Writer(s): Rod Stewart/Martin Quittenton (see lyrics here)
First Charted: July 17, 1971
Peak: 15 US, 13 CB, 11 HR, 1 CL, 15 UK, 11 CN, 14 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 30.3 video, 186.21 streaming
Awards: (Click on award for more details).
About the Song:
If released today, the story behind “Maggie May” would make for celebrity tabloid headlines declaring that the young Rod Stewart had been sexually abused by an older woman. TC Stewart confirms that the song’s storyline of a teenage boy seduced and then cast away by an older woman is a true tale, more or less, about losing his virginity. WK
The song, however, has not become iconic because of salaciousness, but sincerity and great storytelling. Based on an an old Liverpudlian folk tune, TC it works like a novella with “colorful characters, surprising situations, and unforgettable moments.” AMG It blends “epic simplicity, self-deprecating humor and emotional truth” AMG in the protagonist’s reflection over “the ambivalence and contradictory emotions” WK he feels.
Musically, the song offers Stewart’s “usual fine, raspy singing” TB and “relentless drum-bashing” RS500 from Mickey Waller, which critic Greil Marcus amusingly proclaimed deserving of a Nobel Prize for physics. MA The unquestionably prize-winning song nearly became an also-ran. It barely made it on the Every Picture Tells a Story album and then was relegated to the B-side of “Reason to Believe.” If DJ’s hadn’t flipped it over, Stewart jokes, he would have returned to his job as a gravedigger. RS500
That hardly seems likely. While Stewart had already released two solo albums to little notice, he’d still become a name of note fronting the Jeff Beck group and had moved on to the influential Faces. His name was likely to go down in the annals of rock history regardless; however, “Maggie” gave him the definitive song to lift him to superstar status.
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First posted 8/14/2011; last updated 4/24/2021.