Anita Pallenberg, the ex-girlfriend of late Rolling Stones member Brian Jones and the longtime love and mother of three of his bandmate Keith Richards’ children, has died of undisclosed causes at age 73. The death of the Italian-American actress and model has reportedly left Richards “devastated,” according to U.K.’s The Mirror.
Pallenberg was born in Rome in 1944 and later spent time in New York, where she was part of Andy Warhol’s pop culture scene. Anita later moved to Paris to work as a model, and in 1965, she went to a Rolling Stones concert in Munich, where she met Jones and became immediately involved with him. But her relationship with Jones, who became abusive, only lasted two years.
In an interview last summer with Alain Elkann, Pallenberg explained how she went from Brian Jones to his bandmate, Keith Richards.
“We were friends and we were together,” Anita explained.
“When we got busted [for acid] in London we all decided to go to Morocco and Brian started to get very violent. We went by car, a Bentley with a driver, and Brian got sick and ended up in the hospital. He had asthma. He was very sickly, fragile. So Keith and I drove on and left him there, and that was when we had a physical relationship.”
Anita Pallenberg was in a relationship with Keith Richards from 1967 to 1979 and they had three children together: Marlon, Angela (whose nickname Dandelion inspired the Stones song of the same name), and son, Tara, who died in his crib just 10 weeks after his birth in 1976.
Pallenberg said her 12-year relationship with Richards “was more respect and friendship than mad love. “
“In those days we did not plan families,” Anita told Alain Elkann.
“I certainly did not want to get married, but I got pregnant. And then because I had to do a film, ‘Performance’, I had to have a termination to do the film. I resented it very much, and so when I finished the film I got pregnant again.”
As for her longtime lover’s career, fellow Stones muse Marianne Faithfull wrote about Anita in her 1994 autobiography, crediting her for making the Stones what they eventually became.
“How Anita came to be with Brian is really the story of how the Stones became the Stones,” Faithfull wrote of Pallenberg.
“She almost single-handedly engineered a cultural revolution in London by bringing together the Stones and the jeunesse dorée. The Stones came away with a patina of aristocratic decadence that served as a perfect counterfoil to the raw roots blues of their music.”
In an interview with The Guardian, Anita Pallenberg compared her lovers’ musical talents.
“I’ve always loved the blues and Brian especially was a real blues man,” Anita said. “Somebody like Keith, he’s got a future because he can sit up like a blues man until he’s 90, he can just strum his guitar and sing his songs and people will always listen.”
Pallenberg later blamed “lawyers” for causing her split from Richards because she was a bad influence on him. In 1979, when a teen lover shot himself in the bedroom of her New York apartment while Keith was recording in Paris, Anita admitted she “didn’t feel anything” and blamed it on “the wonders of drugs and drink.” Pallenberg was later cleared of manslaughter charges and went to rehab, but the damage to her romantic relationship with Richards was permanent.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Richards said he never planned to leave Anita.
“I had no intention of leaving the mother of my children,” the rocker said in 2010.
“But you gotta believe me that there was no option. And thank God she’s still one of my best friends. We’ve been through the mill. And she admits she could be Vampirella when she wanted. 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.”
Of Jones, Richards said Anita’s ex “did some despicable things” before he was found dead in a pool in 1969.
“The man was failing. He had been a strong man, but he was wiping himself out,” Richards said.
“Having to deal with his jealousy— it becomes intolerable, and you can get really nasty about it. I tried to be fair to him. But to be honest, he was a bit of a bastard. And it doesn’t surprise me that he came to a sticky end.”
After news of Anita Pallenberg’s death was announced, celebrity friends took to social media to remember her, including pal Bebe Buell.
I have never met a woman quite like you Anita. I don't think there is anybody in this universe like you. No one has ever understood me so well. You showed about life and myself and how to grow and become and exist with it all. I was a little girl thinking I was big but I became a woman through knowing you. The secret lyrical you. My best friend. . The greatest woman I have ever known. Thank you for the most important lessons - because they are ever changing and definitive. Like you. We are all singing for you, how you liked it. Go in peace my Roman mother, you will always be in my heart.
[Featured Image by Larry Ellis/Express/Getty Images]