very same spot. He was playing a guitar and he had a hat in front of him, and he was singing “Tonight’s the Night.” He didn’t know I was there. He didn’t see me in the back. And I thought, “How remarkable”. Those are the wonderful I-really-have-made-it moments, you know?


Lyrics are coming to you all the time. I get inspiration in the middle of the night. You wake up and you think, “Oh, I gotta write that down”. You go back to bed and it happens again. “Blimey! I gotta go write that down”. So you’re in and out of bed all the time. My wife must think I’ve got a prostate problem.

My father, being a Scotsman, taught me to look after finances. I’m shrewd. Some people may call me tight. My old pal Ronnie Wood loves making jokes about it. “Tight as two coats of paint,” he calls me. Tight as two coats of paint!


Unfortunately, the pubs are closing up. I think we’re losing eight or nine a week all over the British Isles. Pubs will be non-existent, I think, in about 20 years, apart from the ones that are part of the British heritage. But in the old days, there used to be a pub on every street corner. Some villages would have a church, a school, and 12 pubs. Times have changed and it’s very sad. Some of my happiest moments have been in pubs. Some of my most boisterous moments have been in public houses. Trousers round your ankles?… Ah, you can’t beat it. 


I’ve been working my ass off today just so I can get two-and-a-half hours upstairs with my trains. Silly as it may be to other people, that’s what’s important to me. Have you got a hobby? Then you’ll understand. It clears my mind. It’s three-dimensional because the trains work, so there’s the electrical, there’s painting, and there’s carpentry involved. I can go upstairs and work on my layout and the whole world can go fuck itself, you know? Every man needs that. 


What I’ve learned from my children over the years, and improved on, is to become a better listener. I don’t have to jump in and interrupt. I can sit back and listen to them—which apparently I didn’t use to do.


We don’t want to use the word “aging”, do we? Better to say “maturing”.


I wasn’t amused when I found out I had thyroid cancer. But if you’re going to have a cancer, so they say, that’s the one to have, because it’s the easiest one to detect and the easiest one to operate on. It just took me forever to get the voice back, though, because they cut through the muscles, so therefore they cut through my memory. I was literally voiceless. It’s like you’ve forgotten how to speak and sing.


Actually, the operation served me well. I know it sounds strange, but this operation took my voice a half step down. I couldn’t sing as high, which is probably unnoticeable to most people. But it gave me a depth. There’s a warmth in my voice that wasn’t there 25 years ago. When I listen to my Christmas album, Merry Christmas, Baby, I realise I gained when I nearly lost.


Is there anything that I’d like to do that I can’t do? No. I can’t think of anything.


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MORE WHAT I'VE LEARNED:

Forest Whitaker
Bobby Gillespie 
Alan Partridge 
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