News Five isolated vocals to prove Mick Jagger’s genius
There are few names in rock music as iconic as The Rolling Stones or their energetic frontman, Mick Jagger. For almost six decades, the band has been flying the flag of British rock music across the globe. As they moved from blues-rock-obsessed young misfits to the elder statesmen of rock, the band continuously adapted their sound to modern musical trends and genres.
The group is often characterised by the partnership of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the lifelong friends who first started the band. However, the vocal talents of the Stones’ frontman are often overlooked. Jagger has received a lot of criticism over the years, as have the band as a whole, for essentially ripping off his entire act from underappreciated Black blues artists. The London-born singer’s style is almost a pastiche of an old-school blues artist, so it is unsurprising that the band consistently borrowed from those musicians during their early years.
Nevertheless, Mick Jagger does produce some commendable vocal performances, though they are often drowned out by the intense guitar stylings of his right-hand man, Keith Richards. Jagger is hailed as a great songwriter, but were it not for his vocal abilities, The Rolling Stones would likely never have made it out of the 1960s – they certainly would not continue producing material well into old age.
So, in an effort to espouse the vocal qualities of The Rolling Stones’ unique frontman, we have compiled a list of isolated vocal tracks which act as a testament to his talents. Of course, with 31 studio albums under his belt, this list is not exhaustive, but it offers some vocal highlights from Jagger’s career with the Stones.
Mick Jagger’s five best isolated vocals:
‘Gimme Shelter’ (1969)
An iconic track from the anti-war movement of the late 1960s, Jagger’s vocals on ‘Gimme Shelter’ are often overshadowed by the undeniably incredible stylings of Merry Clayton. However, the frontman’s performance is fantastic in its own right.
Written by Jagger and Richards, ‘Gimme Shelter’ is propelled by a sense of urgency, underscored by Richards’ iconic guitar riff and Jagger’s impassioned vocals. The song’s opening lines, “Oh, a storm is threat’ning / My very life today,” set the tone for a narrative that unfolds like a dark and foreboding prophecy.
The raw passion and energy in Jagger’s voice in the song gives ‘Gimme Shelter’ its characteristic edge, perfectly encapsulating the anti-war themes of murder, hatred and fears over the future.
‘Start Me Up’ (1981)
A later career highlight for the band (although they are still going over 40 years later), ‘Start Me Up’ sees Jagger’s voice take on a distinctly soul-inspired sound. Evoking his Motown and soul heroes, his performance on the track showed that, though the Stones had aged, they had not lost their early sound.
Featuring Jagger’s signature strained vocals at points, the song reportedly started out as a reggae-rock track. Though the final product shares little in common with the rhythms of Jamaica, it remains one of Jagger’s finest moments.
As the world continues to spin and society grapples with ever-changing dynamics, ‘Start Me Up’ remains a timeless reminder of the enduring power of rock ‘n’ roll to inspire, invigorate, and ignite the flames of rebellion.
‘Under My Thumb’ (1966)
Often remembered for Brian Jones’ marimba riffs, ‘Under My Thumb’ was one of the band’s most popular tracks from their early period. As opposed to some other tracks on this list, this song sees Jagger adopt a more melodic, mellowed-out sound.
Though it hints at the brash, heavy sound that the band would later become known for, the song acts as a good signifier for the adaptability of Jagger’s voice to different styles. The rising intensity of the song also speaks to the inherent rock tendencies of the frontman.
‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ (1965)
The Rolling Stones’ defining moment, ‘Satisfaction’, remains perhaps their best-known song. Although it feels strangely unnatural to hear the song without RIchards’ iconic riff, the soulful quality of Jagger’s voice is laid bare.
Sounding almost James Brown-esque at points, it is clear why the track became such a popular effort by the Stones. Fittingly, for one of their earlier tracks, Jagger has an endearing sense of youthful rebellion on the song, something that comes across plainly within his voice.
‘Beast of Burden’ (1978)
Taken from their 1978 album Some Girls, ‘Beast of Burden’ is perhaps one of the Stones’ most heartfelt tracks. Written by Keith Richards largely about his struggles with drug addiction, the vocal performance of Jagger adds a certain emotional weight to the track.
Featuring all the usual Jagger-esque mannerisms and inflexions that you have come to expect, there is also a sense of purpose and emotion to the vocals of the track. Although some of their later material, particularly from the latter part of the 1970s, is often overlooked as they adopted a more soft rock-inspired sound, ‘Beast of Burden’ remains one of Jagger’s finest moments, in a vocal sense.