I wasn't a man who ever held back. Call me a brash bupkes if you like, but it was me who first made an event out of a song. The song as spectacle never clicked with the Bings, Franks and Perrys of my time. They didn't have the chutzpah. They were content to balance their bank accounts on their voice box. They made a dollar or two, no argument. Yet even in their prime, it was Al Jolson who was dubbed ‘The World's Greatest Entertainer’ and the ‘Most Popular Male Vocalist’ of 1948.
Mick and his group aren't called 'the world's greatest rock band' because they make better music than the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, U2 or Metallica. It's because they're bigger than their sound. Today, no one's better at 'owning' the stage than Mick. And the meshuggener's nearly 70!
I started the idea of 'staging' a song by extending runways from the platform out into the audience. There's a straight line from that to the riproar of the Stones' 1994 Voodoo Lounge world tour. And all those that came after.
Mick Jagger and Al Jolson have gotten the world to take a good look at itself. To see it like we saw it. You might say I handed the world the good guy glasses while his viewpoint is a bit more bad guy, but, hey, he's a Sir and I never got my Medal of Merit till I was in the next world.
We started in the same place. Afro-American music. I put on a blackface and sang negro spirituals. Mick has ripped into the works of American rhythm and blues artists such as Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. Our feeling for their music is genuine and we've brought a lot more people to the same level of appreciation.
We weren't exploiting anybody. I wanna make that point because what the world remembers most about me is 'The Jazz Singer', the world's first talkie with a Brooklyn Jew acting and sounding like a Carolinian Negro. White guys blacking up only got to be insulting when Political Correctness grabbed everybody by the putz. It wasn't back when I did it. I paved the way for a tummel of black performers, playwrights, and songwriters, including Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, and Ethel Waters.
That's why I was the only white man allowed into an all black nightclub in Harlem. Why, at my funeral, black actors lined the way. They put me up there with Honest Abe.
I see Mick on no pedestals, black or white. He's too down and dirty for that. There's no longer any glory or danger in being pro-black. Instead, he's an anti-guy. Anti-establishment. Anti-authority. Anti-convention. Anti most things except excess. Or so he seems.
Young people took him to their hearts and to organs a lot lower. I'm not sure what the divine chemist had in mind when he made the Jagger mould. Other than confusion; the 'what do I think?', 'who do I hate?', 'who do I sleep with?' confusion of the first generation to be born into a nuclear shadow.
Mick is the most physical presence in music since… well, since me. With the slithering, hypnotic bi-sexuality of a snake which made Elvis and the lesser rockers look like Gypsy Rose Lee in drag. Mick made it alright to be you, even if the 'you' was like nothing the planet had ever seen before. He invented feminine virility in a man and now he's inventing something even more counter-rational, ageless vitality.
I think we're getting a touch nearer to my feelings about Mick. Envy might be in there somewhere. For a man who should be a mess, he's incredibly balanced. He's an anti-establishment political conservative who had his druggie persona enhanced through being imprisoned for possession of … wait for it ... four Italian pep pills. He got a knighthood without doing any noticeable good for anybody but himself. Daily, he meditates and worships Buddha. He's a patron of the British Museum with a passion for a game which is a shrine to boredom, cricket. You'd think he was a mixed-up schlemiel. Far from it. He's able to be the antithesis of himself, as happy in glam rock as a coronet.
The fact is, you can't pin Jagger down. A lot of women have tried; from his two wives to his list of romantic connections, which include Chrissie Shrimpton, Marianne Faithfull, Anita Pallenberg, Marsha Hunt, Pamela Des Barres, Uschi Obermaier, Bebe Buell, Carly Simon, Margaret Trudeau, Mackenzie Phillips, Janice Dickinson, Carla Bruni, Sophie Dahl and Angelina Jolie. Among others!
You can't be a red blooded male and not envy that.