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Jumpin’ Mick Jagger

What makes the Rolling Stones still rock? The answer to that one is easy – Mick Jagger!

Celebrating his 80th birthday on July 26, the singer – born Michael Philip Jagger – has created a brand of his own, thanks also to his solo albums and side projects outside the Rolling Stones.

Mick Jagger

Fathering his eighth child in 2016 [even though Jagger became a great grandfather in 2014!] or performing with the same energy, weeks after an emergency surgical procedure for a heart valve replacement in April 2019, the star has not slowed down his pace as the band that he fronts plans its umpteenth global tour, the next scheduled in 2024, having apparently rescheduled this year’s twelve shows in the U.S. and two in Canada.

Clearly, neither ‘Rubber Lips’ Jagger has lost his verve nor his b(r)and and its appeal, much like the band’s ‘14 On Fire’ tour that this writer witnessed in Abu Dhabi on February 21, 2014. Writing at the time, in a review, Jagger’s individual performance was described as having “remained outstanding and freakishly youthful with his swaggering walk intact”. Expectedly, Jagger was sprinting, spinning, and prancing as only he could, showing that that age has not withered his dynamism on stage. In India, we were fortunate to see Mick Jagger perform as part of Rolling Stones in Mumbai on April 7, 2003. So what is it that makes Mick Jagger continue to rock?

For starters, there is little denying that he is the most famous member of the Rolling Stones, at least partially due to the fact that he is their singer, but also because he is a celebrity who remains a regular feature in mainstream gossip columns. His jet set lifestyle and his presence in the global social world, including in the New York art world and, in Hollywood, as an actor, makes him unique among his peers. Mick Jagger’s last effort on the big screen was in a movie called ‘The Burnt Orange Heresy’, released in 2020, in which he appropriately plays a powerful art dealer-collector.

In all this, Jagger has also been the subject of several songs, but none so blatant as Maroon 5’s 2011 song, “Moves Like Jagger”. Jagger himself acknowledged his appreciation of the song in an interview, calling the recognition “very flattering”.

Controversy mostly never hurt anyone, least of all Jagger, when his collaborator in the Rolling Stones, guitarist Keith Richards, and him were barely on speaking terms during the ‘80s while Jagger wanted to move the band in the direction of pop and dance, whereas Richards wanted the Rolling Stones to be firmly rooted in its blues origins, which is precisely what got both one-time school mates together on that fateful day in 1960 in Chicago.

That was when Richards spied Jagger carrying two vinyl albums in hand – ‘Rockin’ At The Hops’ by Chuck Berry, and ‘The Best Of Muddy Waters’ – on a train platform. That led to a conversation about their mutual respect for these Chess Records’ legends, the electric sound that they had begun innovating in Chicago and the rest, as they say, is now history.

For those yet not aware, Rolling Stones is named after a Muddy Waters’ 1950 song, “Rollin’ Stone”. Further, the band’s instrumental, “2120 South Michigan Avenue”, was the address of the building housing Chess Records, and was recorded for the band’s second EP, ‘Five By Five’.

Cut to 2016 and, having course corrected after their move in a tangential musical direction in the ‘80s, the Rolling Stones rekindled their natural relationship with blues roots by recording ‘Blue & Lonesome’, an album featuring renditions of songs from the likes of Memphis Slim [the title track], Howlin’ Wolf [“Commit A Crime”], Little Walter [“I Gotta Go”/”Hate To See You Go”], and Jimmy Reed [“Little Rain”], among others, with Eric Clapton playing guitar on two of the 12 tracks.

The Rolling Stones juggernaut continues to chug into their sixth decade of rocking and rolling with their survival remaining directly connected with their global appeal, enthralling audiences across multi-generations, including millennials and GenZs—this has made them, arguably, the world’s greatest rock and roll band. At some stage of their early career, the band battled with the Beatles for musical virtuosity and star quality playing and, as a critic once wrote, “the dark side Yin to the Fab Four’s Yang”.

The Rolling Stones have always been ahead of competition in their foresight as the band launched their very own label in 1970 – after their recording contract with Decca Records expired – which was headed by Marshall Chess, son of Chess Records founder Leonard Chess. Slowly, but surely, the band upped the ante on live performances by moving to venues covering arenas and stadiums. After all these decades, the Rolling Stones remain one of the world’s top draws, which is great vindication of a band that was once considered “dangerous”, “reckless”, and “decadent”.

The magnetism of Mick Jagger’s charisma remains unabated with the concept of a rock and roll frontman being entirely his very own creation, but not without taking obvious cues and inspiration from soul singers, blues musicians, and even Elvis! While Jagger still appears hungry to innovate by moving outside the Rolling Stones, including with 2011’s ‘SuperHeavy’ [Jagger’s collaboration with our very own AR Rahman, on which Jagger sang “Satyameva Jayate” in sanskrit].

Nevertheless, Jagger does not want to break away fully from the Rolling Stone which, after all, made him a superstar – he keeps returning to it every step that he takes outside, knowing fully well by his unprecedented business acumen that the band remains his bread and butter, who are presently recording a new album, rumoured for release later this year, featuring Beatle Paul McCartney, and drummer Charlie Watts, who passed away in 2021.

Essentially, Jagger’s songs remain his single most important tool in musicianship, ranging from down and out rockers to soulful ballads; having said that, blues arguably still are his first love.

While age is certainly no measure for superlative musicianship and for survival and, again in borrowing from this writer’s review on viewing the band live, “much like wine, Rolling Stones, as performers, only seem to get better with time…”, thanks in no small measure to an enigma known as Mick Jagger who sang, way back in 1964, that “Time Is On My Side”!

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