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Eternal youth

How Jagger and Richards have made it to 80

Jagger and Richards in 2005. Scott Gries/Getty

Mick Jagger celebrated his 80th birthday yesterday, says Christopher Sandford in The Oldie, and Keith Richards will do the same in December. How on earth have these heavy-living rockers defied the actuaries and lived so long? They’ve been very well looked after, of course. When Jagger needed a heart-valve replacement in 2019, he was immediately flown by private jet to a New York hospital, then recuperated in his Florida beach house and his Loire Valley chateau. When Richards fell out of a banyan tree in Fiji in 2006, a “full-scale emergency team swung into action”: an air ambulance flew him to New Zealand, where doctors drained blood from his brain, reattached his scalp with titanium bolts and put him on a morphine drip.

But the real secret to their longevity “lies further back than that” – in the values of postwar Britain. Jagger grew up in suburban Dartford in a household characterised by hard work, a strictly rationed diet, and an exercise regime supervised by his father. He went to church twice a week, where he was known not for his singing, but for his voluntary work and “a quiet determination to make something of himself”. Similarly, Richards’s upbringing was all about “duty, rank and sound traditional values” – not to mention a largely fat-free diet. He too sang in the choir, and later showed his “streak of English romanticism” by spending his first songwriting earnings on a thatched cottage in Sussex, where he still lives today. Now I “wouldn’t dare” suggest that both are fundamentally conservative types, contemptuous of a younger generation “scared of hard graft”. But it’s certainly true that these two “middle-class lads from the Kentish suburbs” have always been in it for the long haul.