The Rolling Stone Song That Barely Had The Band In It

The Rolling Stones headline on the Pyramid Stage during the Glastonbury Festival 2013, Worthy Farm, Pilton, Somerset (Photo by Anthony Devlin/PA Images via Getty Images)

“Happy” is a song by the rock group The Rolling Stones and appears on the album Exile on Main St. released in 1972. Keith Richards is the vocalist on this song.

It was released as a single in July 1972 – the second from this album – and reached number 22 on the American charts. Credited as Jagger/Richards, the song was primarily written by Keith Richards in the summer of 1971, while he was staying at the Nellcôte villa in the south of France. The basic recordings were done in the band’s mobile studio, with Richards on bass, guitar, and vocals; producer Jimmy Miller on drums; and saxophonist Bobby Keys on maracas. Nicky Hopkins’ piano was added later along with Jim Price’s trumpet, Keys’ saxophone, Mick Taylor’s guitar, and closing vocals featuring Mick Jagger. Since 1972 Richards has often sung Happy, becoming his “personal signature”.

“’ Happy’ was something I did because I was for one time early for a session,” Richards recalled in 1982. “There was Bobby Keys and Jimmy Miller. We had nothing to do and had suddenly picked up the guitar and played this riff. So we cut it and it’s the record, it’s the same. We cut the original track with a baritone sax, a guitar, and Jimmy Miller on drums. And the rest of it is built up over that track. It was just an afternoon jam that everybody said, ‘Wow, yeah, work on it.’”


In 1978 shows Jagger was also integrated into the vocals. Live recordings have been released on the albums Love You Live (1977) and Live Licks (2004); and the studio version appears on the compilation albums Made in the Shade (1975) and Forty Licks (2002).