Rod's monster disco hit Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? topped the US singles charts for four weeks Thirty five years ago this month and helped take the album Blondes Have More Fun to the No.1 spot in the album charts selling a very impressive 14 million copies worldwide.
The single was panned by the critics and even some long time Rod fans but Sexy became a worldwide sensation selling more than 2 million copies in the United States alone, It had already been released in the UK in November 1978 spending one week at the top of the charts in December It had also topped the charts in Australia for two weeks, and also topped the charts in Canada, Portugal and Spain.
Sexy is credited as being written by Stewart, Carmine Appice and Duane Hitchings,though it incorporates substantial elements of the melody from a song by Jorge Ben Jor.
Carmine Appice, who played drums on the track told Songfacts: "This was a story of a guy meeting a chick in a club. At that time, that was a cool saying. If you listen to the lyrics, 'She sits alone, waiting for suggestions, he's so nervous...' it's the feelings of what was going on in a dance club. The guy sees a chick he digs, she's nervous and he's nervous and she's alone and doesn't know what's going on, then they end up at his place having sex, and then she's gone." In a 2007 interview, co-writer Duane Hitchings noted that "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" was "a spoof on guys from the 'cocaine lounge lizards' of the Saturday Night Fever days. We Rock and Roll guys thought we were dead meat when that movie and the Bee Gees came out. The Bee Gees were brilliant musicians and really nice people. No big egos. Rod, in his brilliance, decided to do a spoof on disco. VERY smart man. There is no such thing as a "dumb" super success in the music business."
Rod later admitted in his autobiography,that he was well aware of the critical derision that greeted ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy’ — and he suffered his own regrets after he, Appice, and Hitchings were taken to court by Brazilian artist Jorge Ben Jor, who accused the trio of plagiarizing his song ‘Taj Mahal.’
“It was only a pop record, but you’d have thought I’d poisoned the water supply,” sighed Stewart, who admitted, “It didn’t help that the marketing campaign for the single had me stretched out in full Spandex-clad glory beneath the slogan ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?’” Of the trial, Stewart wrote, “I held my hand up straight away. Not that I’d stood in the studio and said, ‘Here, I know we’ll use that tune from Taj Mahal as the chorus. The writer lives in Brazil, so he’ll never find out.’ Clearly the melody had lodged itself in my memory and then resurfaced. Unconscious plagiarism, plain and simple. I handed over the royalties, again wondering whether ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ was partly cursed.”
Perhaps the only clear winner in the saga was blues legend Taj Mahal, who had a bit of fun with the whole thing by recording a song with the same riff, which he titled ‘Jorge Ben.’
Royalties from the song were donated to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Rod performed the song at the Music for UNICEF Concert at the United Nations General Assembly in January 1979.
The song has since experienced some retrospective acclaim as Rolling Stone placed the song at #308 in its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.