Mick Jagger is acknowledged as the greatest front man ever, he has single handedly defined what it means to be the singer with a rock band, a blues band or any other kind of band during his fifty year career. Whether it’s in the studio or on stage – where he and the rest of the Rolling Stones have performed in front of more people than any band in history – he continually sets the standard to which others aspire, yet rarely attain.
With his songwriting partner and band mate Keith Richards he has written some of the most recognizable rock anthems of the last fifty years. Songs that are the staple of every covers band in the world; songs that have been performed by just about everyone who is singing or playing in a band.
Born Michael Philip Jagger in Dartford, Kent, in 1943, he met Keith Richards at Wentworth Primary School a few years later. The pair lost touch but reconnected at the local railway station in 1960. By then, they both shared a deep love and understanding of American rhythm and blues, including Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed and Muddy Waters whose song, ‘Rollin’ Stone’ inspired the name of the band they eventually formed in 1962 with guitarist Brian Jones.
Dropping out of the London School of Economics in 1963 to pursue a career in music it was initially as, ‘just another beatboom band’ that the Stones were perceived, but all too soon Mick’s on stage and on camera persona, particularly on numerous 1960s TV shows, marked him and the Stones out as being different from the other bands – the others mostly liked to wear suits.
Encouraged to write songs by their then manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, Mick and Keith began by coming up with what were usually ballads, but they quickly got into their stride, but not as many people think – it wasn’t Mick writing the words and Keith the music. Mick would sometimes came up with musical ideas that along with Keith’s ideas they forged into some of the most enduring records from the sixties. Among their earliest compositions are¬ ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’, ‘Get Off Of My Cloud’, ’19th Nervous Breakdown’, ‘Paint It, Black’, ‘Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?, ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ and ‘Honky Tonk Women’. Throughout the 1970s and right up until the present day Mick and Keith have continued to come up with what is the gold standard for song writing.
Away from the Rolling Stones Mick has pursued his interest in film by acting, most notably as the lead of the oft-referenced cult movie Performance, directed by Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg in 1968, but also in the title role of Ned Kelly in 1970, and in Geoff Murphy’s sci-fi film Freejack in 1992. Mick’s filmography includes cameos in Bent, Sean Mathias’ 1997 film The Man From Elysian Fields, as well as the World War II drama Enigma, directed by Michael Apted, which he co-produced in 2001. The same year, his Jagged Films company produced Being Mick, a revealing documentary about the singer.
Mick loves sport – one of the earliest published photos of him is with his school basketball team that was coached by his father – and today his love of cricket sees him following England at Test matches and one-day internationals when his hectic work schedule allows. His love of art and design has seen him fully involved, along with with Charlie Watts, on the band’s stage set design and for the album cover art of many of the Rolling Stones near sixty career albums.
Mick has also undertaken solo musical projects, starting with “Memo From Turner” in 1970, for the soundtrack of Performance, and he has issued 15 solo singles and 5 solo albums, including She’s The Boss in 1985, Wandering Spirit in 1993 and Goddess In The Doorway in 2001. In 2011 Mick along with Joss Stone, Dave Stewart, A. R. Rahman, and Damian Marley formed the group, SuperHeavy and released a self-titled album.
There’s not a singer in a rock band that has not at some point imagined he had the charisma of Mick Jagger, his passion for performing, the stamina to be able to play high energy two-hour shows and the ability to hold an audience in the palm of his hand. It’s also impossible to imagine the cultural history of the last fifty years without Mick Jagger.