Todd Snider Pens Ode To Mick Jagger

Todd Snider

Videos by American Songwriter

On his album Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables, Todd Snider documents the ups and downs of the Jagger-Richards songwriting partnership with the tune “Brenda,” the title of which refers to Keith’s less-than-flattering nickname for his lead-singing counterpart.

American Songwriter recently asked Snider to write a column on one of his songwriting heroes. The East Nashville folkie and author  responded with a free-verse ode to Jagger (who just recently became a great-grandfather), praising his stand-alone songwriting brilliance and utter fearlessness.

Read an excerpt from his new book I Never Met A Story I Didn’t Like here.

* * * *

when people ask me who I think the best songwriter is
I say I think it’s in the ear of the beholder

but when somebody asks
me who my favorite songwriter is, I say,
without hesitation.

did I mean to say Mick and Keith?
don’t get me wrong.
Keith is number three for me behind Bob

to give you an example
of how deeply we have been affected by
the work of these men

let me point out that I have said
none of their last names
and you know who I am talking about

anything I ever saw or heard
that had anything to do with any of them
free or for sale
I saw it heard it
and love it for making my life better

after 30 years of doing regular business with them
I have zero point zero customer complaints
and that includes solo albums
and collaborations

Mick is my favorite
lyricist, songwriter, producer, singer, front man

the front man bit you seldom get any arguments about
he seduces women and angers men.
he scares everybody
and fears nothing.
if that ain’t rock and roll
fuck you.

vocal tone isn’t really a talent I guess
after a guy hits notes
you either dig the sound or you don’t

you can’t switch amps like a guitar player
for me Mick is the sweet spot
between Petty, Dylan, Lennon types
and Van Morrison, McCartney, Prince types
he can take his voice almost anywhere

the producer part his
sometimes grateful partner
gets a lot of credit for
but go listen to Soul Survivor before Mick got it
you can hear that song before Mick and after

or watch any studio video
Mick Jagger is the leader of the Rolling Stones
my god.
the thought of it would make a president sweat.

as a songwriter
and by that I mean melodic composition writer
or say
which notes to sing and where
I would use the word

for an example of this greatness
buy a Mick Jagger solo album
more easily
I could refer you to all the songs
that he sings with his band
the Rolling Stones

you may have heard a few
of them already
I bet you could think of one to hum to yourself
before I finish this sentence.

so now we come to the two things about him that set him apart
the furthest for me
and that’s
the lyrics

I think he is the most fearless public person of my lifetime
and when I hear the words he writes
I have to wonder if that fearlessness is the heart or core
of why the poetry seems to so easily
pour filterlessly from the heart without pomp or circumstance or mythology
into a song wide open to be what it wants (i.e. Sympathy For The Devil)

and I think had Mick Jagger not been so envied, attractive to women, androgynously handsome,
willing to dance. willing to frighten. his words would be poured over by stoners.
in short.
if he wasn’t the best stripper
he would get credit for being the best poet

but as it stands
the second best poet can’t dance, sing or strip for shit.
so he gets to be first best in our history books
but even he knows whats up

Bob Dylan told Keith Richards
“see Keith I could write a “Satisfaction” but you could never write a “Like A Rolling Stone”
and I agree
that Keith Richards probably isn’t going to sit down and pen anything
that moves people like “Like A Rolling Stone” does
I am not sure I agree that Bob Dylan has a riff in his catalogue
that could stand up next to “Satisfaction”
at least not to my taste
but one thing for sure
he didn’t say that to Mick Jagger
who wrote

“the sunshine bores the daylights out of me”
“you can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes you get what you need”
“what can a poor boy do ‘cept for sing for a rock and roll band”
“people say I’m a loser, but I still get lucky on the side”
“laugh. I nearly died”
“I’m free to do what I want any old time”
“my best friend he shoots water rats and feeds them to his geese
“can’t I have my ups and downs? can’t you see I’m human?”
“she drove her pick up truck painted green and blue”
“god gave me everything I want. come on I’ll give it to you”
“I was born in a cross fire hurricane”
“there she was sitting in the corner. a little bleary. worse for the wear and tear”
“Our love is like our music / It’s here and then it’s gone”
“I see the girls go by, dressed in their summer clothes / I have to turn my head until my darkness goes”
“Like a newborn baby, it just happens every day”
“Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste”
“Onstage the band has got problems / They’re a bag of nerves on first nights”
“now I’m just one of your cocks”


for fifty years this guy
has been ready to open his heart
and write it down
for his band

he doesn’t have to create a bunch
of mythology around himself
to get steeled up enough to do it.

he just does it.
his mystery is fuck you.
and if that ain’t rock and roll
fuck you

Jagger will let you watch him put on this make up
and when he’s done
you will think he is gone

Jagger deliberately dresses to anger boys
who are uptight about their own sexuality
he wants bullies
to want to kill him
and if he has to
he’ll lick a guy’s face to get that going

that didn’t happen cuz he was all fucked up that night on SNL
that happened cuz he’s Mick Jagger
all the time.
no bullshit.

he doesn’t have to pretend he didn’t help plan the party
to be the shaman at it
he doesn’t have to pretend he is reluctant to even be
at the party
in order to read his poetry at it.

he says he is not going to write a book

to me this says a lot about Mick

as a fan watching from way up at the top of the stadium
who is
unbelievably and overwhelming
to be entertained by the whole mess

it seems to me
that while Bob Dylan and Keith Richards
go way out of their way to make sure
everybody knows
how little they care
what everybody thinks
about them

Jagger just doesn’t

if I could pick only one person
to ever get another songwriting lesson from
it would be Mick Jagger
I think he is so good all around at everything
a person could bring to the job
that it sometimes gets lost in the shuffle
that as a songwriter
he is arguably one of the best to ever do it.

and in closing, I would like to add,
that if you went back and took all the music in the world
that came out
before 1985
and threw it away
as if it had never been heard
I would still say this

and furthermore
if nobody had ever
heard of
or seen
the Rolling Stones
and they were
only playing songs
off their Bigger Bang album
and it was
in a bar
that was kinda empty
as in this very evening

and I walked in and saw it and heard it

I would believe
I was witnessing the future of rock and roll

which ain’t much really
I mean
it can’t change the world
per say
so to speak
and what have you
say no more
I mean
we all know
it’s only rock and roll
I have personally grown quite fond of it.

when Mick Jagger sticks his pin in his heart
and suicides right on stage

man oh man oh man
does it satisfy my bleeding heart



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