It's hard to believe that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Rolling Stones. Once the most outrageous and insurgent bands of their generation -- the Who and the Pretty Things notwithstanding -- they transitioned from rebellious youth to senior citizens with such respectability, it actually earned Mick Jagger a knighthood. (Although to his credit, Keith Richards still showed his disdain.)
Indeed, it's odd to imagine Jagger in his current context, a wizened old man of 69, still strutting and posturing with the same attitude he possessed all those decades ago.
Born July 26, 1943, Jagger was raised in a solid working-class family, and like most of his musical contemporaries, he fostered an early interest in art. However, once introduced to the blues, he abandoned those ambitions and opted instead to make his mark in music. An initial apprenticeship with Britain's Godfather of the Blues, Alexis Korner, fostered an obsession he shared with Richards, inspiring their future as the Glimmer Twins.
The Stones paid their dues, slogging it out in local dives, living in conditions best described as horrendous, and putting up with the barbs tossed their way by an antagonistic media and public. But their penchant for early covers -- including a castoff by Lennon and McCartney titled "I Wanna Be Your Man" -- soon gave way to original compositions, and the Jagger/Richards writing team emerged as one of the most formidable in rock history.
The Stones continued to evolve over the decades, from their blues-based origins to their multihued canon of the mid- and late '60s, through an unfortunate tryst with psychedelia. They moved on to signature staples like "Jumping Jack Flash," "Honky Tonk Women," "Start Me Up," classic albums such as Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, and Exile on Main Street, and into the era of disco. Less fallow endeavors of the late '70s, '80s, and much of the '90s followed. Along the way, they found themselves embroiled in ongoing tragedy and controversy -- drugs, sex scandals, arrests, the death of founding member and social outcast Brian Jones, Altamont, internal squabbles, an unfortunate lack of quality control -- but regardless, they manage to persevere. In fact, there's rarely been a Stones tour that hasn't sold out.
Jagger, along with Richards, remains the physical and philosophical focal point of the band. Though the years may have taken a toll on his facial features (crags are not that far from Stones, after all), he remains nimble, lithe, and very much the sharp-tongued cynic. He also remains the same mesmerizing figure he's been all along and a one of a kind, a singer who sets the standard for rock 'n' roll frontmen now and forever, or at least until something like arthritis or a broken hip forces his retirement.
Still, the idea of this blustery and defiant symbol of youth and rebellion rapidly approaching his 70th birthday is difficult to reconcile. Even though rock 'n' roll was conceived as the exclusive domain of the young, stars like Jagger, Richards, McCartney, Townshend, Daltrey, and others of that g-g-g-generation forged the new rock reality.
With that in mind, here's a select list of other famous frontmen who successfully transitioned into the realm of elder statesmen with credibility intact.
Robert Plant, 63
Plant may have adjusted his focus from hard rock to the heartland, but he's still a passionate perfectionist who carries himself well onstage. And hey, hey, mama, he's still quite the lady's man. He recently wed backup singer Patty Griffin.