arts & entertainment
Rod Stewart sings
the Christmas classics
He wears it well
PENN Y LANCAS TER
By Michael Evans
FORTY;ODD YEARS into a career that has
seen its share of creative and commercial
peaks and valleys, two-time Rock and Roll
“When asked if I would like to sing
with Ella … I said, ‘Well, I would give
my arm to,’ ” says Stewart. He went so far as
to proclaim the track to be the proudest
moment of his career—with a slight qualifi-
cation: “Now if I could get to sing with Sam
Cooke or Otis Redding my life would be
complete,” he says, citing the soul legends
who rank as his biggest influences.
Hall of Famer Rod Stewart has settled
seamlessly into his role as one of
pop’s elder statesmen. For
someone who has been in
the music business as long
as he has, it’s amazing that
Stewart, 67, is just finally
getting around to releasing
his first album of holiday
classics, the suitably titled
Merry Christmas, Baby.
Which of course begs the
question, why now?
“I think it all comes
with age—the older you
get, you realize how important these songs are,”
Stewart tells The Connection during a phone
interview between dates on
a recent concert tour.
“I’d give both arms to do that,” he cracks.
A preternaturally talented vocalist blessed
with a style as distinctive as it is dynamic,
Stewart has sold 250 million records in his
career. Whether performing such classics as
“Maggie May” and “You Wear It Well” or
crooning the classics in his Great American
Songbook series, Stewart’s ability to almost
effortlessly capture the essence of a song while
putting his recognizable stamp on it is a marvel.
But while time has ravaged many a great
voice, Stewart feels he is singing better now
than ever. He believes he could not have performed the material on the holiday album or
the Songbook series earlier in his career.
“[It’s] not something I
would have considered in
my rebellious youth—
which went into my 40s, I
think,” he laughs.
Merry Christmas, Baby
includes a cross section of collaborations with the usual
(Michael Bublé) and unusual
(hip-hop stalwarts Cee Lo Green
and Mary J. Blige) Yuletide suspects.
“I don’t think I could’ve cut any of these
songs with conviction … when I was a rocker,”
he muses, “My voice has improved … espe-
cially when it comes to ballads. There’s a ten-
derness that wasn’t there 30 years ago.”
However, Stewart is most jazzed, lit-
erally, about the album’s most intrigu-
ing selection, a version of “What Are
You Doing New Year’s Eve?” that is a vir-
tual duet with one of his idols, the late
swing-era great Ella Fitzgerald.
“I had a rebirth. I fell back into the song-writing, actually enjoyed the producing,”
Stewart exclaims. “It’s a complete circle now.”
Suffice it to say, retirement is not anywhere on the horizon. While he could do
without the travel, he gets the same joy now
from performing that he did when he was
singing as a lad.
The Costco Connection
Rod Stewart’s new CD, Merry Christmas,
“When people come and see me, it’s written all over my face. I am smiling for two
hours,” he proclaims. “I’m sincere when I say
that. I really do love it.” C
Baby, is available in most Costco locations.
His new book, Rod: The Autobiography, is
also available in select warehouses.
Michael Evans is a long-time music writer and
creative consultant in Portland, Oregon.