Known all over the world as one of the coolest frontmen of all time, Mick Jagger is the embodiment of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle. We look back on nearly 60 years in showbiz.
A star is born
Despite being brought up to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather by becoming a teacher, Sir Michael Philip Jagger, founding member of the Rolling Stones, argues he was always a singer.
In their joint memoir, According to the Rolling Stones, he explained how,
"I always sang as a child. I was one of those kids who just liked to sing. Some kids sing in choirs; others like to show off in front of the mirror. I was in the church choir and I also loved listening to singers on the radio—the BBC or Radio Luxembourg—or watching them on TV and in the movies."
Asked later by the Guardian if he thought he had grown to be like his father, Mick replied,
“No. He worked a lot harder than I do. But I think people did in those days. I don't think they got time off."
Mick first met his future band mate and the co-writer he would later enter a life long love/hate partnership with, Keith Richards, at primary school. The pair lost contact after the 11-plus—which sent Jagger to Dartford Grammar School and Richards to Dartford Technical High School for Boys—but were reunited through a chance encounter years later.
The pair stumbled across each other on platform two at Dartford railway Station in July 1960 as Mick was en route to his classes at London School of Economics. As they got chatting, they discovered a mutual love for rhythm and blues and as their rediscovered friendship blossomed, they moved into a flat in Edith Grove in Chelsea together, along with future Stones guitarist Brian Jones.
"You start out playing rock’n’roll so you can have sex and do drugs, but you end up doing drugs so you can still play rock’n’roll and have sex"
The flat was dank and depressing, with a bathtub in the kitchen, a carpet covered in cigarette butts and a family of rats for co-tenants. Mick would later joke that during this time he and Richards "switched accents", as he lost his upper-class Kent accent and Richards refined his working class twang.
Jagger continued his school work through this time, studying business using a government grant, concerned that the band would never make enough money to commit to full time. He originally planned to become either a journalist or a politician, although according to Christopher Andersen's biography, Jagger, he soon abandoned his plans as they both "seemed like too much hard work".
Speaking of those pre-fame days to the Guardian, Jagger explained,
"Before we got famous, we were rebellious on our own minor level because we were very frustrated because we were playing all this blues music and nobody wanted it. So we went f**k you and your f*****g old jazz, because it was a terrible music scene with all these old farts playing clarinets… The record companies were ghastly Dickensian organisations. Nobody knew what they were doing. And they didn't want to pay you, so we were very rebellious against that, and the rest of it just came naturally after that. So it wasn't such a leap into doing it on camera, so to speak."
Starting the Stones
In the early days, the Rolling Stones played for no money, a hardship that would see the three founding members (Ketih, Mick and BKeith, huddling for warmth in one double bed each night.
So rapid was their ascent to fame however, that by the autumn of 1963, Jagger had abandoned his studies to commit to the band full time and the boys were playing small sold out gigs to screaming crowds.
One such night saw some surprise guests sneak into the audience mid-set in the shape of the four Beatles. Impressed by what they saw they agreed to return to the Stones's apartment for some after show drinks.
They made no secret of their disgust at the state of the dank flat, but nevertheless stayed to drink with the band for three hours, even signing a photo for Brian before they left. It was the start of a life long friendship and rivalry between the bands, and Jagger and Lennon in particular.
The Beatles would later pen the Stones' second single, I Wanna Be Your Man. Jagger and Richards were encouraged shortly after to begin writing their own material, and despite a shaky start, this would later form the makings of one of the greatest—and most tempestuous—songwriting partnerships of all time.
During their first photoshoot (above and below title) with photographer Phillip Townsend, the band proved that they had already accrued some diva habits. Townsend remembers:
“I stuck them in the middle of Ifield road with a no parking sign. It was the first picture that had ever been taken of them together. As I bought them chickens I really didn’t want to buy them beer as well but Mick Jagger said, 'Yeh we’ll have five pints please.' I said, 'No you won’t because I’ve just bought you two chickens I can’t buy you five pints as well.' So that’s why they’re looking at the pictures and holding tankards up.”
Love in Vain
Sex appeal has always been an intrinsic part of Jagger's public persona, and in 1966 he broke hearts around the world by going public with his relationship with singer and actress Marianne Faithful.
Aged just 18 and with a young son, Marianne left her husband to be with Jagger and the pair soon became the poster children for the Swinging London scene.
