Mick Jagger’s Best Songs Ranked

He’s the boss: MOJO’s pick of The Rolling Stones frontman’s best solo work

Mick Jagger

by Chris Catchpole |
Published on

Mick Jagger had done plenty of moonlighting outside of his day job fronting The Rolling Stones: starring in and appearing on the soundtrack of 1970’s Performance, adding backing vocals to Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain, duetting with artists including David Bowie, Michael Jackson and former Wailer Peter Tosh. Surprisingly though, it took until 1985 - when relations between him and Keith Richards were at an all-time low - for Jagger to take the plunge as a solo artist and put out his first solo album, She's The Boss. As anyone who has heard abysmal 1987 single Let’s Work can attest, Jagger’s work outside of the Stones can be a mixed bag, but it’s a bag that also contains plenty of gems. Here, MOJO selects the best songs from his four solo records and assorted collaborations…


Hide Away

(Goddess In The Doorway, 2001)

2001’s Goddess In The Doorway roped in a number of famous friends in a bit to recast Jagger as a musical relevance at the start of the new millennium. A mixed bag for much of the time, but on this smoothly lilting number made with former Fugee Wyclef Jean, the pop cross-pollination works.



War Baby

(Primitive Cool, 1987)

Produced by The Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, 1987’s Primitive Cool featured Jeff Beckon lead guitar, filling the Keef-shaped hole through much of its overly slick sound. A comment on the Cold War arms race, War Baby also features uilleann pipes by The Chieftans’ Paddy Moloney, who strikes an appropriately melancholic note within the clouds of dry ice.


State Of Shock (with The Jacksons)

(Single, 1984)

Michael Jackson originally wrote State Of Shock with Freddie Mercury in mind and planned to have it on Thriller. However, timings didn’t work out and instead he cut it with his brothers and Jagger taking Mercury’s lines. Whatever the billing, this Beat It-light really is Michael’s show, despite Mick’s best efforts.



Lonely At the Top

(She’s The Boss, 1985)

Ironically, the first song on Jagger’s debut solo album was a Jagger/Richards composition. Lonely At The Top’s punchy Huey Lewis And The News styled backing may have betrayed the smooth production style of the time, but Jagger’s throaty bark is anything but bland, and the resulting track could pass itself off as a Lindsey Buckingham Fleetwood Mac number.


Party Doll

(Primitive Cool, 1987)

The Chieftan’s Paddy Moloney also features on this highlight from Jagger’s second solo LP. A pleasingly rootsy ballad whose Celtic folk strains bring to mind The Waterboys Fisherman’s Blues. It would have been nice to hear the Stones following a similar path during the 80s.



Just Another Night

(She’s The Boss, 1985)

Angie updated for the era of hairspray and shoulder pads, Jagger’s debut solo single featured Herbie Hancock, legendary reggae rhythm section Sly and Robbie and a dazzling acoustic solo from Jeff Beck, setting a bar for his solo career he wasn’t always be able to match.


Too Far Gone

(Goddess In the Doorway, 2001)

Too Far Gone showed that when he’s on more familiar territory rather than chasing pop fads, Jagger still shines. A soulful, country blues ballad given some amped-up welly from Aerosmith’s Joe Perry on guitar, it was the high point of Jagger’s last – to date – solo album, Goddess In The Doorway.


Use Me

(Wandering Spirit, 1993)

Produced by Rick Rubin, this take on Bill Withers’ Use Me has Jagger and Lenny Kravitz giving their all on a respectful and refreshingly impassioned cover.


Dancing In The Street (with David Bowie)

(Single, 1985)

‘OK! Tokyo!’ It’s easy to lampoon Jagger and Bowie’s take on Martha Vandella’s Motown classic recorded for Live Aid, but even if you take out of consideration that fact it was for a good cause the pair are audibly having a hoot, something that comes across throughout its punchy 80s Springsteen-like boogie.


Don’t Tear Me Up

(Wandering Spirit, 1993)

Another highlight from Jagger’s only solo album of the ‘90s and perhaps his best LP outside of the Stones. Blistering blues guitar and shimmering organ wrestle around Jagger’s impassioned vocal. One of the great Stones tracks that never was.

READ: Brian Jones: It Was Murder


I’ve Been Lonely For So Long

(Wandering Spirit, 1993)

A cover of Frederick Knight’s 1972 track, some George Harrison-esque guitar lines and Prince-y backing vocals add a nice touch to the warm Southern Soul stew cooking here.


It Hurts Me Too

(Jamming With Edward!, 1972)

Released 1972, Jamming With Edward! collected some loose jams during the sessions for Let It Bleed by Jagger, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Nicky Hopkins and Ry Cooder while they waited for Keith Richards to show up (who was either in a huff about the presence of Cooder, on the phone to Anita Pallenberg or “still in bed” depending on who you ask). Jagger doesn’t sing much on any of them and his adlibbed vocals here, mixing in elements of Dylan’s Pledging My Time to Elmore James’ blues standard, sound distant under a fug of distortion, yet the playing on this is utterly sublime; Jagger’s often unsung harmonica playing shining between Hopkins’ honkytonk and Cooder’s virtuoso slide.

READ: The Rolling Stones: Why Mick Taylor Had To Go


Angel In My Heart

(Wandering Spirit, 1993)

An aching, sorrowful ballad furnished with harpsichord and stately strings, Angel In My Heart returned Jagger to the baroque 60s pop of Lady Jane and As Tears Go By. Much as he would later do with Johnny Cash, producer Rick Rubin knew how to re-acquaint the Stones’ frontman with what he did best.


(You Gotta Walk) Don’t Look Back (with Peter Tosh)

(Bush Doctor, 1978)

Both Mick and Keith are massive reggae fans and have incorporated much of the music into the Stones’ records and their own solo work for decades (the latter with often mixed results). Following the disbandment of The Wailers, the Stones offered guitarist Peter Tosh a deal on Rolling Stones Records. The professional relationship was strained and Tosh left after a few years, but this version of The Temptations’ Don’t Look Back with Jagger - who sounds stoned out of his gourd  - on co-vocals is joyous.


Memo From Turner

(Performance, 1970)

Jagger’s first – and by 2000 light years, best - acting role was in Nicholas Roeg’s 1970 cult classic Performance, playing both reclusive rockstar Turner and a slicked-back East End gangster. Made furious by rumours that Jagger’s sex scenes with his then girlfriend Anita Pallenberg weren’t faked, Keith Richards stalled on the song he and Jagger were writing for the soundtrack. Co-director Donald Cammell stepped in, helping to complete a lyric that transported Elizabethan tragedy to the seedy underbelly of swinging 60s London to cruel and queasy effect. Three versions of the song exist, one by The Rolling Stones, an unreleased version recorded with Traffic's Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi, but the one recorded with Ry Cooder that eventually made the film stands among the finest songs of Mick Jagger's career. Both inside and outside of The Rolling Stones.

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