The Rolling Stones: the 10 best Mick Jagger performances

Mick Jagger
(Image credit: Michael Ochs Archive)

As one of rock's most charismatic frontmen, Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger is an original and a one-off: often copied, never equalled. And as a singer, Jagger has constantly surprised, adopting a variety of styles – encompassing rock, blues, soul and country – and allowing the Rolling Stones to explore territory not open to others. 

Along the way The Rolling Stones have producing some of the finest records ever made, and here are ten moments Mick Jagger proved his individual brilliance.

10. Little Red Rooster

In which the Stones bring blues to the mainstream. This uncommercial offering was something of a brave move and a deserved number one hit in 1964. Over an incessant slide guitar groove, Jagger slithers around this Willie Dixon tune with a brooding mournful vocal (‘’hounds begin to howl’’) that simply never lets up. Groundbreaking.

9. Shine A Light

He’s got the blues, he certainly has the soul and this track from the classic Exile On Main Street is a perfect example of the way Jagger can weave a lyric with Marvin Gaye like elegance. There’s a blissed out delight to the rasping and gasping quality of the vocal on this gospel tinged outing.

8. She’s A Rainbow

From the much maligned psych induced Their Satanic Majesties Request album, Jagger brings a natural empathy to a joyful lyric. He totally loses himself in the song as each colour of the spectrum is dutifully observed. The end result is gloriously uplifting.

7. Paint It Black

A vocal of stunning sinister power, Jagger romps through this scintillating 1966 chart topper, adding a series of uncompromising dark nuances - and virtually invents downer rock in the process. Bill Wyman’s shimmering bass lines and Brian Jones ambient sitar and the exotic edge to an already potent mix.

6. Stray Cat Blues

This shocking tale of debauchery and lust is brought vividly to life by Jagger’s leering vocal delivery. ‘’There’ll be a feast if you just come upstairs - it’s no hanging matter, it’s no capital crime’’ he defiantly sneers, an invitation that groupies around the globe evidently found hard to resist.

5. Moonlight Mile

The closing track to the seminal Sticky Fingers album saw a Keith-less Stones take on a song of soaring beauty. Aided by a gracefully string arrangement, Jagger twists and turns his way ‘’down the road ’’ with a vocal delivery of heart rending clarity - totally befitting the song’s reflective tone.

4. Angie

Proving he can apply a little tenderness when required, the usually macho Jagger goes all dewy eyes on this piano led ballad from the Goats Head Soup album. As for the subject matter, the smart money was on Angie Bowie - whoever it was, in 1973 it provided the Stones with another smash hit single

3. You Can’t Always Get What You Want

On this lengthy epic from the Let It Bleed album, Jagger brings a plaintive touch to a narrative of missed opportunities – his sympathetic story telling style is totally in keeping with the song’s theme of regret and remorse. The London Bach Choir are a suitably stirring addition to the proceedings.

2. Wild Horses

A vocal performance dripping with pure emotion. Jagger and co go all country on a Gram Parsons inspired tale of star-crossed lost love. Being Jagger, it’s never simple when it comes to the ladies, the regretful stance of the lyrics could have been aimed at Marianne Faithful or Anita Pallenberg. He gets around does our Mick…

1. Sympathy For The Devil

To say that Jagger totally owns this song is an understatement. He literally is the devil as he unfolds Lucifer’s fierce intent with unnerving menace. It’s Jagger’s relentless drive that pushes the performance of the whole band to the limit, reaching a breathless demonic like climax. Provocative in the extreme and utterly captivating.

Dave Lewis

Dave Lewis is a freelance journalist and the editor and publisher of the Led Zeppelin magazine and website Tight But Loose, and author of several books on the band. Through the magazine and books, the Tight But Loose website and his Facebook page, Dave's objective remains to continue to inform, entertain and connect like minded Led Zeppelin fans new and old throughout the world – bringing them closer to the greatest rock music ever made.