Mick Jagger: five things you might not know about him

“What a drag it is, getting old,” sang a fresh-faced Mick Jagger in 1966. Today, the icon, rebel, knight and ultimate rock and roll reprobate turns 80, with celebrations that will reportedly feature 300 of his closest friends, including bandmates Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards, at a lavish party in London. 

Despite his age, he still has the “stamina of a teenager”, said OK! Magazine, and his name is “still a byword for cool,” agreed Teo van den Broeke in the Evening Standard

Here we share five facts you might not know about the octogenarian rock star.

He appeared in a rock-climbing documentary 

Before he became synonymous with drugs and debauchery, a different rock-based career may have beckoned. In 1959, a young sport-loving “Michael” appeared on TV as part of a climbing documentary shot at High Rocks, near Tunbridge Wells, Kent. The presenter of ATV’s ”Seeing Sport”, John Disley, holds Jagger’s foot up to the camera to discuss the suitability of his footwear for use on the rocks. A glimmer of the anti-establishment attitude was already visible, however with “complete disdain” already etched on Jagger’s face, said Michael Hann in The Guardian.

As fate would have it, Jagger bumped into his old schoolmate Keith Richards at a train station in their hometown of Dartford, Kent in 1961. Jagger was on his way to London, where he was an undergraduate at the London School of Economics, “clutching a couple of records by Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters at the time,” according to OK! magazine. The two got talking about their shared love of music, and a year later The Rolling Stones was born. 

He has fathered eight children by five women 

“Mind-boggling”, is how music writer Lesley-Ann Jones described Jagger’s thousands of relationships, dalliances and love affairs over the decades, according to the Daily Express. Five of those relationships produced children: Karis, with Marsha Hunt in 1970; daughter Jade with ex-wife Bianca Jagger in 1971; four children – Elizabeth, 39, James, 37, Georgia May, 31, and Gabriel, 25 – with ex-wife Jerry Hall; son Lucas, 24, with model Luciana Morad Gimenez in 1999, and in 2016, he had a son, Deveraux, with girlfriend Melanie Hamrick.

“A globe-trotting support network,” is how Jade Jagger cheerfully described her father’s sprawling family in an essay for British Vogue in 2021. But there was also plenty of darkness, with his partner of nine years, US fashion designer L’Wren Scott, taking her own life in 2014.

In the early 60s, he womanised behind Chrissie Shrimpton’s back “so relentlessly”, said the Express, that she too attempted to take her own life. “I’m not sure how excited I feel about it, digging into your own past”, commented Jagger, after famously turning down a million-pound advance in the 1980s for a memoir. “Sixty years of debauchery, infidelity, duplicity, divorce and denial. It’s a lot to lug around,” said the Express. “Little wonder that Jagger prefers to focus forwards.” 

He was the subject of a leader in The Times

William Rees-Mogg, the former editor of The Times, and the hip-swivelling Jagger might not appear to be natural allies, but in 1967, Jagger became the subject of a sympathetic leader column penned by Rees-Mogg, father of Jacob. In the piece, headlined, “Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?”, the editor decried Jagger’s prison sentence for possession of drugs. “If after his visit to the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury had bought proprietary airsickness pills in Rome airport, and imported the unused tablets into Britain on his return, he would have risked committing precisely the same offence,” noted Rees-Mogg. No other rock singer has ever been the subject of a leader column in The Times, said The Guardian

He briefly flirted with Satanism 

“Was Jagger the first rock star whose songs made fans want to read specific books?,” wondered The Guardian. Certainly Jagger inadvertently introduced a whole generation to the satirical novel “The Master and Margarita”, by Mikhail Bulgakov – a manuscript of which was smuggled out of Moscow in 1967 and ended up in Jagger’s hands courtesy of his girlfriend at the time, Marianne Faithfull. The novel explored the idea of Satan visiting the Soviet Union, and inspired Jagger’s masterpiece, “Sympathy for the Devil”. In the song Jagger adopts the unctuous persona of Satan, with the opening line: “Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste.” Jagger abruptly lost interest in Satanism, but the song lives on in musical history.

“Many artists have exploited the shock value of toying with the occult and Satanism in song,” said the Financial Times. “Few have produced an imperious masterclass in musical menace to rival The Rolling Stones’ compelling ‘Sympathy for the Devil’”.

Mick Jagger

He paved the way for the gender fluidity movement 

His romantic and sexual antics might be the stuff of legend, but there’s “no doubt” the famous frontman paved the way for the gender fluidity movement, said Teo van den Broeke in the Evening Standard. It has been suggested that he had multiple relationships with men, among them David Bowie and bandmates Mick Taylor and Keith Richards. He was a firm fixture on the gay scene, hanging out at Studio 54 in New York with Rudolf Nureyev, Truman Capote and Andy Warhol, and he played a 1930s drag performer in Berlin in the drama “Bent”, about the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany. Jagger “opened up definitions of gendered masculinity and so laid the foundations for self-invention and sexual plasticity which are now an integral part of contemporary youth culture,” music writer Sheila Whiteley told the Standard.