The Rolling Stones track ‘Wild Horses’ is a love song with the supernatural capabilities to melt even the coldest hearts. When Mick Jagger’s vocals are isolated, that feeling only intensifies.
The process of how ‘Wild Horses’ came to exist is one that perfectly epitomises the unconventional but wondrous working relationship between the Glimmer Twins. In fact, this song was first recorded by the group in 1969; however, a legal dispute with their former manager would leave the track decaying on the backburner for two years before being unleashed.
During that time, the band even allowed their friend, Gram Parsons, to record and release his own version of the track before The Stones’ effort came to light. Keith Richards was the architect of ‘Wild Horses’, although his idea of the song was almost entirely different to the one we all know and love.
The only thing remaining was the sentiment of everlasting love that Richards held for his son, Marlon. The guitarist was saddened when he had to leave his family behind to go on tour, and while in this emotional state, he wrote the effervescent line, “Wild horses couldn’t drag me away”.
Jagger heard this line and, like the rest of us, immediately connected with those six words. With that sentence blistering through his mind, the rest of the song just flooded out of him. Before the singer knew it, The Stones had another classic in their arsenal.
Recalling the writing process in the liner notes for the 1993 compilation album Jump Back, Jagger said: “I remember we sat around originally doing this with Gram Parsons, and I think his version came out slightly before ours. Everyone always says this was written about Marianne (Faithfull) but I don’t think it was; that was all well over by then. But I was definitely very inside this piece emotionally.”
“It was one of those magical moments when things come together,” Richards wrote in his 2010 autobiography Life about the song’s creation. “It’s like ‘Satisfaction ‘. You just dream it, and suddenly it’s all in your hands. Once you’ve got the vision in your mind of wild horses, I mean, what’s the next phrase you’re going to use? It’s got to be couldn’t drag me away.”
We’ll probably never know if Faithfull was the muse for the track, and the mystery surrounding the song allows you as a listener to create your own meaning. In the isolated vocal version, you can hear the unrestrained heartfelt emotion that the frontman pours into each line, and it’s impossible not to be moved by his performance.