10 Times Mick Jagger Shared the Mic

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Mick Jagger David Bowie Dancing Video Screen Cap

Mick’s duet with Bowie on “Dancing in the Street” premiered during the Live Aid concert on July 13, 1985

We’re spotlighting Mick Jagger’s career as studio sideman outside of the Rolling Stones, featuring some of his collaborations, duets and guest appearances on others’ records. Jagger is a very selective pop icon. His appearances on record—apart from the Stones’ catalog and his four solo albums—are surprisingly few and, in some cases, even a tad obscure, given his celebrity.

10) “State of Shock” – Jacksons (Lead Vocals by Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger) (1984)

In 1981, prior to the release of his mega-million-selling Thriller, Michael Jackson and Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury, entered the studio to cut several songs that were intended to be parceled out among their respective upcoming solo projects. Three tracks, including “State of Shock,” were recorded, but never fully completed to either singer’s satisfaction. In 1984, Michael rejoined his brothers for what would be The Jacksons’ final joint album and tour, Victory. He decided to resurrect one of those incomplete tracks, and sought out another high-profile singer to duet on the song. More than 30 years later, “State of Shock” remains the Jacksons’ last American Top 10 hit as well as Jagger’s most successful recording outside of the Stones.

9) “Checkin’ Up On My Baby” – Mick Jagger with The Red Devils (1992)

While producing Jagger’s Wandering Spirit LP, Rick Rubin invited his famed client down to L.A.’s King King Club to catch a set by The Red Devils, arguably the city’s finest authentic blues band. Knocked out by their performance, Mick joined the band onstage for two numbers, and a month later, Rubin beckoned them for a Jagger recording session. A set of 12 classic blues numbers was committed to tape and anticipation among the Devils was understandably high—an album backing the Rolling Stones’ front man could be a career-launcher. But when Wandering Spirit was released months later, there was not a blues number in sight. Over the years, bootlegs of this session have become coveted Jagger collectibles. Only one track, Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Checkin’ Up on My Baby,” has ever been legitimately released, on 2007’s The Very Best of Mick Jagger.

8) “(You Gotta Walk And) Don’t Look Back”– Peter Tosh (1978)

Mick Jagger with this story's author, Scott Paton, in 1978

Mick Jagger with this story’s author, Scott Paton, in 1978

In 1966—nearly 2,000 miles south of Motown in Kingston, Jamaica—this Temptations B-side found its way into the set of a popular local group, the Wailers, fronted by future reggae superstar Bob Marley. Co-founder and writer of many of the Wailers’ hits, Peter Tosh, broke away to launch a solo career in 1974, and four years later, Jagger signed him to his band’s Rolling Stones Records imprint. Wanting to launch Tosh’s Bush Doctor LP on the strength of a hit single, Jagger—himself a huge Temptations fan—urged Tosh to revisit “Don’t Look Back” and dueted with him on the track.

7) Old Habits Die Hard” – Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart (featuring Sheryl Crow) (2004)

Commissioned to create a soundtrack album for a 2004 remake of the 1966 film Alfie, Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart enlisted Jagger and made the project a collaborative effort—so much so that the ensuing album almost serves as a phantom “fifth Jagger LP.” Twelve of the album’s songs feature vocals by Mick, including “Old Habits Die Hard,” a duet with Sheryl Crow. While the song never achieved substantial airplay, its strong critical reception led to its winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song the following year.

6) Miracle Worker” – SuperHeavy (2011)

After collaborating on Alfie, Jagger, Stewart and singer Joss Stone expressed mutual interest in re-teaming at a later date. Four years later, the trio drafted Damian Marley (son of Bob) and Oscar-winning, Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack composer A.R. Rahman to round out a group that they ultimately dubbed SuperHeavy. In an attempt to avoid the glare of publicity, Jagger and his four compatriots frequently decamped—often under cover of night—to locations as exotic as Jamaica, Turkey, Italy, Greece and India for writing and recording sessions. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen even loaned the quintet his private yacht for recording in international waters. Unfortunately, all of the clandestine operations and byzantine logistics didn’t result in the worldwide acclaim that had been anticipated. SuperHeavy’s sole album and their debut single, “Miracle Worker,” premiered in 2011 and largely escaped greater public attention.