During one particularly notorious raid of Keith Richards's Sussex home, Marianne was discovered by police wearing nothing more than a fur rug. She later blamed the raid for her eventual breakdown and the dissolving of their relationship. "That drugs raid really damaged me," she told Q magazine. "It damaged our relationship, and four years later I was living on the street as a drug addict. Do I blame anyone or anything for that? I do blame the Redlands thing, yes."
"Maybe the most that you can expect from a relationship that goes bad is to come out of it with a few good songs"
Their relationship is the subject of many Stones songs, including Sister Morphine, Sympathy for the Devil, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Wild Horses and I Got the Blues. Fueled by their drug addictions, the relationship came to an end in 1970.
Meanwhile, Jagger's fluidity of gender expression was finding him fans from all walks of life. Phil May, a friend of Keith Richards, described his appeal during that time:
“Mick was their secret weapon from the beginning. He was incredible, electrifying—a complete original. Before Mick, the girls would hug the stage while the guys would hang back at the bar trying to look as disinterested as possible. For the first time it was mainly guys who fough their way to the front—they literally shoved women and punched other guys to get close to Mick. Jagger was the first performer to appeal to both sexes—heterosexual men as well as females and gays. He could arouse both the sexes like no one before or since.”
Jagger had several more high profile relationships including the singer Marsha Hunt for whom he wrote the controversial Brown Sugar , Bianca De Macias who he married in 1971 and divorced in 1978 on grounds of his adultery, Playboy model Bebe Buell, model Jerry Hall, singer Carla Bruni, grandaughter of Roald Dahl Sophie Dahl and—perhaps most famously in recent years—fashion designer L'Wren Scott.
His current partner, Melanie Hamrick, is a ballerina. Jagger has eight children, including the successful models Jade, Georgia-Mae and Elizabeth Jagger.
Speaking to Harper's Bazaar, Georgia-Mae claimed that fame didn't change Mick's parenting skills, "My dad's not a very intimidating father figure. People say all the time, 'Your dad is so cool'. But I’m like, 'But they’re my parents and they cringe me out all the time.' "
"It was different—going to concerts and travelling a lot—but at home it was kind of like a normal environment. My mum has chickens and we have a sheepdog; we have a little farm set-up going on, so I had a really normal upbringing in that way."
Friend or foe?
"Sometimes I wonder, What do you really want to do, Keith?" Keith Richards mused to Esquire magazine in 2015. "You can sit at home, do a bit of painting or writing or whatever. But there’s a certain magnetic thing that says what I really want to do is play with Charlie Watts and Mick and Ronnie. That’s the force that’s indescribable. You put this bunch into a room with a couple of microphones and some instruments and something is going to come out. We’re forced to do this at gunpoint!"
The love/hate relationship between the two surviving founding members of the Stones was brought to boiling point in 2010 when Richards released a tell-all memoir called Life, which didn't hold back on his often troubled relationship with Jagger. Reunited in 2015, Jagger was evidently still riled by people asking if their relationship was like a marriage,
"People say the stupidest things and that’s one of the dumbest because it’s completely different from being married when you work with someone. I work with Keith and I’ve known him for a long time. A marriage is something completely different, having been in a marriage before. This is a working relationship. You always have difficult times with people you work with. Sometimes they can be really difficult and irascible and mind-bogglingly difficult but you have to try and get on and that’s what you try and do."
Keith meanwhile embraces the darker side of the partnership,
"What do you expect after 50 years? You’ve got two very volatile guys who’ve been through a whole lot of stuff in their life and still somehow manage—when we look at each other eyeball-to-eyeball—we say, 'You know what’s what, I know what’s what, let’s get on with it.' There’s something guiding us. Sometimes I despise the man, others, I love that man so much. It’s like your brother. I never had one, so he’s my brother. That’s the way it is, bless his heart."
As well as the enduring legacy of the Rolling Stones—who are performing live together to this day, including a legendary Glastonbury performance in 2013—Jagger has released a number of solo albums and collaborations with other artists.
One of his most notable collaborations was on a cover version of Marvin Gaye's Dancing in the Street with David Bowie to raise money for Live Aid.
Speaking about the collaboration, Jagger said "We enjoyed camping it up. The video is hilarious to watch. It was the only time we really collaborated on anything, which is really stupid when you think about it."
He was deeply saddened by Bowie's passing in 2016, releasing a statement that said, "David was always an inspiration to me and a true original. He was wonderfully shameless in his work we had so many good times together. He was my friend, I will never forget him."
Today, Jagger is widely acknowledged as one of the most successful and popular frontmen of all time and with the most recent Stones album released in 2016, he shows no signs of slowing down.