The song was written by Rod Stewart and guitarist Martin Quittenton (of Steamhammer). It describes the roller coaster of emotions of a young boy involved with an older woman. Stewart has said that it comes from his own experience, more or less. Maggie May was not the woman’s real name, but rather a name taken from an old Liverpool folk song about a prostitute who robbed a homeward bound sailor. Anyway, the song was released on Stewart’s 1971 album Every Picture Tells a Story. It was released as a single in 1971, originally as the B-Side to “Reason to Believe.” However, DJs, particularly in the U.S., preferred “Maggie May.” The song was an international success, and helped to launch Stewart’s solo career. In 1971, the single went to #1 on the U.S. Billboard Ht 100, U.S. Cash Box Top 100, as well as in Australia, Canada, and the U.K. It went to #2 in Ireland, #3 in New Zealand, #5 in Switzerland, and #11 in Germany. Rolling Stone magazine lists the song among “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
“Maggie May” has also been included on numerous compilation albums. Most versions have the lovely guitar solo “Henry,” which was composed by Martin Quittenton. On the track were Stewart (lead vocals), Martin Quittenton (acoustic guitar), Ronnie Wood (electric guitar, twelve-string guitar, bass guitar), Micky Waller (drums, cymbals), Ian McLagan (Hammond organ), and Ray Jackson (mandolin).
Rod Stewart was knighted at the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours. He is now Sir Roderick DAvid “Rod” Stewart.