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5) Dancing In The Street” – David Bowie and Mick Jagger (1985)

Live Aid, the greatest charitable concert ever mounted, took place in Philadelphia and Wembley, England, on July 13, 1985. In addition to the all-star lineups on stage, initial plans for a live trans-Atlantic duet were hatched—David Bowie in England, Mick Jagger in Philly. But the two ultimately deemed that the scenario was too prone for potential disaster. So just weeks prior to the event, Jagger flew to London and met Bowie at Abbey Road Studios. After a 13-hour session, both the recording and accompanying video were essentially complete. Their remake of Martha and the Vandellas’ classic “Dancing in the Street” premiered during the global Live Aid broadcast and, ultimately, topped the U.K. singles chart for four weeks and reached #7 in the U.S.

4) DJ Blues” – Chris Jagger’s Atcha (2006)

Having recorded 10 albums since 1973, some critically received but never best-sellers, Mick Jagger’s kid brother Chris has worked at different junctures as a hairdresser, journalist, DJ, clothes designer and interior decorator. Still, he manages to return to the recording studio periodically to cut credible LPs, including 2006’s offering, Act of Faith, which included the duet “DJ Blues” with his older brother.

3) Long Black Veil” – The Chieftains with Mick Jagger (1995)

In the summer of 1993, the Rolling Stones threw themselves a 30th anniversary bash and hired Ireland’s legendary group The Chieftains to entertain. As a return favor, Mick was engaged to record a track with the Irishmen for their next LP. After bandying about a few titles, Mick suggested “The Long Black Veil,” one of his favorite tracks by The Band on their Music From Big Pink LP.

2) T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)” – will.i.am featuring Mick Jagger & Jennifer Lopez (2011)

will.i.am., founder and principal songwriter for the Black Eyed Peas, was working on a solo project in 2011 when his label head, Jimmy Iovine, asked to hear some of his tracks in-progress. When presented with “T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever),” he queried, “Who’s going to sing on that?” Will was taken aback. As far as he was concerned, this was a finished track. But Iovine was insistent. In an attempt to deflect his demands, Will decided to throw out a name so big that Iovine would be excited at the prospect, but would which never actually happen. Calls were made, and no one was more surprised than Will when Jagger agreed to sing on the track.

1) You’re So Vain” – Carly Simon (1972)

No other set of song lyrics has been subject to as much speculation as those of this damning epistle to one (or more) of Carly Simon’s ex-lovers. The two most likely suspects have always been Warren Beatty and Mick Jagger. In her recent autobiography, Simon finally admitted that the second verse was about Beatty. With regard to Jagger, she had this to say: “Having sex would have actually cooled things off. [But] we couldn’t have each other.” Chiefly, because she and James Taylor were engaged to be married. In fact, on the eve of their wedding, Simon says that Mick’s wife, Bianca, actually called them. “She told James that he shouldn’t marry me because Mick and I were having an affair. James said, ‘I’m sure that’s not true. Carly has told me about it and it’s not what you think. I trust my wife-to-be.’” Nevertheless, Simon’s “friendship” with Jagger evidently lingered as a sore point with Taylor and, surely, heavy rotation of “You’re So Vain” on the radio—with Mick chiming in on the chorus—remained a nagging reminder.

Scott Paton

3 Comments so far

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  1. urq
    #1 urq 12 August, 2019, 11:21

    I’ve never heard “Long Black Veil” sung quite like that, Mick. I liked it, the video was great

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  2. Baybluesman
    #2 Baybluesman 27 July, 2022, 00:10

    Thorough list, but let’s not forget about Mick Jagger’s contributions on the excellent rendition of “Nothin But The Wheel” from Peter Wolf’s (of J. Geils Band fame) superb 2002 album “Sleepless”.

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  3. Jas
    #3 Jas 13 January, 2023, 03:42

    My favorite duet is Don’t Look Back when they did it on SNL. But you’ve omitted the duets he did with Muddy Waters at the Checkerboard Lounge in 1981 that are legendary. You could tell how thrilled he was to be singing with one of his childhood idols.

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