As the lead singer for the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger virtually invented the concept of the rock & roll frontman. Taking his cues from soul singers, bluesmen, and Elvis Presley, Jagger crafted a magnetic, carnal persona that retained its charisma even after it was mimicked and expanded by countless singers who followed in his footsteps. He may have been surrounded by disciples, but Jagger never left the spotlight, touring with the Rolling Stones until he was in his seventies. Unlike his lifelong collaborator Keith Richards, Jagger always seemed eager to explore territory outside of the Stones, releasing a solo single called “Memo from Turner” in 1970 and launching a full-fledged solo career in 1985, 21 years after the band’s debut. When he released She’s the Boss, it appeared that the Stones may have been approaching the end of their career, but it soon transpired that Jagger’s solo career would run concurrently with that of the band’s. Over the ensuing decades, he released a string of solo albums and formed a supergroup called SuperHeavy with David A. Stewart, and while none of these projects commanded the attention that the Rolling Stones achieved, they nevertheless showcased a restless talent with an interest in pop, dance, and world music.
The Aristipposian Poet
The Life You Give: Mick Jagger
in celebration of his life in music
July 26 at 10pm EST
Mick Jagger met Keith Richards when they were attending the Dartford Maypole County Primary School as children. They met again as teenagers in 1960, discovering they shared a love of American blues, rock & roll, and R&B. At the time, Jagger was a student at the London School of Economics and was playing with a London band called Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys. Within two years, Jagger and Richards had formed the Rolling Stones. During the course of the ’60s, the Stones were the only rock & roll band to rival the popularity of the Beatles. In the process, they cultivated an image as the most dangerous band in rock & roll, a status that was confirmed not only by the band’s reckless, decadent behavior, but also by Jagger’s lyrical obsessions with sex and violence.
In the early ’70s, Jagger began to break away from the group. He had become the most famous member of the Stones, partially due to his role as the band’s lead singer, but also due to his immersion in the jet-set lifestyle, where he became a familiar figure in New York art circles and Hollywood. Jagger began acting toward the end of the ’60s, first in the Australian film Ned Kelly and then in Performance, which contained his most celebrated performance. After his brief foray into film, Jagger concentrated on singing with the Stones and being a celebrity, appearing in mainstream gossip columns as frequently as music publications.
During the early ’80s, Jagger and Richards conflicted over the musical direction of the band. Jagger wanted to move the band in a more pop and dance-oriented direction while Richards wanted to stay true to the band’s rock & roll and blues roots. By 1984, Jagger had begun recording a solo album where he pursued a more mainstream, dance-inflected pop direction. The resulting album, She’s the Boss, was released in 1985. Jagger filmed a number of state-of-the-art videos for the album, which all received heavy airplay from MTV, helping propel the record’s first single, “Just Another Night,” to number 12 and the album to platinum status. “Lucky in Love,” the second single from the album, wasn’t quite as successful, just scraping the bottom of the Top 40. In the summer of 1985, Jagger and David Bowie recorded a cover of Martha & the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street” for the Live Aid organization. The single peaked at number seven on the U.S. pop charts; all the proceeds from its sale were donated to Live Aid.
Around the same time that the Rolling Stones released their 1986 album, Dirty Work, Jagger released the theme song from the movie Ruthless People as a single (it peaked at number 51) and told Richards that the Stones would not tour to support Dirty Work. For the next few years, Jagger and Richards barely spoke to each other and sniped at one another in the press. During this time, Jagger tried to make his solo career as successful as the Rolling Stones, pouring all of his energy into his second solo album, 1987’s Primitive Cool. Although the album received stronger reviews than She’s the Boss, only one of the singles — “Let’s Work” — scraped the bottom of the Top 40 and the record didn’t go gold.
Following the commercial failure of Primitive Cool, Jagger returned to the fold of the Rolling Stones in 1989, recording, releasing, and touring behind the Steel Wheels album. Steel Wheels was a massively successful venture, and after the tour was completed, the Stones entered a slow period, where each of the members pursued solo projects. Jagger recorded his next solo album with Rick Rubin, who had previously worked with the Beastie Boys and Red Hot Chili Peppers. The resulting Wandering Spirit was released in 1993 and received the strongest reviews of any of Jagger’s solo efforts. The album entered the U.S. charts at number 11 and went gold the year it was released. A year after the arrival of Wandering Spirit, the Stones reunited for Voodoo Lounge, supporting the album with another extensive international tour. The Stones repeated this pattern with 1997’s Bridges to Babylon before entering a quiet phase.
Jagger welcomed in the 21st century with 2001’s Goddess in the Doorway, his fourth solo album; despite a glowing review from Rolling Stone, it failed to generate much attention. The Rolling Stones celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2002 with the compilation Forty Licks and an accompanying tour, then Jagger turned his attention to collaborating with Dave Stewart for songs for the 2004 remake of the classic 1966 Michael Caine film Alfie. Mick duetted with Joss Stone on Alfie, thereby laying the ground work for the Jagger, Stewart, and Stone supergroup SuperHeavy, which also featured A.R. Rahman and Damian Marley. SuperHeavy would release their lone album in 2011, and during the gap between that eponymous record and Alfie, Jagger kept himself busy through his film production company and with Stones projects, including the release of a new album called A Bigger Bang in 2005 and a number of tours. Following the Stones’ 2016 blues album, Blue & Lonesome, Jagger returned his attention to his solo career for the first time in 16 years.
By Stephen Thomas Erlewine / Source: all music