‘My voice has gotten a lot better': Rod Stewart discusses his road back from thyroid cancer surgery

Rod Stewart discusses the difficult road back from thyroid cancer from a few years ago, a situation that demanded surgery — and ultimately, he estimates, lowered his voice as much as half a tone.

Not that it’s slowed him down any: Stewart has put out five albums focused on the Great American Songbook since 2002, racking up sales of some 11 million in the U.S. along. He also did projects devoted to rock and soul classics, before turning to a Yuletide album in 2012.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Believe it or not, there was a time – long ago – when songbook-stylist Rod Stewart was a damn fine rock singer. Witness 1971’s “Every Picture Tells a Story.”]

Merry Christmas debuted in the Billboard Top 10 last month, even as Stewart released “Beatiful Morning, the advance single from a planned 2013 pop release. Stewart’s most recent album of original songs was 2001’s Human.

Oh, and he’s also written a memoir.

Hard to believe Stewart was one fighting just to sing one of his most recognizable tracks.

“It was a good nine months before the voice came back,” Stewart tells NPR. “Every day, I would go in and sing ‘Maggie May’ and I’d be able to sing “Wake up, Maggie,” and then my voice would go. The next day, I’d be able to go in with the band and sing, ‘Wake up, Maggie, I think I’ve got something to say to you.’ Then, we’d do line after line until I could sing the whole song. And then I could do two songs, and then I could do 20 songs.”

There was a noticeable (and welcome) change for Stewart, who just earned his second Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nod — this time as a member of the Faces.

“My voice has gotten a lot better over the last 10 years,” Stewart says, “especially when it comes to ballads. … It gave it a warmth that previously wasn’t there.”

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