No biography or document of the Rolling Stones history is complete unless it features the role Anita Pallenberg played in the lives of the band members.
The actress, model and former partner of Rolling Stones guitarists Brian Jones and Keith Richards, has died at 73.
“A most remarkable woman. Always in my heart,” Richards said via Twitter.
Modeling and acting comprised the bulk of Pallenberg’s career, and she was a fixture in the pop art world during the Sixties. Her most notable film appearances include a supporting role in the 1968 Jane Fonda cult classic Barbarella. Pallenberg starred with Mick Jagger in the trippy crime drama Performance.
Pallenberg first entered the Rolling Stones’ world in the mid-Sixties when she snuck into a concert in Munich, Germany. In 1967, after two years with Brian Jones, Pallenberg left him for Keith Richards when Jones was hospitalised during a trip the three made to Morocco.
In his 2010 memoir Life, Richards said Pallenberg came to him after a string of violent incidents involving Jones, though the guitarist was candid about his own complicated relationship with Pallenberg as well.
From all the stories of the adventures of the Stones, Pallenberg was anything but a silent “groupie” on the Stones’ journey through the 60s and 70s.
“She scared the pants off me … you were taking on a valkyrie,” admitted Richards. “She nearly killed me,” protested Jagger, decades later. She was well-educated and well-connected, her impact on the band was dramatic, influencing the way the Stones looked, the circles they moved in, even their internal power structure.
Pallenberg is credited as singing background vocals on Sympathy for the Devil. Jo Bergman, the band’s personal assistant from 1967–73, said of Pallenberg: “Anita is a Rolling Stone. She, Mick, Keith and Brian were the Rolling Stones. Her influence has been profound. She keeps things crazy.”
Pallenberg and Richards who never married, were a couple from 1967 to 1979. Together they had three children; Marlon, Angela and Tara. Tara Jo Jo died of pneumonia at 10 weeks.
Their history with drugs, especially cocaine and heroin, is legendary and well documented. Pallenberg was charged first in the 1977 Toronto heroin arrest that led to Richards being arrested. A warrant for Pallenberg’s arrest was the reason police came to search the pair’s hotel rooms. She plead guilty to marijuana possession and was convicted and fined several weeks after Richards’s arrest.
Even after their relationship ended, Pallenberg and Richards remained close. In a 2010 interview with Rolling Stone, Richards recalled, “It was tough. At the same time, there is an underlying love that goes beyond all of that other stuff. I can say, ‘I love you, I just won’t live with you.’ And we’re now proud grandparents, which we never thought we’d ever see.”
Pallenberg would eventually get sober and during the mid-Nineties earned a degree in fashion design. She returned to acting as well, appearing in films like Mister Lonely and Cheri.
Pallenberg at one point was interested in writing a memoir. “The publishers want to hear only about the Stones and more dirt on Mick Jagger and I’m just not interested,” she said in 2008. “I had several publishers and they were all the same. They all wanted salacious. And everybody is writing autobiographies and that’s one reason why I’m not going to do it.”