Rod Stewart – Maggie May / Reason to Believe

First Hit #1: October 2, 1971

One thing I find odd about Maggie May is that it is a song about a young man getting seduced away from the path of righteousness from an older woman. That’s not a strange subject for a song, just a strange song for Rod Stewart to sing, because he’s never had a particularly young voice. It’s not a bad thing, that slightly weathered and strained sound is quite distinctive and Stewart knows how to shape it to his advantage. Even if he sounds much older than he actually is – he was only in his mid ’20s after all – he gives a performance that uses his unique instrument to its full advantage. It’s also a pretty great song all around. I’m just not quite sold on Rod Stewart being a young man.

Better suited to his voice, and actually a better song overall, is Reason to Believe. That might be an odd thing to say, especially since Maggie May is commonly held to be a classic, but Reason to Believe is a bit more heartfelt and actually much more interesting. It’s a very emotionally complex song, and that complexity is mirrored in the arrangement, which goes in odd directions without going off the rails. Not many songs can break out the fiddle and an organ in the same song, but Reason to Believe manages the trick, with the arrangement shifting around enough to keep it from being very predictable. It’s a pretty great song all around.

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