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Behind Every Member of the Rolling Stones Is a Woman

How their partners helped rock this band to timeless success.

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photo collage of wives and husbands from the band the rolling stones
Alice Lagarde (Getty Images, 6)
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When I was 16, I spent $125 — dough I’d worked all summer to earn — to buy a single ticket to the Rolling Stones LAST AND FINAL EVER tour. It was my first concert. The seats were nosebleed. I was so tired from cramming for a physics midterm that I fell asleep. (It did comfort me to later learn that Keith Richards once nodded off on stage while singing.)

The Rolling Stones are now grandparents in their 80s, their combined net worth is currently estimated at $1.45 billion, and the band is still touring! AARP is the sponsor of the current circuit, a delectable irony itself. Songs like “Wild Horses Couldn’t Drag Me Away,” “Sympathy for the Devil” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” were the soundtrack to our first dates and first heartbreaks. At the time, however, few of us seemed to notice that the swaggering and sexy frontmen Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were somewhat misogynistic in their lyrics. Fortunately, with age comes the wisdom to see the Rolling Stones — and perhaps, all men, famous or not — with greater clarity.

Typical of our male-tilted culture, what’s not often emphasized in the adulation of the Rolling Stones is the influence of the women who shaped them. The six most iconic Stones girlfriends are as complex, and immortal, as the Stones themselves. I’m talking Anita Pallenberg (Keith 1969-80), Marianne Faithfull (Mick 1966-70), Bianca Jagger (Mick 1970-78), Patti Hansen (Keith 1979-present), Jerry Hall (Mick 1977-99) and Melanie Hamrick (Mick 2016-present).

You’ve never heard of them? Lesson #1: The glow radiating off famous men often makes their partners invisible.

Before we dig into these wing-women, let’s examine the biggest stunner: Richards and Jagger are remarkably still ALIVE, despite long-term exposure to the risks of “death by misadventure,” the official knell the coroner gave Stones guitarist Brian Jones. Even more shocking: Few men have aged better.

At 80, both Jagger and Richards are toned, wiry and still bouncing around on stage. Each is worth over $300 million, according to Forbes. They’ve gotten away with living and loving hard. Their female partners, not so much — evoking the heterosexual female conundrum for those of us who’ve spent our lives chasing poetic, heartbreaking men.

Let’s start with German-Italian model and actress Anita Pallenberg, Keith’s longtime girlfriend, muse and mother to three of his children. In his 2010 memoir, Life, Richards describes Pallenberg as a bold and decisive Valkyrie, the alpha in the relationship, seducing him in the backseat of a limo in Spain. Her clothes fit Richards, and Pallenberg encouraged Keith to wear her flamboyant outfits on stage — feathered vests, mismatched scarves, jeweled chokers, hip huggers.

The uber-confident Pallenberg shook Richards out of his shy, strait-laced persona, empowering his inner bad boy and helping Keith find his voice onstage and off. As Richards describes vividly in his memoir, in 1971, Pallenberg’s force-of-nature personality led the Stones, who were dodging British tax authorities and rehab, to the 16-room Belle Epoque French Villa Nellcote overlooking the Mediterranean on the French Riviera.

This is where the extended Stones family and their dealers lived, partied and created music together for three years, Richards explains. Many of the Exile on Main Street songs, including “Rocks Off” and “Soul Survivor,” were recorded in Nellcote’s damp basement, resulting in its unforgettably raw sound.

Did Keith Richards repay this goddess with eternal loyalty? Not exactly. After fathering three children with her, including a boy, Tara, who died as an infant, Richards left Pallenberg for Patti Hansen, a Norwegian-American supermodel he met at Studio 54 on her 23rd birthday. Pallenberg’s motto, according to their son Marlon, was “ever forward, don’t explain, don’t complain.”

Pallenberg’s successor, Patti Hansen, had graced the covers of Seventeen, Vogue, Glamour and more, yet she largely retired from modeling once she married Richards in Cabo San Lucas in 1983. Parents to two grown daughters, the couple lives in suburban Connecticut, and recently celebrated 40 years of marriage. In total, Richards has five grandchildren, three from Marlon and two from his daughter Dandelion Angela, from his relationship with Pallenberg.

On to British rocker and, another beauty, Marianne Faithfull, Jagger’s on-again, off-again girlfriend from roughly 1966 to 1970. With saucer-like blue eyes and wild 60s flower child outfits, she set the stage for Twiggy, and the Penny Lane character in the 2000 rock movie, Almost Famous.

Jagger wrote “As Tears Go By” for Faithfull to sing, but a year after her hit single came out, he decided the Stones should record their version, which vastly eclipsed hers. In 1967, during a drug bust at Richards' home, Faithfull was found by the cops wearing nothing but a fur rug. Today, this might launch a starlet to Instagram fame. Instead, "I was slandered as the wanton woman in the fur rug," Faithfull said in an interview with The New York Times, "while Mick was the noble rock star on trial."

Today, at 77, Faithfull is a footnote in rock ‘n roll history. Her life has been far darker than Jagger’s. However, her resilience is inspirational, as a survivor of heroin addiction and breast cancer.

Jagger’s first wife was Blanca Pérez-Mora Macías — globally recognized as Bianca Jagger. With her penetrating eyes and mane of dark hair, she met Jagger at a party after a Rolling Stones concert in France in September 1970. Four months pregnant, she became Mrs. Jagger in a Roman Catholic ceremony in Saint-Tropez. Seven years after their wedding, Bianca filed for divorce on the grounds of Mick’s adultery with Texas supermodel Jerry Hall. Jade Jagger, the daughter of Mick and Bianca, is now 52 and a high-profile jewelry designer.

Bianca Jagger's admirable lasting lesson is how she used her ancillary fame as a force for good in the world, reinventing herself as a women’s empowerment advocate through the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation and serving as the Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador to aid women and girls around the world.

Speaking of Jerry Hall, the six-foot model met Jagger in 1976, had four children with him, and was kinda-sorta married to him from 1990 to 1999. They split due to mutual adultery and Jagger’s fathering a child with Brazilian lingerie model Luciana Morad in 1999. Courts ruled that the Jagger-Hall Hindu wedding ceremony was not legally binding. Hall went on to marry billionaire Rupert Murdoch in 2016.

After six years, Murdoch ended their marriage via email, when he was 91 and she was 66. Due to the prenup Hall negotiated, she walked away with over $200 million. Hall’s lesson: legal marriage does have a few (million) benefits.

Mick Jagger’s current partner is Melanie Hamrick, a ballerina born in 1987 — and younger than his firstborn child with Jerry Hall. A former dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theater, Hamrick met Jagger when they were both on tour in Japan. Hamrick was 29 and Jagger 73 when Jagger’s eighth child, Deveraux Octavian Basil Jagger, was born in 2016.

So, as much as we may enjoy their music, here's to the women behind the Rolling Stones who have been large contributors to their timeless success. That’s often the lesson of loving famous men — we can’t always get what we want, while few rules apply to the men themselves. Another admonition, one that no Rolling Stones lyrics address, is crucial as we age: we women need to take responsibility for getting our own satisfaction.

 
Who else loves the Rolling Stones? Have you ever seen them in concert? Let us know in the comments below.

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