The birthday of a “legend” is an increasingly rare event, both for the often exaggerated and overused attribution of the definition, and for all the artists who left us among the ones that could legitimately use the title. Luckily Mick Jagger is still here: leader of the Rolling Stones and one of the greatest performers of all time, 75 years spent mostly around the world, spreading the word of rock and keeping it alive, sharing a unique adventure together with millions of fans.
Mick Jagger’s life was not supposed to go as it went: son of a family of the average English bourgeoisie, he was supposed to become a teacher (like most of his family) or a journalist, but a meeting changed forever his way and the one of many other people. In 1960 he came across Keith Richards, who shared with him the passion for Blues and the wish to challenge himself with “the music of the devil”. Then they met Brian Jones and they created The Rolling Stones, with which they began to be noticed in London clubs until they signed their first record contract. The rest, as they say, is history.
Mick Jagger wrote songs that belong to the heritage of rock, such as (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Sympathy For The Devil, Tumbling Dice, Gimme Shelter, Start Me Up (and at least thirty more), and masterpiece albums like Sticky Fingers, Beggar’s Banquet, Let It Bleed and Exile On Main Street. But the influence of Mick Jagger in the history of modern music goes beyond thr (immense) merits of the author: few have marked the collective imagination until they become recognizable icons everywhere like him, as tireless stage animal and experienced showman. Over the years he has forged from scratch the very figure of the frontman, evolving and stealing as much as possible from those who were already great: from Little Richard he took the performing style, from James Brown the heritage of movements, dance and coordination, creating a unique and fascinating character, probably unrepeatable.
You cannot talk about Jagger without mentioning his twin on stage: Keith Richards has gone with him through decades of music, trends, drugs and quarrels. Especially the latter have often divided the two great grandparents of rock, unable at some point of their lives and careers to find points of contact besides the studio and the concerts. The first misunderstandings emerged for women’s issues: Mick made a movie with Anita Pallenberg (Keith’s long-time companion) and he didn’t seem to have trouble sleeping with her. Richards did not take it very well and, although perhaps it could be expected (as he then said “I stole it from Brian Jones, I imagined that others would try with her”), he was not ready for such a move from his partner. Then Keith disappeared for almost all the 70s, lost in his toxic nightmares, forcing Jagger to take on his shoulders all the responsibilities of the band and to become the true leader of the group, a role that he didn’t want to give up even after Keef returned (quite) cleaned up. From those contrasts about who the alpha male was, they arrived to the conflict that seemed to really close forever the Rolling Stones story, when in the 80s Mick decided to start his solo career and to consider the end of the experience with his old band. His works out of the Rolling Stones were nothing extraordinary: empty, pretentious and banal records, with only a few pieces that seemed worth. At the end of the decade he had to give up and face again his old partner.
There are no other cases in the history of rock where the relationship between singer and guitarist has been so contrasted and full of sparks, but at the same time so close and definitive: one without the other has always been half of something, and only together they managed to be the most recognizable rock pair, like Lennon & McCartney. Jagger has accepted over the years a fame that wants him as a person attached to money and always looking for some good sponsorship (which is probably a description not very far from truth) while Richards has always been the “pure” one, linked to most innocent part of the rock (if this ever existed).
Today Mick Jagger is a 76-years old man who, instead of accompanying the many grandchildren to the park or give unwanted advices to construction workers, still stands on the stages all over the world and dances as if he’s still thirty. Maybe this is not exactly the idea that he had for his old age, but who cares: the grandchildren can always buy the park directly, with all the workers inside.