Paper presented at  the Southwest Popular and American Culture Association, February, 2017,  Albuquerque, New Mexico

Time Is on Their Side:  Conflict and Reconciliation Between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards”


From the best of friends in the early days to warring factions to rapprochement, the two leaders of The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger (Mick) and Keith Richards (Keith) have gone through periods of love, hate, and polite interactions in their more than fifty years of partnership.  Two major periods of conflict occurred almost thirty years apart, in the 1980s and then after the publication of Keith’s autobiography in 2010.

Keith has called their relationship “a marriage,” referring to all they have shared.  This paper will apply concepts from the marriage and family literature and group dynamics  in sociology to analyze the styles of communication between the two songwriters of the Stones, Mick and Keith.  Using available writings of theirs and others, I will look at periods and  types of conflict, and also modes of conflict resolution from ignoring each other to direct confrontation to intervention of other parties.  Their pairing seemed to transform from "vital" to "conflict-habituated" (Cuber and Harroff, 1968).  In coping with conflict, people may “fight, flight or freeze,” akin to those in traumatic situations, while more effective tactics allow for long-term solutions and forgiveness (see, for example, Billings, 1979; Driver and Gottman, 2004; Cahn, 2009).  

During what Keith called World War III throughout much of the 1980s when Mick began working   on his own, and also in the aftermath of Mick’s furor over Keith's book Life, the two men seriously fell out for first, seven or eight years, and then two years at a time, derailing possible tours of the band.  Both hiatuses left fans feeling uncertain over the future of The Stones, dependent on the cooperation of Keith and Mick.