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Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger

There are three distinct periods in Mick Jagger's career. First was the awkward Rolling Stones Blues shouter/lead singer. Like Elvis, when he saw the audience's reaction to his movements, he started to stylize them into an effective routine. Next came Jumpin' Jack Jagger, undisputed leader and central character. This persona led the Stones as they created their best and most important Rock. By the early '80s, it was Mick Jagger - showbiz professional - whose personal life got more attention than his or his group's music.

Mick and guitarist Keith Richards, who had been childhood friends, met on a train. Both had developed a passion for R&B and decided to start a group. Soon the Stones were playing London clubs and at the vanguard of the developing R&B scene. Under the guidance of manager Andrew Loog Oldham, the band signed a contract and began recording Blues favorites. They did a cover of Lennon & McCartney's "I Wanna Be Your Man." Probably looking for a pop hit. When The Beatles recorded it, Ringo handled the vocals.

At this point, Jagger was doing a lot of jumping around in his striped shirts and pullovers. Group photos show a sharp contrast between Jagger and guitarist Brian Jones. Mick looked a bit goofy, like he was trying too hard, while Brian was all cool reserve, and usually dressed much sharper.

At Oldham's suggestion Jones, Richards and Jagger began songwriting. Brian just couldn't do it, but Mick and Keith launched one of the most successful and long lasting partnerships in Rock. Through the '60' s, while the two learned their craft, their songs were hit and miss - they were pretty much a singles band. They did come up with THE song of the decade, ("I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."

In the late '60s, Jagger, Richards and Jones were arrested separately and charged with drug possession. Once the legal hassles were resolved, most of the charges were dropped (only Richards did time - briefly), they re-grouped and embarked on the most artistically and commercially successful period of their career.

More than The Beatles, the Stones were a live act. Mick was too much of an extrovert to limit his activities to the studio. He wanted the group to perform live. All were in favor except Jones, who due to drug problems, just couldn't deal with it anymore. He left and was replaced by Mick Taylor. Jones drowned in the swimming pool at his home shortly thereafter (7/3/69), under mysterious circumstances ( the death was listed as "a misadventure while under the influence of alcohol and drug" while rumors circulated for years foul play was involved).

Jagger paid tribute at the beginning of a free concert in London's Hyde Park which marked Taylor's debut with the band. But even more important, the Stones, having survived their trials and tribulations (including the recording of the psychedelic mess "Their Satanic Majesty's Request"), were now staking their claim as "The World's Greatest Rock Band." Throughout this period, Jagger displayed an incredible stage presence developed over years of touring. He commanded attention. There was no one else even close. "Sympathy For the Devil," "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "Brown Sugar" were signature songs. The band cut through America on their most successful tour until they reached Altamont. A free concert, a Woodstock West (they missed the real deal), at the local speedway, it was one mistake piled on another. The biggest mistake was hiring Hell's Angels for security. Watching "Gimme Shelter," a film document of the Stones' U.S. tour it was clear early on, the situation was totally out of hand. The Angels were randomly bashing people. Jagger, dressed in his cape and boots, wanting to appear menacing, looked silly when compared to the real violence taking place right in front of him. Jagger repeatedly asked the audience to mellow out. He even threatened to stop the concert. Not only did the audience ignore him, even Richards kept on playing until Jagger grabbed the neck of his guitar. Ironically, the worst violence took place during "Sympathy For The Devil." There was one death and countless serious injuries.

By the mid-70's Jagger and the Stones followed trends. Sometimes it worked - "Miss You" - and sometimes it didn't - "Emotional Rescue." As a Rock band, the Rolling Stones had occasional flashes, like the ubiquitous "Start Me Up" or "Mixed (Mick's) Emotions" but in the '80s, they were back to being a singles band. On the road, they were as big a draw as ever. The older Mick needed to do wind sprints to warm up for concerts but he was now, more than ever, the master showman.

Jagger's messy divorce from former model Jerry Hall and all the events leading up to it made him a tabloid favorite.

As an actor Mick Jagger "starred" in "The Performance" and "Ned Kelly" and made other film appearances. He was the ringmaster in the Rolling Stones' unreleased TV special "The Rock and Roll Circus." Think "Magical Mystery Tour" all over again. But the Stones' best film and Mick's strongest performance was "Gimme Shelter." The film records a successful tour marred by an ill-conceived free concert disaster.

The old cliche goes "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Early in his career Jagger aped James Brown and numerous others. In return, Jagger's dancing and broad lips were parodied for comedic effect. Turnabout was fair play (another cliche). But the joke, many decades later, morphed into admiration.

In '11, Maroon 5 released "Moves Like Jagger" which was a duet featuring the band's lead vocalist Adam Levine and pop singer Christina Aguilera. The accompanying video also got a lot of attention. There were vintage Jagger performance clips and a stream of look-a-likes imitating the master.

Within weeks, SuperHeavy, consisting of Jagger, producer and former Eurhythmics guitarist Dave Stewart, Soul singer Joss Stone, Indian composer A. R. Rahman and Reggae artist Damian Marley, dropped their self-titled debut. The project had begun in '09.

Mick Jagger Discography


1985 She's The Boss
1987 Primitive Cool
1993 Wandering Spirit
2001 Goddess In The Doorway
2007 The Very Best Of Mick Jagger


Gimme Shelter 1970

While not blessed with the physical grace of a James Brown or even a Michael Jackson, Jagger launched himself around the stage in the mid '60s in a frantic attempt to be the most sexually charged performer of the day. The splits, scissors kick and mock dance steps all paid off. For a lot of people Jagger was the Stones. But as the '60s were winding down, three of the five Stones (including Mick) found themselves in serious legal trouble over drugs. By the time it was all sorted out, Brain Jones was dead and the Rolling Stones, with Mick Taylor as Brian's replacement, were ready to hit the road.

"Gimme Shelter" is one of the most telling and honest Rock movies ever made. It also reveals the best (and worst) of the Rolling Stones at their peak.

Most movies open with a struggle or conflict that the hero overcomes. "Gimme Shelter" begins with the Stones and especially Mick in top form before an adoring Madison Square Garden audience. Mick's performance is perfect. There's none of the over-the-top gestures of the past. Here's a confident performer delivering. Had this been a single concert film, it would have been captivating. But that isn't where it's going.

The end comes to a crashing, ruinous conclusion at Altamont. Dressed in a black cape (sort of Batman/Spider Man reject) Mick has no control over what's happening in front of him. The Hell's Angels "security" has run amok. The Madison Square Garden performer, the one in total control, is lost amongst Altamont's violence. His threats to stop playing fall by the wayside. Jagger made films before and after "Gimme Shelter" but those were acting jobs. This film shows both a magnificent performer and a futile voice in the same movie. There are also some humorous bits with the Stones' attorney as he executes legal maneuvers to get the concert rolling. Finally, "Let It Be" illustrates it and "Gimme Shelter" proves it - footage of groups in the studio is pretty boring. If you're not directly involved it can seem as though time stands still.


"The Rolling Stones Unauthorized Biography" takes the group from its origins to the early '70s, so it covers their prime period. There are excellent photos, narrative articles and lead sheets (lyrics and melody) to the Stones songs. Nice summary.

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