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Mick Jagger’s Plundered Soul

Mick Jagger studied finance at the London School of Economics, not law. So it is perhaps understandable that his most recent initiative—one offered up to the world as a new single, music video, and album bonus track—makes splendid economic sense while teetering treacherously close to fraud. Jagger, as de facto COO of the multinational conglomerate that is the Rolling Stones, recently oversaw a lavish and suitably well hyped reissue of Exile on Main Street, the 1972 album that Stones connoisseurs regard, with ample reason, as a rock masterpiece. It’s always been my own favorite Stones album, and not only because it was released when I was a junior in high school, the perfect age for it. Still, I don’t think of Exile—or any rock album—as a sacred text. The very idea contradicts the essential, precious sacrilegiousness of rock. What Jagger has done is not a sin, but something close to (though not quite) a crime. He took a spare, incomplete instrumental recording—one without a vocal track or lyrics—and some 40 years after the music was written, added words and a tune, and sang them over the old music. He has titled it “Plundered My Soul,” a neat wink at the song’s larcenous provenance. The musicians who recorded the track were in their mid-twenties; the singer is 66; and the lyrics, with their references to resting on laurels, quiet reflection, and sad rejection, suggest their author’s age. It is certainly Jagger’s prerogative to use his own stuff and make it new, of course. The problem here is the implication, clear in the official video for the song that this is something old, a piece of music from Exile on Main Street or its era. It is a good song—among the best the Stones have done in late life. Jagger should be proud that he can still do it at his age, and leave his young self where he belongs, in exile.