Rod Stewart released the rock classic Maggie May in 1971. It was an international hit, and DJs still play it regularly on the radio.
In fact, you’ve probably sung along with it multiple times.
But have you ever wondered if Maggie May is a real person?
Let’s jump in and find out!
Who Originally Wrote Maggie May?
Rod Stewart is the co-author and initial performer of Maggie May, who co-wrote the song with Martin Quittendon, a British composer.
Stewart was born on January 10, 1945, in Highgate, London, England. The youngest of five children, he describes his childhood as “fantastically happy.” His family was fond of football, and Stewart played the sport in school. In fact, he wanted to play professionally but didn’t make the team.
“Rod the Mod” also loved music from a young age. His father bought him his first guitar when he was 14. Some of Stewart’s earliest influences were Al Jolson, Little Richard, and Bill Haley and the Comets.
Rod began his musical career in 1962, busking with a harmonica. He was a member of a few musical groups, including the Jeff Beck Group. He joined Faces, a British rock band, in 1969 while working on his solo career.
In 1971 he released his third album, Every Picture Tells a Story. This was his breakthrough, topping charts internationally. Maggie May was a ballad on the record, and his first smash hit.
What Was the Creative Process for the Hit?
The creative process for Maggie May began with the collaboration between Stewart and Steamhammer guitarist Martin Quittenton. They were working together at Rod’s home, trying to create new material. Quittenton played some chords, and Stewart sang the lyrics to a British folk song, Maggie May, about a Lime Street prostitute.
It sparked a memory in Stewart of his 17-year-old self at the Beaulieu Jazz festival. He met an older woman there and lost his virginity to her.
After that creative session, he kept working on the lyrics. It eventually became Stewart’s first massive hit about a young man in love with an older woman, who left him aroused and confused.
It was also the first rock and roll hit that featured a mandolin. Although, the mandolin player Ray Jackson claims that Stewart never gave him credit for the song.
The studio thought Rod Stewart’s single, Reason to Believe, would be his big hit. They put Maggie May as the B-side, but a DJ in the US thought Maggie May was fantastic and put it into rotation. Maggie May made Stewart a huge star in the US.
What Popular Covers Are There of Maggie May?
There have been at least 64 covers of Maggie May over the years. The first cover was by Top of the Pops in 1971, the same year Stewart released it. The latest was in 2020 by Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star, in a collection of lullabies for children. Let’s look at a few of the more notable covers!
The Pogues covered Maggie May on the b-side of their single, White City, in 1989. It’s in the typical style of The Pogues, with Shane McGowan’s punk Irish voice leading the way.
Melissa Etheridge released her version of Maggie May on her single, I’m the Only One, in 1993. I’m the Only One was the single from her fourth studio album, Yes, I Am. Her version of Maggie May is a live one, and her throaty voice suits Stewart’s lyrics well.
Donna Summer also covered Maggie May, in addition to a few other Rod Stewart songs. During her posthumous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013, they played a medley of her singing his songs. It was a beautiful tribute to both Summer and Stewart.
Didn’t The Beatles Sing About Maggie May?
Did you know that “Maggie” is British slang for a prostitute? The folk ballad Maggie May is about a prostitute from Liverpool who robbed sailors and went to prison. It’s the traditional song Stewart sang as his initial spark for his version of Maggie May. The Beatles used to sing it when they were still The Quarrymen.
Maggie May was one of the songs they used as a warm-up at recording sessions. Their 1970 album, Let It Be, was delayed in production until after they broke up. Their producer, Phil Spector, stepped in afterward and put it together from their tapes.
The album was supposed to be reminiscent of their early live-performance days, so he included their version of Maggie May. It’s the first song since their album, Help!, that wasn’t written by any of the Beatles.
What Is Rod Stewart Doing Now?
Rod Stewart is still a working and touring musician. He has also returned to songwriting after a more than 20-year hiatus. In May 2013, he released Time, an album of his original songs. Stewart says that “writing his autobiography gave him the impetus to write music again.”
In 2021, he released his album The Tears of Hercules. It features nine original songs and covers of Johnny Cash, Marc Jordan, and more. He’s also currently touring with Cheap Trick throughout the US and Canada.
Maggie May Launched Stewart’s Career
Rod Stewart is truly a Rock and Roll legend. He’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, won a Grammy, and is a Knight Bachelor, among many other honors.
His hit song, Maggie May, is the song that sent him on his way to legendary stardom. And you could say he loosely based it on the woman from the festival.
What do you think? After learning the story behind Maggie May, is it one of your favorite Rod Stewart songs?