Friday, July 26, 2013

Gender-bending Rock Pioneer, Birthday-Boy, Mick Jagger, Still Strong at 70!

For the very first time, I am proud to present, a guest blogger here on

Alex Smith is a television, movie and music blogger for where he covers everything from profiles of prominent to entertainers to retrospectives on the lost classics of film and TV. He’s been a Rolling Stones fan since birth, and has yet to find another group of artists that can bring moves and music together in one package as well as they can. He lives and works in Washington, D.C. Alex can be contacted at

As we celebrate Mick's 70th birthday today, I am proud to present, Alex's article about the lead singer of the often-considered greatest Rock N Roll band of all time, Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones:

Mick Jagger is turning 70, and in a career full of milestones, he hardly seems to be slowing down. The iconic rocker has been performing since the early 1960s, averaging somewhere around 150 shows per year, and although he isn't quite the image of switch-hitting youth he once was, his legendary swagger remains prevalent in every performance.

The Rolling Stones front-man, knighted by Queen Elizabeth II - twice married to models (Bianca Jagger and Jerry Hall), with rumored shocking sex acts with a Mars bar - has more whispered rumors, legends, and true unforgettable stories to solidify his presence in rock and androgynous history than any one star could possible need. But at the heart of his influence is his, and the Rolling Stones’, trailblazing onstage presence and personality - for Jagger, a combination of melancholy, a rugged voice, pure talent and bisexual energy that was exhilarating when audiences caught their first glimpse (and much needed following the reign of the straight-laced Beatles).

The Beatles and Elvis had the power to make girls scream of course, but only Mick Jagger possessed the gender-bending presence that laid the foundations for a new generation of self-invention and disorderly behavior. Jagger threw away the perfect, major harmonies that inspired beach themes, orderly attitudes and swooning girls at groovy parties, choosing instead to roar into the microphone, using a nasally and raspy sound that harked back to the days of gospel singers.

Although he first emerged in sharp-looking fitted suits, Jagger soon transitioned to flowing flares and billowy blouses and began routinely sporting top hats, scarves, ruffled shirts and even velvet coats. The look was androgynous, and incredibly sexual. His attire, paired with the cocky gyrating of his hips as he performed, effectively rejected the stuffy masculine norms of the 1950s and 60s, and it seems clear in retrospect that Jagger's feminine lean and gravelly voice instantly opened doors for future rockers like Prince. With long coats, printed shirts and suede boots, Jagger became a true fashion icon, one that cracked open the previously thin definition of gendered masculinity, leading the way to a culture of sexual malleability.

Jagger has never truly attempted to contain or even restrain his gender-bending style. He’s never been shy about his flamboyant taste, instead choosing to revel in his penchant for lipstick, mascara, stockings and high heels. Even his classic hip wiggle, reminiscent of Tina Turner, was often compared to a girl's strip tease. Steven Simels, the author of Gender Chameleons: Androgyny in Rock’n Roll, 1985, wrote that Jagger was, "Hipless and emaciated, possessing lips of such astonishing lasciviousness, that when you put him on stage he resembles nothing so much as some weird mixture of both human sex organs."

 The Stone’s popular single "Honky Tonk Women" has lyrics that are certainly hinting at their drag queen tastes: 'a gin-soaked barroom queen in Memphis' heaves him 'right across her shoulder... she blew my nose and then she blew my mind’. Then, of course there’s Jagger’s appearance in the film Performance (1970), in which he played the character Turner, a retired rock-and-roll singer who initiates Chas, a fugitive gangster, into androgyny. "I think he’s like a sex vampire," said Natasha Terry, the sex therapist Mick briefly consulted in the late 1990s after his then-wife Jerry Hall initiated divorce proceedings. Funnily enough, she ended up having sex with Jagger as well.

Christopher Anderson’s revealing biography of Jagger, The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Jagger, divulged that pretty much everybody does, from band mate Brian Jones, to pop stars David Bowie and Carly Simon. We find that Keith Richards often referred to Jagger as either "Brenda" or "Her Majesty" and explains that Jagger’s spirited performances grew out of a "wicked parody of Marilyn [Monroe]" -the swivel-hipped walk, pouty lips and playful hair toss are all prevalent. The Stones wanted to do more than set the girls off, they wanted the boys revved up too - and it worked.

Mick's career wasn't all positive revolution, as it can’t be denied that the Stones were known to often treat people (particularly female admirers) appallingly backstage and behind closed doors. And of course, Jagger once made the mistake of hiring the Hell’s Angels for crowd-control duties in order to save money and suit his image, a decision which resulted in death of a fan.

But on his birthday, at least, we can praise Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones for opening the doorways for more than just Prince; Grace Jones, Boy George, Annie Lennox and more recent stars such as Janelle Monae and Lady Gaga all owe a thankful nod to Mick for what he brought to popular culture. As one of the first stars to utterly ignore the gender lines that had been carved out for him by ancient bureaucrats and closed-minded people, Jagger instead elected to shake the world up a bit, first with his music, and then with his own radical self.


photo credits to wikipedia: Mick on stage in 1972, 1975 and 1981.

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