The announcement that Sir Mick Jagger, world famous lead singer of the Rolling Stones, is set to become a father for the eighth time was somewhat overlooked in the papers today. Small wonder, given that 80 people, including many children, are lying dead in a mortuary in Nice, while 50 more hover “between life and death” in the awful words of French President François Hollande- all at the hands of a crazed terrorist. The first meeting between the First Minister of Scotland and our new Prime Minister was similarly downplayed by the media.
I’m glad really, as Sir Mick’s news to me is pretty tasteless, especially given its announcement, by horrible coincidence, on today of all days.
Why would anyone aged just 29 – as mother-to-be Melanie Hamrick is – want to have a child with a 72 year-old man, someone who already also has seven children to four different women, five grandchildren and a great grandchild? Yes, he is the hugely wealthy, talented and world famous Sir Mick of the Rolling Stones, but she is a talented ballerina in her own right. And why would he want to be a father at such an age? All that responsibility:- and being a parent should be a responsibility- is something you’d think he might wish to avoid during his twilight years. The world may think ‘how amusing that he can still father a child at his age with a woman young enough to be his granddaughter’. But I can’t help asking myself: is he so very different to Frank Gallagher, the penniless dad of too many to recall from TV’s Shameless, a role played so brilliantly by David Threfall?
The blunt answer would be “So what? And mind your own business.” And I accept that of course. But the announcement has been made and I suspect I’m not alone in my thoughts or comparisons.
Mother Nature does not design women to be mothers at age 72 and ditto men to be fathers. She may not have fitted out men with an equivalent of the menopause but older fathers are not without risk to their children. ‘Evolution is not kind to older dads’ was the blunt headline of a recent article in Science magazine. Older dads are more likely, for example, to pass on genetic mutations which might only manifest in later life, such as infertility.
And just like the fictional Frank Gallagher, Jagger too has children of wildly different age ranges – in his case from between 17 and 45. So there is small chance of any form of sibling friendship there.
Jagger has actually only been married once, between 1971 and 1978, to Bianca Pérez-Mora Macias, an extreme left wing activist from Nicaragua and one time actress. Their marriage ended in a spectacular divorce. He successfully divorced her in England and then applied for a financial order against himself, while she tried hard to have the case heard in New York and lost. Thereafter followed American model Jerry Hall, whom he never legally married. There was a fuss over whether a ceremony on a beach in Bali constituted a valid marriage, but it did not. And he had dalliances (and children) elsewhere. There was, for example, his lengthy relationship with the talented American dress designer L’Wren Scott (Laura Bambrough to her adoptive parents), a relationship that ended tragically when she took her own life following a bout of depression. And now here he is, hooked up with a 29 year old. A child on the way, no sign of marriage, and no sign of any intention to live together either.
Sir Micks’ life may be glamourous – he has never lived a conventional lifetyle . Why should it given his day job? Again, I suppose you might tell me “So what? What does convention, marriage and raising a child within a marriage matter? He can afford the best childcare money can buy”.
But does money really make it the best that can be provided for the child he has created?
And what are the benefits, if any, of having a wealthy but 72 year-old father , from the child’s perspective? Yes, he or she will be able to say when old enough to understand, “I have a famous father.” And the chances are that they will want for little in a material sense. But the chances are greater that Sir Mick won’t be around that much as the child grows up, and if he is, to the child he will surely be a very old man, more of an elderly grandfather figure than a more approachable Dad doing fatherly things like taking him to a soccer match. Sooner or later too, the child is bound to go through the tragedy of losing his father at a relatively young age. Sir Mick won’t live forever. What will that child know of the importance of being a father if he is never taught?
I remember too when my son was small. When clients came to the office to make a will, they often voiced my unspoken fears: who would have care of their children if the worst was to happen? It was uppermost in the minds of many, as it was for me too when I thought about it. You hope, but you can never know for sure, that you will be around at least until the children are off your hands. It doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes we are instructed by terminally ill clients. They have to consider, in the worst of circumstances, what is best for their child. Nothing can replace a parent, but the client, ill and desperately unhappy, still has to make decisions and ease the transition as best they can. Sometimes the best way forward is obvious, sometimes not, and the ill parent has the agony of knowing too that a fight might ensue to ensure their wishes are carried out.
So when nobody’s hand has been forced by circumstance, I can’t help but wonder whether having a child at such a late stage isn’t a little too selfish, a little too unfair. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Do boundaries not matter at all? Are children not entitled to at least a sporting chance of growing up with two parents if at all possible – however unconventionally? Or does being super rich just change everything? I am not convinced.
Of course, Sir Mick isn’t the first wealthy entertainer to have had children in later life. South London lad Charlie Chaplin married four times and bestowed no less than 11 children on the world. Remarkably eight of these were with his fourth wife, Oona, who was much younger than him. When they married in 1943 he was 53 and she was just 18. And when their youngest, Christopher, eventually appeared in 1962, the former silent film star had gone one up on Sir Mick and reached the grand old age of 73.
But things don’t always turn out the way we expect them or happen in the right order. Corpses of little children lay covered in plastic on the Promenade Des Anglais in Nice last night, leaving one grieving father calmly (for the moment) captured on video explaining he “is the father of the dead child”. I doubt the parents of those children thought for one moment they would ever witness the horrors of last night.
Sir Mick may regret having chosen today to announce impending fatherhood once again. It’s his life, but I do wonder about the impact of his and Ms Hamick’s decision on the life that child will lead.
It’s a strange old world.