The Rolling Stones

Wild Horses

Composed by Keith Richards / Mick Jagger

Song Review by

"Wild Horses" is one of the Rolling Stones' most beautiful ballads, and one of the most worthwhile country-influenced rock songs ever done by a major rock band. It has often been speculated that its composition bore a strong influence from Gram Parsons, a friend of the group who spent a great deal of time with Keith Richards in particular in the late '60s and early '70s. While it's true that the tune has some of the drawn-out languorousness found in Parsons' music, and indeed within much country music in general, this is not a bandwagon-jumping country outing. It's a rock song, and more important, a Rolling Stones song, with typically salacious, drawling Mick Jagger vocals. In the Stones' songs about women, graceful love declarations were far exceeded by nasty putdowns and aggressive sexual come-ons; the album containing "Wild Horses" (Sticky Fingers), for instance, had "Brown Sugar" and "Bitch" for a start. But within that minority of heartfelt, romantic originals, "Wild Horses" is certainly one of the Stones' best, most sincere efforts. The folky, melancholy guitar strums interact well with the barroom piano that might be one of the most countryish aspects of the tune. Still, it's that singalong chorus -- a trait that, it's not often noted, the Stones excelled at -- that is the song's chief hook, as something that can be sung to whether you're toasting glasses in a honky tonk or sitting alone in your living room. A tingly, bluesy guitar solo gives this a nice rock edge that reminds you that you're listening to the Stones, not George Jones. Issued as a single, "Wild Horses" was not too successful as vintage Stones singles went, just landing inside the Top 30, but has been accepted as a classic rock radio staple anyway, helped by its inclusion in the Hot Rocks greatest-hits collection. As one of the relatively few Stones songs that can be convincingly performed acoustically, it's also one of the Jagger/Richards tunes you're most apt to hear covered at the local tavern or coffeehouse. On record, "Wild Horses" was one of the very few noted Rolling Stones compositions ("As Tears Go By" was another) to have been released by another artist prior to the release of the Stones' version. Appropriately enough, that artist was Gram Parsons' country-rock band, the Flying Burrito Brothers, who put it on their 1970 Burrito Deluxe album.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Sticky Fingers 1971 Polydor / Rolling Stones Records 5:47
Hot Rocks: 1964-1971 1972 ABKCO Records
Made in the Shade 1975 Virgin 5:40
Rolled Gold: The Very Best of the Rolling Stones 1975 ABKCO Records 5:42
No Image 1975 Idle Mind
No Image 1977 Arcade Music
Hot Rocks 2 [Disc 2] 1985 Decca/london 5:40
The Complete Singles Collection: The London Years 1989 Universal Music 5:42
No Image 1991 ABKCO Records
Jump Back: The Best of the Rolling Stones (1971-1993) 1993 Polydor / Universal 5:42
Stripped 1995 Polydor / Universal / Universal Music 5:09
Wild Horses 1996 Capitol / Polydor 5:47
Forty Licks 2002 Virgin
No Image 2002 5:43
Singles 1968-1971 2005 ABKCO Records / Universal Distribution 5:43
LP Sleeve Box Set 2005 Toshiba EMI
Rarities 1971-2003 2005 Virgin 5:09
The Biggest Bang 2007 Universal Distribution / Universal Music
The Rolling Stones Box Set 2009 Promotone 5:44
The Singles: 1971-2006 2011 Universal Music 5:42
GRRR! 2012 Universal Distribution 5:44
The Very Best of the Rolling Stones 1964-1971 2013 ABKCO Records 5:43
From the Vault: L.A. Forum (Live in 1975) 2014 Eagle Vision 7:25
Sticky Fingers Live 2015 Promotone 4:41
Totally Stripped 2016 Eagle Rock 5:58
From the Vault - Sticky Fingers: Live at the Fonda Theater 2015 2017 Eagle Records / Eagle Rock
December's Children (And Everybody's)/Sticky Fingers CD Maximum
From the Vault: The Complete Series, Vol. 1 Eagle Vision
blue highlight denotes editor's pick