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Rod Stewart: Sailing

British rock singer Rod Stewart is one of the best-selling artists of all time, selling more than 100 million records during his 58-year career. His distinctive, gravelly singing voice has earned him 62 hit singles in the UK and the title Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2007 for services to music.

Despite his superstar status, London-born Stewart, who is of Scottish heritage, still prides himself on being an ordinary guy. On receiving his CBE at Buckingham Palace, he commented how wonderful Britain was for being the only country to honour the "common man".

Rod Stewart

Photo Credit: Joe Bielawa

He also received a knighthood in 2016, in the Queen's Birthday Honours, for his services to music and charity and said he was "on cloud nine" after the ceremony, presided over by the Duke of Cambridge.

As one of the top 20 wealthiest people in the British music industry, with an estimated fortune of £170 million in 2017, Stewart remains down to earth and fiercely proud of his Scottish heritage. He's a big fan of Celtic FC, presenting the team with their trophy when they won the Scottish League Cup Final in 2015.

 

Early years

As the youngest of five children, Roderick David Stewart was born on 10th January 1945, in Highgate, North London. His father, Robert, was Scottish and a former master builder in Edinburgh, while his mother, Elsie, was from Holloway in London.

Stewart's father had also been an amateur footballer, which sparked the star's interest from an early age. His parents were Al Jolson fans and Stewart grew up around his music. He became a fan of rock 'n' roll after seeing Bill Haley and the Comets live in concert and started playing himself when his father bought him a guitar in 1959.

In 1960, he and his school friends formed a skiffle group called the Kool Kats. Stewart said in his autobiography that on leaving school at 15, he realised he was good at playing football and singing, but little else, so he went for trials at Division Three football club Brentford.

When they didn't sign him, he decided to go for a career in music instead - a wise choice, as it turned out. While playing music in his spare time, he took several jobs including fence-erector, sign-writer, labourer and funeral parlour employee for the next four years.

Finally, Stewart was spotted playing Smokestack Lightnin' on his harmonica by blues singer Long John Baldry in January 1964. He was offered a job as vocalist with the Hoochie Coochie Men, with Baldry paying him £35 a week, so he finally gave up his day job to pursue his dream of becoming a singer.

 

Career milestones

In February 1967, Stewart was recruited to join the Jeff Beck Group as vocalist and songwriter. This was the big break in his career, as they toured Europe and the United States in 1968. Stewart co-wrote three of the songs on their debut album, Truth, which peaked at number 15 in the US albums chart.

The songs helped to develop his vocal abilities and his trademark rasping voice. He joined The Faces in 1969 and also released a number of solo records, but his thriving solo career caused tensions within the band and they split in 1975.

Stewart's solo career took off in earnest and he released his best-selling UK single, Sailing, in 1975. It was a cover version of a song by the Sutherland Brothers - a British rock and folk band from the early 1970s.

 

Lyrics

Sailing was written by Gavin Sutherland in 1972, while sitting on Blythe Bridge, in Staffordshire. In subsequent interviews, he said many people misunderstood the lyrics and presumed it was a young man telling his girlfriend he was sailing all the way across the Atlantic Ocean just to be with her.

It's easy to see how the misconception has arisen, as the first verse of the song contains the lyrics, "I am sailing home again 'cross the sea, I am sailing stormy waters to be near you."

However, Sutherland said it was an account of "mankind's spiritual odyssey" through the journey of life. The Sutherland Brothers' version of the song reached number 54 in the UK singles chart in July 1972 and sold 40,000 copies.

 

Stewart's version

The song was rather more successful for Stewart, who recorded it for his 1975 album, Atlantic Crossing. When it was released as a single, it was number one for four weeks in September 1975 - his greatest success in the UK charts.

He was a fan of the Sutherland Brothers after seeing them play live at the Marquee Club in London. He agreed to record Sailing for his album because it complemented the nautical title - hence the misconception that the song was about crossing the Atlantic.

Afterwards he said he found recording Sailing a "challenge", as he received a call at 10am to say he was required in the studio to record the track by 10.30am. In an interview, he described how he would normally have a drink to calm his nerves before recording an "anthem" like Sailing.

However, it was too early in the morning and he went to the studio without a drink, finalising the recording in six or seven takes. He also admitted he had been against releasing Sailing from the album, as he preferred his own track, Three Time Loser.

The music video for Sailing was filmed in the Port of Dublin and aired on Top of the Pops in August 1975. It was a massive hit for Stewart - and had further success in 1976, when it was used as the theme song for a documentary series, Sailor, about the HMS Ark Royal, aired by BBC1 for 10 weeks.

 

Superstar

The success of Sailing assured Stewart's superstar status. In 1976, his single, Tonight's the Night, was number one in the US Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks. He has been in great demand throughout his career and has enjoyed collaborating with many of the music industry's top artists.

In 2005, on his album, Thanks for the Memory: The Great American Songbook Volume IV, Stewart sang a duet with soul diva Diana Ross, performing I've Got a Crush on You, by George Gershwin. He also sang You Send Me with Chaka Khan and Makin' Whoopee with Elton John.

In 1993, Stewart won the award for Outstanding Contribution to Music at the Brit Awards. In November 2006, he became an inductee of the UK Music Hall of Fame.

 

Philanthropy

Stewart was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in May 2000 and underwent surgery the same month.  Although he survived the major health scare, the surgery affected his voice and he had to learn how to sing again.

Following his cancer surgery, he became active in fundraising for a charity called The City of Hope Foundation, which aims to find a cure for all types of cancer, especially those which affect children.

Now aged 73, the star is still touring and recording. In October, he is playing a series of live gigs in the United States, including in Kansas City and Oklahoma.

He is releasing his 30th studio album, entitled Blood Red Roses, on 28th September on Republic Records. Going back to his song-writing roots, the album will include a selection of songs based on poignant observation.

 

Sailing

If you're planning a spot of sailing yourself, Coruba can help!

We stock a wide range of high-quality marine and boat products, including rubber fenders and rubber matting.

Please contact us on 01702 811 683 or info@coruba.co.uk for further details of our marine products for boats of all sizes.



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