Friday, January 24, 2014
The protagonist of Rod Stewart's "Maggie May" may be rock's greatest unreliable narrator. His travails, he wants the song's Maggie to believe, have been extreme, in relation to her; yet, we never get to hear her side of the story. It seems likely that she has one. Still, Stewart's protagonist, unreliable or not, is so touchingly human that it is difficult not to be moved by his plaintive narrative; especially as Rod's voice is, in its sand-and-gravel texture, so unique. For this to be a hit single in 1971 made it a major rock moment, even more so than the Beatles and Stones Sixties singles; because this kind of narrative sophistication and nuance in popular culture is extremely rare. "Maggie May" still sounds as heart rending today as it did forty-three years ago; it courts timelessness successfully.