Who is “Mr Jimmy” in The Rolling Stones’ lyrics?

The Rolling Stones continue to be the most recognizable band in rock & roll, more than 60 years after their founding. Not even their wildest imaginations could have predicted the tale that would unfold when the original members, Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Bill Wyman, came together to introduce blues to the UK charts.

The Stones have changed throughout the years, but the core songwriting duo of Jagger and Richards has been constant. Both guys met on platform two at Dartford Railway Station in the early 1960s. The two, who were 18 and 17 years old, respectively, bonded over their shared love of American blues artists such as Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Muddy Waters.

With Richards mostly contributing on the guitar and Jagger composing lyrics, the duo’s songwriting skills grew and they started to stray from their blues foundation and go into more pop-oriented genres. Early band leader Brian Jones was more reclusive in the late 1960s due to drug problems since he was unhappy with such mainstream attachments. After the psychedelic sound of Their Satanic Majesties Request and Between the Buttons, Jones stayed on for one more record, Beggars Banquet.

Beggars Banquet had been mostly the product of Jagger and Richards’ creative domination, with only a few sporadic contributions from Jones. When The Rolling Stones went into the studio to record Let It Bleed in 1969, Jones had been replaced by 20-year-old guitar prodigy Mick Taylor. Melodic pop-rock would be the hallmark of this new chapter in the band’s history, led by successes like “Gimme Shelter,” “Midnight Rambler,” and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

Importantly, the pop appeal was supported by catchy lyrical subjects; “Midnight Rambler” partly chronicles the biography of Boston Strangler Albert DeSalvo, while “Gimme Shelter” tackles the harsh realities of war. The London Bach Choir, who sang the opening of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” attempted to have their name taken off the album’s credit lines after it was released because of its gruesome undertones.

There were sixty kids in the London Bach Choir at the time. Ignorance of the death and brutality elsewhere on record did not prevent the singers and their guardians from singing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” but the words looked harmless enough. Although the song appears to be a straightforward hymn to the universal misery expressed in the refrain, the lyrics are purportedly based on a true occurrence.

Fortunately for the Bach Choir, there are no Tarantinian gore scenes in this tale. Rather, the story goes that Jimmy Hutmaker, a well-known street vagrant from Excelsior, Minnesota, was the real “Mr. Jimmy.” Despite having mental disabilities, Hutmaker enjoyed taking daily walks of several kilometers through the Excelsior business area. Local store owners took care of him till his death in 2007.

During the Stones’ 1964 US tour, Excelsior was one of their stops. Hutmaker and other admirers in the area claim that Jagger went into a municipal pharmacy to get a Cherry Coke from a soda fountain. Hutmaker allegedly said, “Well, you can’t always get what you want,” while he stood behind Jagger in the line since the store was allegedly out of Cherry Coke at the time. According to folklore, Mr. Jimmy rode in a private vehicle that Jagger personally prepared for him to attend the Stones’ next performance in Minneapolis.

The song’s main refrain and the lyric line “I was standing in line with Mr. Jimmy/ And man, did he look pretty ill” are purportedly inspired by this brief encounter. Jagger does, however, mention that he was at the “Chelsea Drugstore,” a bar on London’s King’s Road, earlier in the lyrics. This lends support to the hypothesis that Jimmy Miller, the Stones’ producer from Let It Bleed to Goats Head Soup, was Jagger’s Mr. Jimmy. He also played drums on the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” incidentally.

Below is a listen to “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones.

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