Single Stories: Rod Stewart, “Da’ Ya’ Think I’m Sexy”
Remember that time Rod Stewart went disco? Sure you do! Boy, those were some good, sexy times, weren’t they? Well, now it’s time you learned the story behind the song that took our man Rod to the top of the singles charts on both sides of the Atlantic.
Written by Stewart, Carmen Appice, and Duane Hitchings, “Da’ Ya’ Think I’m Sexy” was the first single from Stewart’s ninth solo album, BLONDES HAVE MORE FUN, and when it first emerged, it caused no end of consternation from a number of Stewart’s diehard fans, the ones who’d been following his career since he’d been singing blues-rock tracks in the ‘60s.
“It was an absolute tear-away, it really was,” Stewart said of the single in a recent TV interview. “I went down to Brazil for the carnival in Rio and I heard this melody, and when we came to record eight months later, that melody was still in my head and I didn’t know where I’d got it from, and I just went for it.”
There was a slight problem with that decision, however, and it would come back to haunt him: the melody he heard in his head was, in fact, one he’d unwittingly swiped from “Taj Mahal,” a song by Brazilian musician Jorge Ben Jor. Years later, Stewart admitted in his autobiography that he’d been guilty of “unconscious plagiarism” in regards to the song’s chorus, and he also conceded that he’d gotten the synth riff from Bobby Womack’s “(If You Want My Love) Put Something Down On It.”
Yes, “Da’ Ya’ Think I’m Sexy” led Stewart to be mocked mercilessly on The Kenny Everett Show, with the comedian playing Stewart as he pranced about the stage, shaking his moneymaker, with his buttocks inflating with each shake, eventually growing so large that he floated up to the ceiling. But Stewart had the last laugh: the song went to #1 in both the US and the UK, and although disco may have died, “Da’ Ya’ Think I’m Sexy” ended up on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
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