‘Angie’ is one of the most mellow and introspective points in The Rolling Stones‘ back catalogue. The lead single from their 1973 album Goats Head Soup, it was released to widespread commercial and critical acclaim. A soft-rock ballad, it is credited to the band’s iconic songwriting duo Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Although, it has been acknowledged by the band members that it was mainly written by Richards. However, the mysterious subject of the titular woman is what has captured fans’ imagination since its release. Join us as we try to unpick the mystery.
In his 2010 autobiography, Life, Richards explained that he thought of ‘Angie’ while recovering from his terrible heroin addiction in Switzerland. He claims that: “I wrote ‘Angie’ in an afternoon, sitting in bed,” he said, explained that: “Because I could finally move my fingers and get them in the right place again…It was not about any particular person, it was a name, like ‘Ohhh, Diana.'”
However, given the song’s iconic legacy, many have not been fooled by Richards’ story. In fact, there exists a few suspects from whom the titular Angie could be based upon or inspired by. At this point, it is worth discounting any shouts of Angela Merkel or Angie Dickinson, that have long existed on the internet.
Suspect number one is David Bowie‘s first wife, Angela. It has long been known that Jagger and Bowie were good friends, so at inception, it may seem plausible, particularly given the rumours that involve Angela demand a song was written for her after catching Bowie and Jagger in the extra-marital act. However, this claim has long been denied by the Stones. In 2002, Mick Jagger restated: “I’ve said about a hundred million times that it wasn’t (about Angela Bowie)… I don’t think I had even met Angela Bowie when I wrote the rest of the lyrics.”
The likeliness of it being Angela Bowie was also cast into major doubt by Richards in 1993, who revealed some exciting news in the liner notes for the compilation album Jump Back: The Best of The Rolling Stones. Agreeing with the sentiment outlined in his autobiography, Richards alleged: “The basic melody and the title were mine. I don’t think you can write really interesting rock and roll songs if you can’t get into ballads and slower stuff. Quite often when you write a ballad it ends up as something else. Once we’ve got a song we tussle around with it, roll in the dirt with it. I’d recently had my daughter born, who’s name was Angela, and the name was starting to ring around the house. But I’m into writing about my babies. Angie just fitted. I mean, you couldn’t sing ‘Maureen’.”
This brings us to our second suspect, Dandelion Angela, Richard’s daughter. Born in 1972, the birth of his daughter clearly had a significant impact on Richards. In fact, in 2002, Jagger backed this sentiment up: “I think Keith wrote the first line, I think it was his daughter (Angela). It was about love coming to a full stop. The actual name, I’m not sure where it came from, it’s not about Angela Bowie. I think it’s Keith’s daughter’s name.”
However, given some of the lyrics, it is evident that the song is not fully about Dandelion Angela, and if they were it would make these next set of lyrics unbelievably creepy: “But Angie, I still love you baby / Everywhere I look I see your eyes / There ain’t a woman that comes close to you / Come on, baby, dry your eyes”.
Thankfully, given Richards’ next statement, it is made clear that the song was inspired by another. Back in 1973, Richards maintained: “I had the whole chord sequence down maybe a year ago with just the title ‘Angie’. It could have been Randy or Mangy or anything, you know, but Mick just picked up on the title and wrote a song around it.”
Although the song title was clearly inspired consciously or subconsciously by the birth of Richard’s daughter, the contents are not. This mysterious subject is widely claimed to be about the break up of the relationship between Jagger and the lady du jour, Marianne Faithfull.
Jagger and Faithfull had a lengthy, well-documented relationship that lasted from 1966-70. Lyrically, she could well have been the inspiration for the 1973 classic, as she was already at that point rumoured to have inspired many Rolling Stones classics. These include ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’, ‘Wild Horses’ and ‘She’s Like a Rainbow’, to name but a few.
Noting Jagger’s lyrics, it seems likely that Faithfull was the main inspiration behind the song. However, there is no definitive answer. It appears as if the title of the song was certainly inspired by the birth of Richard’s daughter in 1972. On top of this, given the yearning sentiment of the lyrics, it is plausible that Jagger used the fictional woman as a conduit for approaching his lost relationship with Faithfull. Who knows, maybe this fictional woman was also somewhat inspired by Angela Bowie, representing a hybrid of desire and loss?
Listen to the classic track, below.