THIS week’s Icon speaks with the heather-free lilt of London’s Highgate, where he was born, but is a passionate Scot not averse even to making the ultimate Caledonian sacrifice: wearing tartan trews.

This column has spoken out passionately against that sartorial calamity in general, but we have to admit that Sir Rod Stewart wears them well.

But where did this world-famous singing star acquire his Scottish psyche? From as direct a source as you can get: his dad. Robert Stewart was a master builder in Leith, who married Elsie Gilbart, from Upper Holloway, and later ran a newsagent’s in North London.

Unsurprisingly for a Leither, Rod’s dad was a Hibee (supporter of Hibernian Football Club), and a fanatical follower of the Scottish national team (in 1928, ticketless, he climbed into Wembley and took the absent King of Afghanistan’s seat in the Royal Box), which affection he passed on to his boy.

Rod went to his first England v Scotland match at the age of 12. “And I’ve had the bug ever since.” He also became a passionate supporter of Celtic (with Manchester United his English team), because something about the Glasgow club simply “clicked” with him.

READ MORE: Top Canadian Barack Obama confuses Ireland with Scotland

Though he was on the other side in 2014, earlier this week he hinted at supporting a second referendum on independence, largely because of Brexit, telling Spanish newspaper El Mundo: “I love Scotland, the country and its people.”

Rod famously also loves women (he has eight children by five partners), particularly blondes, and has been married to Penny Lancaster since 2007.

With his bedtime hair and the sort of raspy voice that is curiously sexy in both men and women, at the age of 76 he has managed to avoid developing an older man’s featureless face and remains eternally handsome, the swine that he is.

So much for football, Leith, London, blondes and tousled hair. We should probably say a word about music, which has also been of some importance in his life.

After all, he has sold 240 million records worldwide.

That side of his life, nurtured by a music-loving family, began in 1962 when he took up busking with harmonica.

His first public singing took place on Ban the Bomb marches, as the young Rod was rather more Red than he is today: “Ban the bomb. You name it, we ban it. Anti-apartheid. Save Cats. Save dogs. Shag in Tents [see below]. What a life,” he has recalled.

In 1963, he joined London-based Jimmy Powell and the Dimensions, on harmonica and vocals, then went to Steampacket with Long John Baldry and Julie Driscoll before hooking up in 1967 with the blues-rock Jeff Beck Group, where he met his similarly tousle-haired soul buddy Ronnie Wood.

READ MORE: Listen up, BBC – stop interrupting the PM when he’s talking tripe, by Rab McNeil

These two life-loving lads joined The Faces in 1969, and it was here, in this boozy, good-time rock and roll band, that Rod’s career really took off, with the equestrian high point being 1971’s album A Nod’s As Good as a Wink to a Blind Horse.

At the same time, Rod was embarking on a solo career, and it was also in 1971 – damned fine year for the boy – that he released Every Picture Tells a Story, featuring all the other Faces and a ballad called Maggie May which, like the album, topped the charts in Britain, America, Canada and Australia.

Maggie May is famously about a young man’s ambivalent relationship with an older woman and is based on Rod losing his virginity with a 35-year-old lady in a tent at the 1961 Beaulieu Jazz Festival, in Hampshire. For camping enthusiasts, the song has disappointingly sparse information about the pegs and guy ropes featuring at the venue.

In 1972, Rod followed up with the album Never a Dull Moment which, with its single You Wear It Well, topped the charts again. In 1975, the Faces broke up and, since then, Rod has followed a fantastically successful career, with his 32nd studio album, The Tears of Hercules, released earlier this month.

Along the way, his greatest hits have included Sailing, I Don’t Want to Talk About It, and the notably commercial Are You of the Opinion That I am Sexually Attractive? His genres have spanned rock, folk, crooning and, regrettably soul and R&B.

All this time, his distinctively throaty voice box has served him well, and his Caledonian outlook has never deserted him, as seen in the following doubt: “There’s a lot of Scottish blood in me telling me I’m no good and I’ll be found out and it’ll be taken away from me.” Similarly, when Scottish national football star Billy Gilmour recently went down with Covid before a big game, Rod told the Daily Record: “Why does it always have to happen to us? If something goes wrong, it’s always us.” Spoken like a true Scotsman.

Despite being essentially Scottish, Rod needless to say has had his critics. He stands accused, for example, of being a model railway enthusiast, with a 23ft x 124ft set in the attic of his house in Los Angeles. “It’s a hobby I don’t usually admit to,” he has said, with an admirable sense of guilt.

There was a period when he was accused of being artistically lazy and “phoning in” his albums, and he confesses to finding song-writing “hard work” (hence all the covers). In addition, life has bowled him all the usual googlies: cancer of the thyroid in 2000 and the prostate in 2017, both successfully treated.

But, obviously, he has much to be thankful for, including a happy marriage and a big Grade II listed hoose near Epping Forest, with a full-sized football pitch in the grounds (buddy Gordon Strachan’s Celtic team once trained there before a friendly with Fulham).

Back to football: he nearly made it as a professional, but concluded: “[A] musician’s life is a lot easier. I can … get drunk and make music, and I can’t do that and play football. I plumped for music. They’re the only two things I can do actually: play football and sing.” Two things: the lucky sod.