The day Mick Jagger suddenly looked his age
The Rolling Stone's life entered calmer waters when he met L'Wren Scott, who tragically committed suicide this week. How will he cope without her?
Published 23/03/2014 | 02:30
If there is one theme to the later life of Mick Jagger it is the search for, and attainment of, control. The lyrics of the Rolling Stones may speak to the wild of heart, but the grammar school boy from England prefers to rely on his head in matters professional.
Stage management is the key – but not only on the stage. Jagger has been supervising the finances of the Stones since his late twenties and a string of divorce settlements have failed to put a serious dent in a fortune estimated at £200m (€240m). That acumen extends to his persona.
Read interviews with rock and roll's greatest frontman and you sense the restrictions hemming in his hapless interrogators. Encounters are brief and choreographed, finessed by a seasoned public relations operation. Interviewers are tossed a few scraps of personal revelation, but nothing compared with the titanic backlog of juicy material available. The singer's status demands an easy ride, and he usually gets it.
At the age of 70, Mick still likes being at the top. His appetite for touring, for the adulation of the crowd, appears to be undiminished. The singer holds back the years through sheer force of will, shunning excess and late nights and applying his face creams, portraying the look of a man 20 years his junior. After half a century of use, the 28in waist and gyrating hips remain miraculously intact.
L'Wren Scott at a museum benefit with Mick Jagger
But this week Jagger suddenly looks his age. The years, for so long held in abeyance, have piled up on that unruly face as the reality of a terrible event has hit home.
On Monday, Jagger was dining at a restaurant in the Australian city of Perth, venue of the next Stones concert, when he learnt from an assistant that L'Wren Scott, his partner of 13 years, had hanged herself in her apartment in New York, just an hour or so earlier.
Across the time zones the news filtered in of a last call by the 49-year-old fashion designer to an assistant, that assistant's arrival at the apartment, and a terrible discovery.
'I am still struggling to understand how my lover and best friend could end her life in this tragic way," wrote Jagger this week.
The concert was cancelled and Jagger was expected to take off for New York, having postponed the Stones' tour of Australia and New Zealand. Suddenly, all attention was focused on the woman who had for more than a decade walked in Jagger's shadow, despite towering over him by more than half a foot in actual stature.
A Utah girl, raised by adoptive parents, Ms Scott shrugged off smalltown life to build a career in modelling, then design. Hollywood's leading women relied on her for their Oscar-night gowns and cocktail dresses, and she was an intimate of the tight-knit elite at the head of international fashion.
The idea that her position might owe something to the identity of her consort pained a woman who was clearly committed to hard work and independent success.
"I've never in my life been hired for who I know, only for what I can do," she once said.
"That's always been very important to me."
L’Wren Scott with actress Sarah Jessica Parker
Nevertheless, it was for her relationship with Jagger that she was known to readers of magazines. Scott met Mick following the dissolution of his marriage to Jerry Hall, mother to four of his seven children. As Hall graciously pointed out, Scott appeared more able to handle Jagger and his requirement, even in his autumn years, for personal independence.
A womaniser for much of his life, whose sexual career fully merited the overworked adjective 'legendary', Jagger had to his credit a string of failed marriages. There was plenty of extramarital chaos to go with them. Two of the singer's early girlfriends, Chrissie Shrimpton, sister of the model Jean, and singer Marianne Faithfull took overdoses while with him but survived.
Jagger's life had entered calmer waters when Scott met him, but over the following decade he refused to commit to her fully. Once asked about her desire for children, she dodged the question. "Let me see if I can articulate this in a way that makes sense," she said.
"I have seven wonderful sort of children in my life, by default. I have four fabulous grandchildren. I feel that being the product of adoption is a wonderful thing, and at the moment my life is saturated with children. My family life is a high priority."
Then there was the ring that looked suspiciously like the engagement kind but turned out not to be. In an interview with The New York Times in 2010, almost a decade into his relationship with Scott, the singer insisted on referring to it as "kind of dating" before holding forth on the inadequacies of marriage.
The reasons that drive someone to take their own life are rarely easy to list in a definitive way. Sources have suggested that Scott became more withdrawn in the days before her death, but there was little indication of the crisis about to overtake her. Jagger's shock at the loss of his lover has been shared by many of her friends, who saw in her a woman of confidence.
"I think that I have always had composure," she told an interviewer. "I don't think that you can be 6ft 3in and care if people talk about you. So I think, just from sheer stature, I developed a kind of shield early on."
There are indications that Scott's business, LS Fashion, was suffering financially, running up debts of £3.6m (€4.3m) at the end of 2012. The cancellation of her show during London Fashion Week has been attributed to these difficulties.
It is not known if Jagger supported the business financially, but Scott's character suggests she would not have enjoyed being subsidised in her work. However, basic accounts do not tell the whole story and it is likely that Scott's overall financial position was a healthy one.
For Jagger, this is the worst of times in a charmed life – the star has already had to put his grief on hold to deny the suggestion that his relationship with Scott ended shortly before her death.
The suggestion of a split was followed later by remarks from Lupe Montufar, who worked as a housekeeper for Scott in Los Angeles between 1993 and 2009. She told the New York Daily News that the designer tolerated Jagger's infidelity in the hope of one day having a family with him: "She wanted to get married and have a family, but she didn't want to get her hopes up or say it out loud to Mick. She didn't want to pressure him."
In his New York Times interview, Jagger explained his need to control the minutiae of every appearance.
"Public people put a lot of energy into what people think about them," he said.
"Everyone does. I don't care what they say. You always want to control your image, but you obviously can't control it 100pc."
Mick Jagger saw the writing on the wall for recorded music and built his band into the greatest touring machine in rock history. For four decades he skilfully micro-managed his own image and that of his band.
But for the time being, however, he is not in control.