Sir Roderick David Stewart, CBE (born 10 January 1945) is a British rock singer and songwriter. Born and raised in London, he is of Scottish and English ancestry. Stewart is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold over 100 million records worldwide. He has had six consecutive number one albums in the UK and his tally of 62 UK hit singles includes 31 that reached the top ten, six of which gained the #1 position. Stewart has had 16 top ten singles in the US, with four reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. He was knighted in the 2016 Birthday Honours for services to music and charity.
With his distinctive raspy singing voice, Stewart came to prominence in the late 1960s and the early 1970s with The Jeff Beck Group, and then with Faces, though his music career had begun in 1962 when he took up busking with a harmonica. In October 1963, he joined The Dimensions as a harmonica player and part-time vocalist. In 1964, Stewart joined Long John Baldry and the All Stars, and in August, Stewart signed a solo contract, releasing his first single, "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl", in October. He maintained a solo career alongside a group career, releasing his debut solo album, An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down in 1969. Stewart's early albums were a fusion of rock, folk music, soul music, and R&B.
From the late 1970s through the 1990s, Stewart's music often took on a new wave or soft rock/middle-of-the-road quality, and in the early 2000s, he released a series of successful albums interpreting the Great American Songbook. In 1994, Stewart staged the largest free rock concert in history when he performed in front of 3.5 million people in Rio de Janeiro.
In 2008, Billboard magazine ranked him the 17th most successful artist on the "Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists". A Grammy and Brit Award recipient, he was voted at #33 in Q Magazine's list of the Top 100 Greatest Singers of all time, and #59 on Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Singers of all time. As a solo artist, Stewart was inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2006, and was inducted a second time into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 as a member of Faces.
Roderick David Stewart was born at 507 Archway Road, Highgate, North London, on 10 January 1945, the youngest of five children of Robert Joseph Stewart (26 December 1904–1990) and Elsie Rebecca Gilbart (14 December 1905–1996). His father was Scottish and had been a master builder in Leith, Edinburgh, while Elsie was English and had grown up in Upper Holloway in North London. Married in 1928, the couple had two sons and two daughters while living in Scotland, and then they moved to Highgate. Stewart came after an eight-year gap following his youngest sibling; he was born at home during World War II.[nb 1] The family was neither affluent nor poor; Stewart was spoiled as the youngest, and has called his childhood "fantastically happy". He had an undistinguished record at Highgate Primary School and failed the eleven plus exam. He then attended the William Grimshaw Secondary Modern School (later Fortismere School), Muswell Hill. When his father retired from the building trade he bought a newsagent's shop on the Archway Road and the family lived over the shop. Stewart's main hobby was railway modelling.
The family was mostly focused on football; Stewart's father had played in a local amateur team and managed some teams as well, and one of Stewart's earliest memories was of the pictures of Scottish players such as George Young and Gordon Smith that his brothers had on the wall. Stewart was the most talented footballer in the family and was a supporter of Arsenal F.C. at the time. Combining natural athleticism with near-reckless aggression, he became captain of the school football team and played for Middlesex Schoolboys as centre-half.
The family were also great fans of the singer Al Jolson and would sing and play his hits. Stewart collected his records and saw his films, read books about him, and was influenced by his performing style and attitude towards his audience. His introduction to rock and roll was hearing Little Richard's 1956 hit "The Girl Can't Help It", and seeing Bill Haley & His Comets in concert. His father bought him a guitar in January 1959; the first song he learned was the folk tune "It Takes a Worried Man to Sing a Worried Song"; the first record he bought was Eddie Cochran's "C'mon Everybody". In 1960, he joined a skiffle group with schoolfriends called the Kool Kats, playing Lonnie Donegan and Chas McDevitt hits.
Stewart left school at age 15 and worked briefly as a silk screen printer. Spurred on by his father, his ambition was to become a professional footballer. In summer 1960, he went for trials at Brentford F.C., a Third Division club at the time. Contrary to some longstanding accounts, Stewart states in his 2012 autobiography that he was never signed to the club and that the club never called him back after his trials.[nb 2] In any case, regarding possible career options, Stewart concluded, "Well, a musician's life is a lot easier and I can also get drunk and make music, and I can't do that and play football. I plumped for music ... They're the only two things I can do actually: play football and sing."
In May 2000, Stewart was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, for which he underwent surgery in the same month. It had been previously reported he suffered from a benign vocal cord nodule. Besides being a major health scare, the resulting surgery also threatened his voice, and he had to re-learn how to sing. Since then he has been active in raising funds for The City of Hope Foundation charity to find cures for all forms of cancer, especially those affecting children.
Relationships and family
Stewart is known for his liaisons with women and has eight children, by five different mothers:
In reference to his divorces, Stewart was once quoted as saying, "Instead of getting married again, I'm going to find a woman I don't like and just give her a house."