Rod Stewart’s “Have I Told You Lately” Is Still The Best There Will Ever Be

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Have you listened to this song latelyHave you listened to this song lately

Tender, heartfelt, and just a bit titillating and sensual, Rod Stewart broke the mold when he sang “Have I Told You Lately” We’ve heard plenty of ballads before, and even more hymns, but it takes something special that perfectly captures how divine the power of love is. The original recording dates back to 1989, but it was Stewart’s ‘93 performance that really captured what it means to love with body, mind, heart, and soul.

Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison first wrote and recorded “Have I Told You Lately” and it retained its distinct power ballad sound, originally for his nineteenth studio album Avalon Sunset. The original peaked at number 12 in the U.S. and other artists quickly took a liking to covering the song – and it was Stewart’s that saw the ballad enjoy its furthest reach.

When love transcends the mortal into something divine

Van Morrison looked to his own then-recent discography and built “Have I Told You Lately” around the framework laid out by “Someone Like You” two years prior, which also became a hit at weddings. “Have I Told You Lately” was written as a prayer and quickly became the definitive love song of the next two decades.

Artists who put their spin on the song include Andy Williams, Kenny Rogers, Engelbert Humperdinck, Della Reese, and more.

Jump to ‘91 when Stewart wanted a go at covering this song with its “infectious sentimentality,” as the Record Mirror put it. A recorded version went onto his Vagabond Heart album that same year before a live version went onto his 1993 album Unplugged…and Seated. Just like that, Stewart’s raw, vulnerable, rough and emotional voice became the sound of this song and the soft, downright dreamy visuals of his video performance put us all under his spell.

The legacy of “Have I Told You Lately” sung by Rod Stewart

ROD STEWARTROD STEWART
ROD STEWART, 1993 / Everett Collection

Of course, the numbers tell a story of just how much Stewart’s cover took the airwaves by storm, surpassing Morrison’s original and reaching spot No. 4 and 5 on various U.S. and U.K. charts, and finally sitting pretty at number one on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart for fives weeks in a row. With sales of 700,000 copies in the U.S. alone, Stewart’s cover of “Have I Told You Lately” was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.

We were treated to a sequel in 2013 with yet another live performance by Stewart at The Troubadour, West Hollywood. Those wanting to relive that energizing, romantic moment could listen to it again and again on the deluxe edition of his album Time, released that very spring.

Even Rod Stewart grew visibly emotional when singing Have I Told You LatelyEven Rod Stewart grew visibly emotional when singing Have I Told You Lately
Even Rod Stewart grew visibly emotional when singing Have I Told You Lately / YouTube screenshot

Going completely against the grain, Stewart once again managed to make his live performance version sound just as good as – if not downright better than – the studio recording. Without all the bells and whistles of modern singers and musicians, Stewart treats listeners to a pure, unadulterated listen to the emotions in his voice – emotions that make up a love so powerful it must be divine.

All going this route did was make Stewart’s rendition all the more timeless. Listeners can turn this on and still feel its soothing effects, gushing praise like “I feel gifted and encouraged by his music – especially in these difficult times.” Another said, “There’s no one else above you,” a perfect nod to the sentiments of the song and how perfect Stewart’s delivery is. A different comment online notes, “It’s hard to top the legend that is Van Morrison. But this version is a fantastic rendition for its soul and honesty.” But this one probably sums up how enduring Stewart’s cover is: “This was a great song but Rod made it even greater!! Hearing this one live fills my heart with joy and nostalgia, full remembrance of happy times.”

His '93 version took the world by stormHis '93 version took the world by storm
His ’93 version took the world by storm / ©MTV / courtesy Everett Collection

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