So much to cut and so little space for what I have to say about this great musician, an example for many, and an inspiration for others. Sir Michael Philip Jagger, better known as Mick Jagger, was born in England on July 26, 1943; one of the most popular and influential British musicians of all time, renowned for being the lead singer, songwriter, and co-founder of The Rolling Stones. His name and image set and maintained the gold standard for popular performance and creativity for nearly five decades, and he has also worked as a music and film producer, actor, and entrepreneur.
Analyzed with perspective, The Rolling Stones are not a particularly satanic group… that idea is long gone; at least they never had inclinations for the occult like Led Zeppelin at the time, nor the overtly “satanic” adherences of Black Sabbath and Marilyn Manson, although they alone hold the title of ‘Their satanic majesties’ with their 1967 release.
Mick Jagger has always been distant about this demonic identification, although he did not hesitate to exploit it. This can be seen in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, a live recording originally intended for the BBC, but which remained hidden until 1996. At the end of the interpretation of “Sympathy for the Devil,” while John Lennon is convulsing in the audience, Jagger kneels and takes off his sweater, revealing his naked torso, on which a portrait of the Beast is drawn as a tattoo. But what idea was in Jagger’s head when he decided to dedicate a song to the Devil?
Mick Jagger’s Sympathy for the Devil
The composition owes much to the novel The Master and Margarita, completed by Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov shortly before he died in 1940. The work, a harsh satire on the communist regime of the USSR, introduces as a character an incarnation of the Devil who travels with a cohort of henchmen, who are devoted to sowing chaos in the rigidity of the socialist “paradise.” Due to the harshness of its criticism against the regime, the book did not see the light of day until 1967.
It is supposed that one of the first editions came into the hands of Marianne Faithfull, then Jagger’s girlfriend, who passed it on to the singer. This mixture of light and shadow, good and evil, is evident in the lyrics. The protagonist is a well-educated being, a “gentleman” who tells his story, that is, the idea of the Devil as the incarnation of evil in the world. The idea is that the Devil lives, in some way, in every one of us. But “Sympathy for the Devil” is not only one of the best appropriations of this great black sound tradition by white musicians, but it is also a milestone in the association of Satanism with music in general, and with The Rolling Stones in particular.
It also marks the beginning of Jagger’s identification with a postmodern Lucifer. The parallelism began in 1968 and now, almost 50 years later, has been revived with the suicide of L’Wren Scott, the singer’s girlfriend. This song would end up becoming a Beggars Banquet album; the Rolling Stones created another iconic song, “Street fighting man;” however, there is another diabolical side that is usually associated with Mick Jagger and that the singer himself has tried to avoid.
Julian Cope, an influential musician in the 80s turned musicologist and scholar of pre-Roman European cultures, assigns Jagger the role of Loki, the deity of deception in Norse mythology. That is to say, a sinuous and elusive being capable of adapting to the circumstances to obtain benefit. An idea that has caught on with much of the public, who tend to see Keith Richards as the nice guy and Jagger as the calculating mastermind of the group’s business strategy.
Jagger is often a suspect figure when talking about the third vertex of the original Rolling Stones: Brian Jones. Founder of the group and its musical engine during its early years, Jones was also the protagonist of the most notorious drug scandals in the 60s. Progressively, Richards and Jagger took over the reins of the group until the blond guitarist was left in the background. In fact, in “One Plus One,” we can see how Jones is relegated to an acoustic guitar that is not even played on the album.
After attending a demonstration against the Vietnam War, Jagger decided to honor all those demonstrators who took to the streets in the turbulent 1968 to try to overthrow the foundations of the system. The song was censored by several radio stations for inciting violence and riots. In 1968 the ‘establishment’ began to blame the group for the moral corruption of the youth of the West. Nobody like them embodied the triad “sex, drugs, and Rock’n Roll” and nobody like them spread it either.
In a text published in Creem magazine in 1973, Patti Smith recounted the impact of the first time she saw Richards and Mick Jagger’s group on television: “That group was relentless as murder; I was trapped in a field of hot spots: the guitarist had pimples, the blond kneeling guy had circles around his eyes, one had greasy hair, the other didn’t matter much, and the singer was showing off his anatomy. I felt like I could see through his pants with X-rays. There was hard meat there. There was a lecherous bitch. Five white boys and sexy as a sword. Her nerves connected, and her third leg grew. In six minutes, five lustful images made me wet my underwear for the first time.”
Dark Secrets Surrounding Jagger
In mid-1969, after the recording of Let It Bleed, the other four members of the band expelled Jones and forced him to sign a resignation statement. Less than a month later, his body was found floating in the pool of his mansion. According to the official versions, his death was due to an accidental drowning or an overdose. But some speak of a possible murder, and some point to Jagger as ultimately responsible for the self-destructive spiral that ended Brian’s life.
The parallels do not end here, there is also talk of a pact with the Devil and Dorian Gray to explain the vitality of Mick Jagger on stage and the longevity of the group, the only one capable of having remained for half a century in the discipline of rock at the highest level, to understand the recycling process of the singer, how he has gone from being the scourge of the system to be part of that ‘establishment’ that feared him so much. Holder of the title of Sir and also of a fortune estimated at some 250 million euros, Mick Jagger is seen as the man responsible for the latest monetization of The Rolling Stones brand.
Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva