5 of Rod Stewart’s Favorite Songs

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

In 2018, Rod Stewart remembered some of his all-time favorite songs during an interview with Ken Bruce on BBC Radio 2. His musical journey in song stretches from one of the greatest entertainers of the 1920s through a late ’50s rock and roll pioneer, the soul of the 1960s, and a few contemporary artists.

Titled the Tracks of My Years—a play on the 1965 Smokey Robinson and The Miracles Motown hit “The Tracks of My Tears”—the episode centered around 10 songs chosen by Stewart that left an indelible mark on him from his childhood through the present.

Among some of Stewart’s favorite songs were Billie Holiday‘s rendition of “These Foolish Things (Remind Me Of You),” Sam Cooke‘s 1961 hit “Cupid,” “Lookin’ For Love” by Bobby Womack, Muddy Waters’ “Feel So Good,” and Eddie Cochran’s No. 1 hit, “Three Steps to Heaven.”

Here’s a look at five more songs released between 1928 through 2015 that were hand-picked as favorites by Stewart.

1. “Sonny Boy,” Al Jolson (1928)
Written by Ray Henderson, Buddy De Sylva, and Lew Brown

First featured in the 1928 musical film The Singing Fool and sung by Al Jolson, “Sonny Boy” hit No. 1 on the charts where it remained for 12 weeks and sold one million copies.

“He was what I grew up with, listening with my mom and dad,” said Stewart on BBC. “They loved him. My brothers loved him. We all loved Al Jolson. I was made to love Al Jolson. My big brother John took me to see the two movies they made about him, and I fell in love with him. I think Michael Jackson, too, because Michael used to [use] the white gloves and the white socks, which is exactly what Al Jolson used to do.”

He added, “This man sang without a microphone, which to me is incredulous. To get up and sing without a mic to 2000 people. So Al, thank you from upstairs.”

Climb up on my knee, Sonny Boy
Though you’re only three, Sonny Boy
You’ve no way of knowing
There’s no way of showing
What you mean to me, Sonny Boy

When there are grey skies
I don’t mind the grey skies
You make them blue, Sonny Boy
Friends may forsake me
Let them all forsake me
I still have you, Sonny Boy

2. “The Girl Can’t Help It,” Little Richard (1956)
Written by Bobby Troup

Released on his eponymous second album, along with rock and roll classic standards “Lucille” and “Good Golly, Miss Molly,” Little Richard‘s “The Girl Can’t Help It” peaked at No. 7 on the R&B Best Sellers chart and was later covered by The Animals and sampled Fergie’s 2007 single “Clumsy.”

“When I was little, my brother Bob, who was a bit of a teddy boy, he brought this record [‘Little Richard’] home,” said Stewart. “I put it on time and time and time again—another one that was a big influence on me and then I met him. What a sweetheart of a man. Bless him.”

If she walks by the men folks get engrossed
(She can’t help it, the girl can’t help it)
If she winks an eye and bread slices turn to toast
(She can’t help it, the girl can’t help it)
If she’s got a lot of what they call they most
(She can’t help it, the girl can’t help it)

3. “Try a Little Tenderness,” Otis Redding (1966)
Written by Harry M. Woods, Jimmy Campbell, Reg Connelly

First recorded by the Ray Noble Orchestra in 1932 and later by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, it was Otis Redding‘s soulful rendition of the loving ballad “Try a Little Tenderness” that made the song a hit when it peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart.

Also known for his hit “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay” and his rendition of the Ben E. King classic “Stand By Me” within his short career, Redding tragically died in a plane crash at the age of 26 on Dec. 10, 1967.

“I saw Otis in 1967 at the Kuban state, and I cried my eyes out when he sang this song,” shared Stewart. “What was interesting about the show is that he only played for 20 minutes, they have booked Booker T. & the M.G.’s, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Sam & Dave and they all did 10, 20 minutes and the show was all over in an hour and a half.”

Oh she may be weary
Them young girls they do get wearied
Wearing that same old shaggy dress, yeah, yeah
But when she gets weary
Try a little tenderness

4. “Cars and Girls,” Prefab Scout (1988)
Written by Paddy McAloon

Formed by brother Paddy and Martin McAloon along with guitarist and keyboardist Wendy Smith in 1978, Prefab Scout released a number of hits in the 1980s, including “When Love Breaks Down,” “The King of Rock N’ Roll” and “Cars and Girls”—the latter two off the group’s fifth album, From Langley Park to Memphis. Though “Cars and Girls” didn’t move too far up the charts, it still remains one of the British pop band’s most popular songs.

“Just gorgeous,” said Stewart of the 1988 Prefab Scout single. McAloon also wrote the bonus track “Who Designed the Snowflake,” off Stewart’s 2018 album, Blood Red Roses.

“Although we never met, we e-mail each other all the time,” said Stewart of McAloon. “This band, I’ll tell you, it’s just wonderful. He [McAloon] takes [his sound] outside the rock and roll genre. It’s jazz, almost. Long live Prefab Sprout.”

Brucie dreams, life’s a highway
Too many roads bypass my way
Or they never begin

Innocence coming to grief
At the hands of life, stinkin’ car thief
That’s my concept of sin

Does heaven wait all heavenly
Over the next horizon? Ah!

5. “Uptown Funk,” Mark Ronson, featuring Bruno Mars (2015)
Written by Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars, Jeff Bhasker, Philip Lawrence, Rudolph Taylor, Ronnie Wilson, Devon Gallaspy, Nicholaus Joseph Williams, Lonnie Lee Simmons, Robert E. Wilson, Charles K Wilson

Bruno Mars for me … I don’t wanna say he is a new Michael Jackson,” said Stewart when talking of one of his more recent favorites, “Uptown Funk.” The lead single from Mark Ronson‘s fourth studio album, Uptown Special, featuring Bruno Mars on vocals, won the Grammy for Record of the Year in 2016.

“I think he is a man on his own,” said Stewart of Mars. “He is doing something totally brilliant. This song, I believe, is one of the best records ever made into our world. I love it so much. The production, Mark Ronson, it just goes without saying, it’s just different class.”

Stewart added, “The actual brass riff that goes around, it’s been around for a lot of years. It’s a James Brown thing, but that is what makes it appeal to you and me.”

Come on, dance, jump on it
If you sexy, then flaunt it
If you freaky, then own it
Don’t brag about it, come show me
Come on, dance, jump on it
If you sexy, then flaunt it
Well, it’s Saturday night, and we in the spot
Don’t believe me, just watch, come on!

Photo: Jeremychanphotography/Getty Images

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