Rod Stewart takes a sentimental turn on new album and tour with Santana

  • Article by: JON BREAM , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 7, 2014 - 4:17 PM

At 69, Rod Stewart faces the music with self-penned sentimental songs, a tour with Santana – and no more soccer.

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Rod Stewart

Photo: David Brewster, Star Tribune

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You know that Rod Stewart, rock’s perpetual bon vivant, is partial to blondes, fancy clothes and soccer, not necessarily in that order.

Two things you might not know about the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer: He’s ridiculously sentimental and — this seems unbelievable — he has stopped playing soccer.

“I retired about six months ago,” said Stewart, 69, who still promises to kick soccer balls into the audience Sunday when he performs with Santana at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. “It broke my heart. It’s a huge lump out of my life. I’m over it now. Knee injury. It would take me three or four days and two boxes of Advil to try to get me back to sort of normal. It was interfering with the stage show. So one had to go.”

He watches soccer on TV when he works out (“there are about a dozen soccer channels here in California”). And he attends his kids’ games.

“I live vicariously through my two younger sons. My 8-year-old is crazy about it. He came home from school the other day and had an assignment: What is the one thing your dad has taught you to do? ‘My dad has taught me to take free kicks and corner kicks.’ Nothing worldly.

“I miss the kids. It’s so quiet here without them,” he said last week from Los Angeles. “They’re still in London with their mum.”

Told you he’s sentimental.

“I’ve always been sentimental,” Stewart confessed. “I’ve never found the vehicle to put it on tour and to music. I’m especially sentimental about kids and about my dad, who I idolized. I’m a romantic, as well.”

His sentimentality is all over his latest album, “Time,” released last year.

The song “Brighton Beach” is a yearning for his heady youth and that 17-year-old girl who got away. “Can’t Stop Me Now” is a nostalgic celebration of his career, from his record-label audition to pub gigs to that fateful meeting with Maggie May. Nothing gets more personal than “It’s Over,” a reflection back to a wedding, then the kids and now a breakup after five years “poisoned by the lawyers’ letters.” Stewart is twice-divorced with eight children, including two with third wife Penny.

“Time” was the first album in years for which he penned a bunch of new tunes. Since 2002, he’d recorded five albums of vintage pop, soul and rock covers.

Writing songs was “a shock to my system,” he said. “You know, my biggest output, I think, was [1978’s] ‘Blondes Have More Fun,’ which I wrote nine songs for. This was 10 or 11 songs. It was all prompted because I put the autobiography together [“Rod,” published in 2012]. Talking to family and friends and relatives for stories for the book, I thought: ‘Maybe I could write [songs] about that.’ So one inspired the other.”

Comparing guitarists

Stewart’s current endeavor is a tour with Carlos Santana. It’s not the first classic-rock act he’s toured with in recent years: He’s also teamed up with Steve Winwood and Stevie Nicks.

“I don’t think Carlos and I had any ambitions to tour together. Our agents suggested it to us,” Stewart admitted. “It’s hard to put bums in seats. It’s been very successful. We’re doing two songs together.”

Over the years, Stewart has played with some of rock’s greatest guitarists: Jeff Beck in the Jeff Beck Group, Ron Wood in the Faces and now Carlos Santana. Each has a different style and personality.

“Ron Wood really makes me laugh. The other two don’t,” Stewart said when asked to compare the three. “Jeff is a more inventive guitar player. If you’re singing beside Jeff, you never know quite what’s going to happen. Carlos anticipates what I’m going to sing and leaves more gaps. Woody is the most melodic. Every time he picks up a guitar, [melodies come]. … The intro to ‘Maggie May,’ the intro to ‘[You] Wear It Well.’ ”

Stewart rose to fame with the Jeff Beck Group (which also included Wood) in the late ’60s. Before that, he wanted to be a soccer star but, despite rumors, he never got a professional tryout.

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