News that Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger will soon be knighted set off tremors in the British press and across the Atlantic. The Sunday Times opined that “At last, His Satanic Majesty is called to the palace.” Other papers chose to mock Jagger’s history of womanizing and debauchery: Despite the significant musical accomplishments of the Stones, went this line of thought, is Jagger worthy of the title "Sir Mick," given his personal history?
Some, predictably, accused Jagger of selling out. Writing in the New York Press, John Strausbaugh, author of the amusing anti-geriatric rocker pamphlet Rock ’Til You Drop, said that the knighthood “shouldn’t be much of a surprise.” According to Strausbaugh, Jagger’s bad boy image, as manifest in such classic Stones songs as "Street Fighting Man" and "Sympathy for the Devil," "was a consciously constructed public persona, as artificial as the Southern drawl he puts on when he sings or the Cockney he often affects when he speaks. The private Jagger is much more Establishment--a shrewd businessman and self-made multimillionaire, as much an epicure as a libertine, who displays many of the social-climbing traits of the arriviste."
Strausbaugh has a point about the characterization of Jagger as a shrewd businessman intent on squeezing out as much money as possible out of fans. It’s easy to forget that the Stones spent part of the ’70s as tax exiles. More recently, they cancelled a series of concerts in the U.K. because the tax bite demanded by the Labor government was too deep.
Jagger's music has lately taken a spiritual turn, with the goshawful "God Gave Me Everything I Want" assaulting the ears of those listening to various radio stations. But who would have guessed that the original Street Fighting Man really wanted the approval of the Queen of England?