Skip to main contentSkip to footer

Rod Stewart - Biography

Rod Stewart has sold more than 120 million records worldwide, making him one of Britain's greatest musicians

Rod Stewart - Biography
Share this:

Although Rod Stewart remains unrepentant about the wildness of his heyday, he is scathing in his condemnation of the "contrived" antics of today's rock stars. "When I was in The Faces and we had an album coming out, we wouldn't go and break up hotel rooms or go out with tarts to get ourselves in the papers," he says. "We broke up hotel rooms and went out with tarts because we bloody felt like it."

Rod Stewart's childhood and rise to stardom

Born Roderick David Stewart in Highgate, London, on January 10, 1945, Rod was the youngest of Scottish-born Robert and Elsie Stewart's five children. He taught himself to play the guitar aged 12, and, inspired by the music of Lonnie Donegan, began playing in local skiffle groups as a teen. In the early 1960s after giving up an apprenticeship with the Brentford Football Club he became a full-time musician. 

His first big break came in 1964, when British blues legend Long John Baldry heard the then 19-year-old singing outside Twickenham railway station and asked him to join his band. The following year saw the first in a series of band changes for the aspiring rock star. Rod and Long John formed the outfit Steampacket but, after touring as the Rolling Stones' supporting act, they split and Rod joined the Jeff Beck Group. 

In 1969, he and the band's bass player, a pre-Rolling Stones Ron Wood, joined The Faces. The same year, Rod released his first solo album, marking the beginning of a two-pronged career that would last until The Faces the last rock group with which he would be associated split in 1975. 

Rod Stewart's solo career

In the meantime, Rod became a popular soloist in the US where his first album broke into the top 100 and a stateside tour boosted his profile. In 1971, while topping the charts with The Faces, he shot to international stardom with the number one hit Maggie May. Four years later he relocated permanently to the US, and left band life behind for good. 

The Seventies were good to Rod, who notched up number one singles with Tonight's The Night and the disco-influenced Do Ya Think I'm Sexy. The following decade saw the Young Turks singer progress from skin-tight leopard-skin trousers into suits and a more mature vocal style which delivered his first Grammy, for Downtown Train

Rod Stewart's personal life

After a number of mildly successful albums in the Nineties, Rod was dealt two blows in his private life as the new millennium began an "earth-shattering" health scare when a cancerous growth was found on his thyroid (he later had it successfully removed), and the imprisonment of his eldest son Sean, who served a three-month jail sentence in California after being found guilty of assault. 

However, 2002 brought two bright spots in his life, a Grammy nomination for his album of classics, It Had To Be You: The Great American Songbook and his continuing romance with golden-haired model Penny Lancaster, to whom he became engaged in early 2005. Rod's life from his first headline-making relationship with Britt Ekland to Penny can be traced as much through his string of blonde-bombshell girlfriends and wives as through his discography. Following a high-profile relationship with Britt in the Seventies, Rod went on to have two children Kimberly, born in 1979, and 1980 arrival Sean with first wife Alana, whom he divorced after five years in 1984. 

A new baby, Ruby, with model Kelly Emberg arrived in 1987, before he met his second wife, the model Rachel Hunter. The two wed in 1990. The couple had two children together Renee, born in 1992, and Liam McAlister, a 1994 arrival. After nine years the marriage failed, and the singer began dating covergirl-turned-photographer Penny, with whom he became a dad again for the sixth time after the birth of their son Alastair Wallace in November 2005. 

Sorting out the logistics of Rod's relationships can be complicated just ask the singer himself. "I wrote some of my best love songs ever when I was unhappy and my saddest love songs when I was very much in love," he says. "When I wrote You're In My Heart, which is an uplifting song, I had just broken up with… Now, who had I just broken up with?"

In 2016 he was recognised for his services to music and charity with a knighthood in the Late Queen's Birthday Honours.

More Profiles

See more