Does Mick Jagger really play guitar or not? This is a common question when people saw the lead singer of The Rolling Stones on stage. Many people wondered if the iconic rockstar has any sort of musicianship–whether he was just a singer and a showman.
In this article, we will look into Mick Jagger’s musicianship and answer the above question in detail.
Can Mick Jagger play guitar? Mick Jagger can play guitar and he was a decent guitar player for the Rolling Stones. He is credited with guitar work on almost all of the band’s albums, except Dirty Work (1986) and Blue & Lonesome (2016). Jagger also played the guitar on tour during the late 70s.
Mick Jagger as a Guitarist
Mick Jagger is a man of many talents and interests. During his long and storied career, Jagger has done some amazing things, like fronting one of the greatest bands in rock history and being so cool that he managed to make everyone else look boring.
However, while those are significant accomplishments, there’s one talent Mick Jagger has that is often overlooked—his guitar-playing skills.
Jagger can play the guitar. In fact, there are many appearances from the rockstar playing the guitar for the band.
The reason why many many people wondered if he could play the guitar—and if he’s good at it—was because he wasn’t often seen playing the instrument. After all, Mick Jagger was a frontman, and his job was to sing and engage the audience. Jagger was usually running around on stage and singing energetically. He would have had a hard time doing that if he were forced to just stand and play the instrument.
Jagger plays guitar on most Stones songs
For him to write some of the best songs in rock ‘n’ roll history, of course, Mick Jagger also had to know how to play the guitar. Jagger had already played the instrument even before he joined the Rolling Stones.
Jagger is credited as a guitarist on most songs of the Rolling Stones. Most prominently, he began contributing electric guitar parts in the band’s recordings since Sticky Fingers (1971). Before that, Jagger had only been playing the rhythm guitar.
The Rolling Stones mostly let Keith Richards handle the lead guitar work—and rightfully so since he was one of the greatest guitarists of all time.
Mick Jagger playing guitar in Brown Sugar
As proof of Mick Jagger’s skills in guitar and songwriting, you can check this video of rock ‘n’ roll history:
Here, you’ll see Jagger playing the guitar, which is pretty unusual at the time. He was playing an unrecorded song that would eventually become one of the biggest hits of the Rolling Stones: Brown Sugar.
At one point in the video, you’ll hear Jagger playing an embryonic version of the riff, which was eventually polished by Keith Richards. Jagger played the song to Ike and Tina Turner, who were also prominent figures in rock ‘n’ roll.
Is Mick Jagger a good guitar player?
Mick Jagger was a decent guitar player, but he wasn’t at par with other Rolling Stones members like Mick Taylor, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones. Jagger was well-known for being a rhythm guitarist. On stage, he simply often blended in as an additional rhythm guitar.
“I don’t really like singing very much, I enjoy playing the guitar more than I enjoy singing and I can’t play the guitar either.” –Mick Jagger, December 8, 1969
Mick Jagger admitted that he wasn’t an exceptional musician. He would praise Keith Richards for his guitar ability. He would also praise Brian Jones, but Jones doesn’t have the songwriting skills as Jagger and Richards do.
Jagger wasn’t the only rockstar who was also not a guitar virtuoso. Elvis Presley was another rock ‘n’ roll artist with limited technical ability in playing the guitar. The likes of Jagger and Presley prioritized being frontmen and lead singers. Although they knew how to play, they left the complex guitar parts to other members who could do it better.
Can Mick Jagger play other instruments?
Aside from guitar, Mick Jagger also plays harmonica and piano. Even when he was not energetically singing and dancing on stage, Jagger could still command the attention of a room while playing these instruments.
Mick Jagger playing piano
You can see Mick Jagger’s piano skills in this video of Mick Jagger’s performance of Fool To Cry. He wrote this song with Keith Richards after Mick Taylor left the band, leaving the Stones without a lead guitarist.
Jagger is simply stationary behind the keys, but he is still magnetic as ever. This song peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Mick Jagger playing harmonica
Mick Jagger is also an accomplished blues harmonica player. You can hear his harmonica skills on tracks such as Gimme Shelter and Midnight Rambler.
Check out this video of the Rolling Stones performing Midnight Rambler in an intimate and rare appearance at the Marquee Club. In between singing, you’ll see Mick Jagger playing the harmonica.
When did Mick Jagger learn to play guitar?
Mick Jagger first learned how to play the instrument when he got his first guitar at 14 years old. His parents bought him a round-hole acoustic guitar on a family trip to Spain.
At a young age, he had already been interested in music, particularly American blues and R&B. He began collecting blues records from artists like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf when he was a teenager.
He also started a school record club with his friends when he was young. Their meetings took place in a classroom during lunch hours while they played songs from Lonnie Donegan. Jagger also started a band called Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys with his friend Dick Taylor.
So there you have it, Mick Jagger can play guitar. While he may not be the most accurate, talented, or prolific of guitarists, he can still play the instrument to a respectable degree.
We wouldn’t go so far as to call him a great guitarist—he’s still no Keith Richards—but he gets the job done.
Michaela Jyra Melo is a freelance writer, music obsessive, and professional content creator with a passion for sharing her experiences and knowledge with the world. Michaela is a music lover first and foremost. She's passionate about new music and artists, but she also loves to dig into musical instruments and equipment. Michael studies communication at the University of the Philippines. When she's not writing or listening to new music, she can be found reading on her Kindle or traveling somewhere new with friends.