The artistic hunger of musicians, on certain occasions, leads them to experiment with new styles. And it always happens – incomprehensibly – that some fans will be offended and even disappointed if their favorite artist breaks their own schemes. Within that complicated situation, one thing is very true: the opportunity to burst the charts and compose a great song for posterity, is latent.
Something like that happened to himself Rod Stewart Back in the 70s when the thorn of disco came to him, a genre that was at the highest peak of its popularity. Of course, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” It was the song that opened the controversy among the most purist followers of the singer, whom several considered a kind of treacherous for putting aside at that time his closest roots to blues-rock.
And there the controversy did not stop for the English idol. Lawsuits for plagiarism, payment of royalties, donations to charity and other things were what this great song, a total classic of universal music, originated after its release. Now in this section we like to call the Story behind the song, we will review the most interesting anecdotes that this composition by Sir Rod Stewart contains.
Rod Stewart and inspiration from The Rolling Stones?
Inspiration comes in two ways: sometimes from nowhere and sometimes from the environment. By 1978, England and the world were witnessing the power and unbridled popular that disco music wielded in the industry. And well, it’s not like rock was dead far from it, but hefever disco-funky, it is known, was to everything what it gave.
And based on that environment, Rod Stewart knew where to draw inspiration from to get on the trend. In this way came Blondes Have More Fun, an album that, while still approaching the singer’s rockier texture, opted for keep a very sharp disco line. As we said, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” it was the quintessential song that embodied this stage in Rod’s career.
And where did the idea of putting together a track like that fully come from? First, it must be remembered that Rod Stewart composed the single in the company of the musicians Carmine Appice y Duane Hitchings. And second, something that perhaps not many know, is that The Rolling Stones something had to do with the origin of the song.
As Appice told SongFacts in an interview, Stewart was very excited about the song “Miss You” by Mick Jagger and company. That theme had a certain groove disco but it didn’t stop sounding like blues-rock. And that’s what Rod wanted: an intermediate between trendy music and its essence of always.
“We were in the studio and ‘Miss You’ by The Rolling Stones was a huge hit. Rod was always a guy who used to listen to what was going on around him. He was always looking at the charts and listening to everything. I was a huge Rolling Stones fan, so when they came out ‘Miss You’, disco music was really big at the time, so I wanted to do some kind of disco song. I went home and came up with a bunch of chords and a melody. I introduced it to him with a friend of mine, Duane Hitchings, who is a composer who had a small studio. We went to his studio with his drum machines and keyboards, and he made my chords sound better. We gave Rod a demo of the verses and the bridge, and Rod came up with the chorus, “said Appice.
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The success of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”… And the controversy
As we mentioned at the beginning, there was a sector of staunch purist fans who he criticized that album from top to bottom and “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” for its close cut to disco music. But regardless, the track was a resounding success in the US and the UK, historically the main music markets.
The single entered the world’s most important popularity charts and even found a spot at the top of the world. Billboard Hot 100 for several weeks to eventually become a classic that continues to sound from generation to generation. And while it has in a way survived the test of time, the song suffered from serious accusations linked to plagiarism, which in fact Rod Stewart did not shy away.
The Faces singer also admitted in his 2012 autobiography that he had unconsciously plagiarized the chorus tune of the song “Taj Mahal ”by Brazilian artist Jorge Ben Jor, who sued Rod, Appice and Hutchings to take them to court. The legal matter was settled, as Stereogum recalls, with Stewart’s decision to donate part of the proceeds of the single to UNICEF and granting royalties to the Rio de Janeiro composer.
I raised my hand immediately. Not that I would have stood in the studio and said, ‘I’ll use that Taj Mahal tune as a chorus. The writer lives in Brazil, so he will never know. ‘ Clearly, the melody had lodged in my memory and then resurfaced. Plagiarism unconscious, plain and simple. I handed him the royalties and wondered again if ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ I was cursed in a way, ”Rod said in his bio (via Daily Express).
Then,How did the melody get into Rod Stewart’s head? In the same biography, the Briton tells that eight months before recording Blondes Have More Fun, attended the Rio carnival in Brazil -Because well, the artist had a reputation as a red-bone partygoer- and it was there that he had contact with Jorge Ben Jor’s song.
Stewart himself admitted at some point that the synthesizer melody (the one we all know because it is the one that gives the song its identity), was a variation directly taken from the theme “If You Want My Love (Put Something Down On It)” de Bobby Womack. In this case, although the resemblance is quite similar, there was no demand. Whatever, the legacy of the famous “Do Ya Think…” is undeniable and it is hard not to enjoy it.
Here the fragment “Plagiarized unconsciously ”from Jorge Ben Jor’s song (skip to 0:50):
Here’s Bobby Womack’s song featuring the synth (listen carefully in the background at 0:12):
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The story of Rod Stewart’s controversial success and “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”