Letters from Jagger to his lover Marsha Hunt reveal the Stone at his most tender – and his coldest, writes Audrey Ward
In the summer of 1969 the American singer and model Marsha Hunt was performing at the Isle of Wight festival. Before she strutted on stage in her knee-high boots and hot pants, she slipped a folded love letter into her glove. It read, “Mick is in your head and [would] love to be in your heart”, she says, and was one of dozens sent to her by the Rolling Stone Mick Jagger.
Some of these letters have since been lost but Hunt, 66, stored a small cache in a bank vault for 30-odd years. She wanted to save them for Karis, her daughter by Jagger, who was born in 1970. Later she kept them on a bookshelf in her kitchen, but a year ago, having fallen on hard times as a writer, she decided to sell them to raise money.
On December 12 Sotheby’s will auction 10 handwritten letters sent between July and August 1969 while Jagger was filming the movie Ned Kelly and officially dating Marianne Faithfull, who was with him on the film set in Australia. The letters are full of his passion for the woman with her wild Afro hairstyle who had made her breakthrough in the West End musical Hair and inspired the Rolling Stones hit Brown Sugar.
Each opens with a loving greeting. “Dearest M”, writes Jagger, who also calls her his “dearest friend Marsha”. In one he writes poetically of “seeing your face in pictures in my head”. In another he tells her she gives “only pleasure to me and joy and beauty”.
Their affair, which started in 1969 and continued until 1970, was a secret. “What you learn is that in the music business in the 1960s monogamy did not exist, it really didn’t. I was in the rock’n’roll business. Does that explain everything?” Hunt says as she snuggles into an oversized multicoloured cardigan.
The letters do not include the missive Hunt tucked away in her glove, but they do include a later 11th letter, which was written in a chillier tone and lays bare the tangled reality of Jagger and Hunt’s relationship.
It is typed and dated July 11, 1974, by which time Jagger was married to Bianca and Karis was aged four. It begins: “I’m glad to find the settlement over Karis has been agreed on all points except the question of your legal costs.” Although an agreement on a trust fund for Karis had been reached between her parents, in the letter Jagger questions Hunt’s decision to seek a contribution towards her legal expenses. “Probably it was your lawyers [sic] idea,” he writes.
Today Hunt feels it is important the letters are preserved: “They are letters of a particular time in the life of a person who, I would imagine, in 50 years from now will become even more culturally associated with the 1960s than we are now.”
The first letter in the collection contains the lyrics of the Rolling Stones song Monkey Man, but only when Hunt looked again at the letters when she came to prepare them for auction did she realise Jagger had given her something extra: “What I didn’t know until I showed the letters to Sotheby’s was that three lines of the lyrics were written in the letter for me and don’t appear in the song.”
Jagger also touches on events such as getting “stoned on brownies” and John Lennon and Yoko Ono “boring everybody”. One letter is headed “Sunday the Moon” and Hunt runs a hand through her shorn hair as she recalls the year it was written: “You’re suddenly reminded … oh yeah, that was the summer that we also had the astronauts on the moon. ”
The tone in the letters veers from pensive to playful. In one Jagger wonders why some people’s lives are so short, an oblique reference to the recent death of his former bandmate Brian Jones. In another he describes a spider that has “crawled along the floor” and is trying to get into the record player. If it succeeds it’s in for “a shock”.
Philip Errington, of Sotheby’s, says the letters are “an open and frank discussion of what Jagger is feeling while he is away filming” and were written against the backdrop of Faithfull’s overdose that almost killed her. Jagger turned 26 during his time in Australia and Hunt sent him books and other gifts. He gratefully describes a picture she sent him as “the prettiest and cleverest present I’ve ever had”. He tells her he is reading the poems of Emily “Dix” (Dickinson) and “toying” through Nijinksy’s diaries.
He grumbles about life during the shoot, saying filming is driving him “crazy” and he is homesick for Europe. He doesn’t like working so hard — “I am too lazy”.
Jagger went on to father six other children with three women. Hunt says she felt it was important to forge a good relationship with Jagger’s later love, Jerry Hall, over the 20 years that Hall played stepmother to Karis. Last year the pair spent Thanksgiving together.
Hunt has no idea where the letters, which are expected to fetch as much as £100,000, will end up. “I think somebody who’s in love with someone will buy them for their lover for Christmas.”
The sale hasn’t just caught the attention of prospective buyers. Chrissie Shrimpton, who dated Jagger from 1963 to 1966, received hundreds of letters from him. He was 20 and she was 18. She says that years ago she was deterred from publishing the letters he had sent her. Most were returned.
Shrimpton still has eight letters, five telegrams and a lock of Jagger’s hair: “My grandmother had apparently picked up the lock while I was cutting Mick’s hair and kept it.” She hopes to sell the lock to raise money for Smile Train, a charity that fixes children’s harelips and cleft palates in the Third World.
Did Jagger try to stop Hunt selling the letters? “No, absolutely not,” she insists.
“We’re family. We’ve got children; we’ve got grandchildren,” she adds by way of explanation.
In fact she’s planning to send him copies of the letters: “He deserves that, to be reminded who he was back then and what life was.”
She says she would be “delighted” if Shrimpton sells her remaining letters. “I wonder if all the girls with letters now [will] rise up and put them in an auction … and why not?” she adds mischievously.