This year, The Rolling Stones set a milestone as they celebrated their 50th anniversary. Now, another milestone gets set as it’s charismatic front man Mick Jagger celebrates his 70th birthday today.
Forty years ago, if you asked anyone, probably the band included, if the Stones, let alone Jagger, would still be performing in 2013, most people would have shook their collective heads in disbelief. In 1973, to imagine having not only that staying power, but the wherewithal and organic propensity to even WANT to continue playing rock and roll in what seems like an unofficial young man’s game, would have been scoffed at. But it’s precisely and exactly that which has happened, and from the looks of the success of the tour that just recently had a stint at London’s famed Hyde Park, in front of 65,000 plus adoring fans, there seems to be no sign of letting up.
The Rolling Stones have had the good fortune of never officially splitting up. So many of their musical peers and cohorts did, (The Beatles, Cream, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Pink Floyd, The Doors, and so on) by way of personal or financial disputes or by the deaths of key members. And while yes, those things did cause earthquake ripples in the band, (especially with the death of their original guitarist Brian Jones in 1969) they seem to carry on, with most of the original members intact. The tandem of Jagger and Keith Richards is still strong, still plugged in, turned on and tuned in to the masses, who still voraciously gulp up any shred of notes that the band puts out and still purchases the tenth or twentieth or fiftieth re-re-re-packaging of a greatest hits release or a remastering of their catalog. The options and successes regarding The Rolling Stones are endless.
And Mick Jagger obviously has a large part in that success and why it has manifested the way it is to have The Stones be and remain a global musical phenomenon, having the tagline “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band” firmly affixed to its tail lights. Jagger, with his caricatured perception of his physical features, his big wide open expressive face, with larger than life lips, friendly sneer, cockwalk strut, and rail thin figure, is one of the archetypes of the entire canon of the rock and roll genre. He still prances and dances his way across a stage like a James Brown of sorts mixed with a Fred Astaire.
And while so many others have copped Jagger’s moves and attitude as a front man (Iggy Pop comes to mind instantly, although Pop has his own signature styles and moves also), a lot gets forgotten at what a great musician Jagger remains as well, penning countless lyrics to many of their songs, using his mid-range vocals most memorably on so many of the most popular and unpopular and cult and personal favorite Stones songs. There are multitudes of them, you know most of them, regardless of your personal musical taste, there are probably at least ten Rolling Stones songs that have passed down your personal highways in your life at least once. There’s no need to rename them here, they remain songs that firmly etched the band and Jagger into that legendary status of musical groups who helped shape the 1960s and beyond.
Even though the band itself has gone through so many urban legends and rumors about its rampant usage of drugs, wanton sex, recklessness and a bad boy behavior, Mick Jagger for the most seems immune to those claims. He somehow managed to walk the tightrope of having that heat below and above him, but never teetered off the rope, he didn’t get into the kinds of public scapes and dalliances with the law like his cohort Keith Richards did, Jagger seemed to sort of play the game, he stayed out of trouble for the most part, and it’s probably a big reason why he’s still able to function in a high capacity to this day as the front man of the Stones.
His likable, effusive charm still runs high, he always seems to have a sort of perpetual smile on his visage, a sly wink that makes him and ultimately the band, still engaging. He can also dazzle vocally, songs like “Moonlight Mile,” and “Coming Down Again,” on albums like Sticky Fingers and Goats Head Soup respectively show a sort of intense ballad side to him, and it’s on those records (as well as Let it Bleed and Exile on Main Street) that show he could hold his own alongside the songs that he and the Stones are most famous for, that even though the band was and is firmly mired in a sound that has stuck with them up to this very day, that Jagger and company are anything but one trick ponies.
So a Happy 70th Birthday to Mick Jagger. He still may not get any satisfaction as he warbles in the endlessly played and revered perfect pop song that that is, but his fans certainly have and seemingly will continue to, as long as he steps on stage or in a recording booth. But even when that ride comes to an end, there will be an immense body of work which remains that will ensure that Mick and The Stones will have the kind of timeless staying power that will never dissipate, which ultimately is the true achievement of any artist, in any field, of any genre.