July 25, 2021

Mick Jagger’s ghostwriter recalls the “horrible experience” of writing a discarded autobiography

Writer Barry Coleman has recalled the hectic two weeks he was given in 1983 to write the autobiography of Mick Jagger, a project that was eventually canceled.

The Rolling Stones frontman has never yet published a memoir, and recently described the process of writing an autobiography as “just boring and annoying.”

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Speaking to The Guardian, Coleman recalls that he was commissioned by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in 1983 to take over the reins of Jagger’s autobiography after the previous ghostwriter failed to finish the project.

“[W&N] He said, ‘You’re the only person we know who can do this,’ “Coleman said.” So, quite surrealistically, I became the ghostwriter of Mick Jagger. “

Coleman went to work on Jagger’s autobiography in New York, though the first problems arose when the original ghostwriter “stopped calling me back,” before Coleman was given just two weeks to finish the project.

“Two chapters were more or less presentable,” Coleman said of what was out of the autobiography when he started working. “The rest was a bunch of interview transcripts, and nothing to do with the last few years. Putting it all together was a horrible experience.”

Jagger’s transcripts included his recollections of when he first met Keith Richards, the death of guitarist Brian Jones in 1969, and the disastrous Stones show at the Altamont festival, where Meredith Hunter, a member of the public, was killed by a member of the Hells Angels.

“Everything important was there, just nothing interesting was said about it,” Coleman said of the material. “In the transcripts you always had the feeling that Mick was holding back, or trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

Although Coleman was able to finish the autobiography within two weeks, Jagger was unsure about the project and ultimately decided to abandon plans to publish the memoirs.

“We had talked a lot about whether he still wanted to move on, or if we could do it again, but in a different way,” Coleman said of those final discussions. “Mick didn’t blame me. He just didn’t want to.

“I think he respected his audience by not giving them something ordinary about an extraordinary life. I have lived with this story for 38 years with some frustration, but in a way it tells you more about Mick than anything that could have come out in a mediocre book.

“It took Mick to be able to talk to someone as if he were a therapist, to approach his life on a tangent. Instead, we ended up with something that was too pedestrian for Mick Jagger.”

Jagger previously said in 2014 that anyone who wanted to read his memoirs should “look it up on Wikipedia.”

In 2017, writer and editor John Blake claimed to have a copy of the singer’s unfinished manuscript, describing it as “a little masterpiece.”