Rod Stewart & Friends: 10 Great Collaborations

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Rod Stewart (r.) with Jeff Beck

Few singers seem to relish sharing the spotlight with their fellow artists more than Rod Stewart does. A consummate frontman, the veteran rocker nonetheless seems to up his game when he’s joined onstage (or in the studio, sometimes) by one of his respected peers. We’ve pulled together some of the most noteworthy of those collaborations. Note that some of these performances feature Stewart taking a “backseat” role, a fact that attests further to the team spirit he brings to these collaborative moments.

Stewart was born on Jan. 10, 1945.

“I’d Rather Go Blind” (w/Carlos Santana, 2014)
Las Vegas glitz notwithstanding, Stewart’s first-ever performance with Carlos Santana was as intimate as it gets. This ballad—a soul classic made famous by Etta James and recorded by Stewart for his 1972 album, Never a Dull Moment—afforded both men a chance to reach deep within themselves. Stewart’s yearning vocal evokes Otis Redding, while Santana’s searing licks punctuate the heartache at the song’s core. Just weeks after this performance, the two artists embarked on a cross-country co-headlining tour.

“Mystifies Me” (w/Ronnie Wood, 1974)
Wood staged two London performances in July 1974 to promote his debut solo record, I’ve Got My Own Album to Do. This Faces-like song practically screamed to be delivered in Stewart’s serrated rasp, a fact driven home emphatically when Stewart joined Wood at the microphone. One incidental note: although the concerts were billed as Woody and Friends, years later a CD/DVD release of the shows was attributed to the First Barbarians. The group name was a sly reference to the New Barbarians, the band Wood put together for a tour in 1979.

“All You Need is Love” (w/Paul McCartney, Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton and others, 2002)
Staged at London’s Buckingham Palace Garden, in 2002, the star-studded Party at the Palace was touted as the greatest concert in Britain since 1985’s Live Aid. The concert culminated with all the featured entertainers gathering onstage to perform the Beatles’ most famous love anthem. Perhaps in deference to the majesty of the occasion, Stewart kicked off the lead vocal in a decidedly low-key manner—with Joe Cocker, Paul McCartney and (eventually) the entire cast of performers joining in.

“Papa Was a Rolling Stone” (w/Steve Winwood, Chaka Khan and Mary J. Blige, 1997)
This faithful rendition of the Temptations’ classic found Stewart more than holding his own alongside three R&B giants. The context is noteworthy. Staged at London’s Wembley Stadium, the Carlsberg Concert presented 10 high-profile artists delivering duet, trio and quartet performances of classic songs from the previous four decades. Each year—from 1956 through 1996—was represented, with the show moving backwards in time and concluding with a tribute to Elvis circa 1956. Stewart obviously saw fit to don one of his more flamboyant get-ups for the occasion.

Related: A look back at Rod’s masterpiece, Gasoline Alley

“Chain of Fools” (w/Aretha Franklin, Elton John and Smokey Robinson, 1993)
Which singer is gifted enough to warrant a backing trio that consists of Rod Stewart, Elton John and Smokey Robinson? The answer, of course, is the late Aretha Franklin. This stirring performance served as the opening salvo in a four-hour AIDS benefit concert staged in 1993 by Franklin and a contingent of her gifted artist-friends. A truncated version of the show, which took place at the Nederlander Theater in Gotham, was broadcast on TV as Aretha Franklin: Duets. Stewart and Franklin’s collaborative rendition of “People Get Ready” proved to be another highlight of the evening.

“Stay With Me” (w/Ronnie Wood, 2004)
Ronnie Wood plays Keith Richards to Stewart’s Mick Jagger on this performance of Faces’ raunch ’n’ roll classic. Even the relatively clean tone of Wood’s guitar can’t mask the track’s down-and-dirty grind. Staged in 2004, when Stewart was approaching 60 years old, the Royal Albert Hall show nonetheless mostly eschewed Stewart’s then-recent “standards” albums in favor of his early material. This performance, along with a second cameo appearance by Wood on “Gasoline Alley,” provided a dazzling high point of the evening.

“People Get Ready” (w/Jeff Beck, 1985)
Beck and Stewart’s collaborations in the late ’60s, on the Truth and Beck-Ola albums, helped shape the future solo careers of both men. In 1985, the two recaptured some of that original magic when they recorded this deeply affecting remake of Curtis Mayfield’s gospel-soul classic. A quarter century later, at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, Stewart surprised Beck when he strode onstage to sing this much-loved ballad. The affection both men have for the track is palpable in their symbiotic performance.

“The Motown Song” (w/The Temptations, 1991)
It was especially fitting that the Temptations should provide backing vocals for this lively hit from Stewart’s 1991 album, Vagabond Heart. Along with Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, classic era Temptations singer David Ruffin was one of Stewart’s seminal influences. “The Motown Song” peaked at #10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, and fared even better in the Adult Contemporary category. Eighteen years later, Stewart released his Soulbook album, a record that gave full voice to his love of Motown material.

“This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)” (w/Cyndi Lauper, 2017)
Stewart first cut this R&B staple, made famous by the Isley Brothers, for his 1975 Atlantic Crossing album. In 1989 he scored a hit with a remake, a duet with Ronald Isley, but this rendition with Cyndi Lauper boasts an especially nostalgic flavor. In the mid ’70s, when Lauper was finding her footing as a singer, she used to mimic Stewart’s Atlantic Crossing version when performing with cover bands. Stewart’s recent tours with Lauper, staged in the summers of 2017 and 2018, respectively, have proven to be a smash success.

“Hot Legs” (w/Tina Turner, 1981)
Tina Turner was just beginning to forge a stunning comeback when she joined Stewart for this romp through his 1978 hit. Having performed the song together on Saturday Night Live a couple of months earlier, the two treated fans at the Los Angeles Forum to a riveting vocal duet while breaking out some of their most suggestive dance moves. The show was broadcast on closed-circuit TV to a viewing audience of 60 million people. A decade later, in conjunction with a Pepsi advertising campaign, Stewart and Turner again joined forces for a remake of the Marvin Gaye/Kim Weston classic, “It Takes Two.”

Related: Stewart was knighted in 2016

When Stewart tours, tickets are available here and here.

Russell Hall

2 Comments so far

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  1. Noah
    #1 Noah 9 April, 2019, 06:35

    I think that Vanilla Fudge drummer Carmine Appice should have been mentioned as the link in the Beck/Stewart collaboration for People Get Ready. Appice worked with both, Beck with Beck Bogert Appice, and later as drummer for Stewart for many years. It was Vanilla Fudge’s arrangement of People Get Ready which impressed both Beck and Stewart.

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  2. Lorelei
    #2 Lorelei 11 January, 2023, 00:24

    He was called Rod the Bod back then, not the Mod, even though he did go through the Mod period.

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