Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’ musical partnership is the heart and soul of the Rolling Stones. Of course, we can’t count out the contributions of the other Stones – both past and present – but, without the songs penned under the Jagger-Richards banner, the band wouldn’t have the legacy it does today.
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Jagger and Richards grew up in the same English town, continually in each other’s orbit but not fully crossing paths until the early ’60s at a train station in Dartford.
On the platform, the pair found that they had a mutual love of American blues music. Their unique tastes pushed them into a friendship that would later develop into a musical partnership.
“You know I was keen on Chuck Berry and I thought I was the only fan for miles but one mornin’ on Dartford Stn, I was holding one of Chuck’s records when a guy I knew at primary school 7-11 yrs came up to me,” Keith Richards wrote in a letter describing their meeting (per Far Out Magazine).
He continued, “He’s got every record Chuck Berry ever made and all his mates have too, they are all rhythm and blues fans, real R&B I mean (not this Dinah Shore, Brook Benton crap) Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, Chuck, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker all the Chicago bluesmen real lowdown stuff, marvelous.”
First Song Written Together
When the Stones first got together, they did what many fledgling rock bands do and mostly focused on cover songs. It wasn’t until the release of Out of Our Heads in 1965 that the group felt confident enough to move forward with original music.
The first track released under the Jagger-Richards partnership was titled “The Last Time.” The track was inspired by “This May Be The Last Time” by The Staple Singers.
“Mick and I knew by now that really our job was to write songs for the Stones,” Richards once said. “It took us eight, nine months before we came up with ‘The Last Time,’ which is the first one that we felt we could give to the rest of the guys without being sent out of the room.
“We kept coming up with these ballads, nothing to do with what we were doing,” he continued. “And then finally we came up with ‘The Last Time’ and looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s try this with the boys.'”
The lyrics to “The Last Time” read, Well, I told you once and I told you twice / But you never listen to my advice / You don’t try very hard to please me / With what you know it should be easy / Well, this could be the last time / This could be the last time.
Magic of “The Glimmer Twins”
Jagger-Richards remain one of the premiere writing duos in rock. Their catalog, hundreds of songs deep, is one of the most cherished in music history.
Richard’s emotive guitar playing paired with Jagger’s electric stage presence has proven to be the perfect partnership. It seems they have a similar symbiosis in the writer’s room.
The pair spawned a number of perennial Stones hits like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Beast of Burden,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” and “Paint It, Black.”
Jagger and Richards were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1993. Their songs have been covered by the likes of Hank Williams Jr., Jerry Lee Lewis, Pitbull, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Susan Boyle, Britney Spears, Rage Against The Machine, Motley Crue, KISS, Otis Redding, The Sundays, and too many more to list.
“I never push,” Richards once said of their writing process. “[We will take a break] for a week or so, because you’ve really done enough. It’s not going to leave you alone… It’s an addiction.”
(Photo: Kevin Mazur)