Credited as most Rolling Stones songs to both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, but acknowledged to be almost completely written by Richards, “Angie” was recorded in November and December 1972, and is an acoustic-guitar-driven ballad considered to be characterizing the end of a romance. The song’s distinctive piano accompaniment, written by Richards, was played on the album by Nicky Hopkins, a Rolling Stones recording-session regular. The strings on the piece (as well as on another song, “Winter”) were arranged by Nicky Harrison. An unusual feature of the original recording is that singer Mick Jagger’s vocal guide track (made before the final vocals were performed) is faintly audible throughout the song (an effect sometimes called a “ghost vocal”).
Released as a single in August 1973, “Angie” went straight to the top of the US Billboard Hot 100 and reached No. 5 on the UK singles chart. The song was also a No. 1 hit in both Canada and Australia for five weeks each and topped the charts in many countries throughout Europe and the rest of the world.
Because of the song’s length, some radio stations made edits to shorten it to 3 minutes, omitting the longer coda and the second instrumental section of the song.
There was speculation that the song was about David Bowie’s first wife Angela, the actress Angie Dickinson, Keith Richards’ newborn daughter Dandelion Angela, and others. In 1993, in an interview for the liner notes to the Rolling Stones’ compilation album Jump Back: The Best of The Rolling Stones, Richards said that the title was inspired by his baby daughter. However, in his 2010 memoir Life, Richards said that he had chosen the name at random when writing the song — before he knew that his baby would be named Angela or even knew that his baby would be a girl — and that the song “was not about any particular person.” According to NME, Jagger’s contributions to the lyrics referred to his breakup with Marianne Faithfull.
The Rolling Stones have frequently performed the song in concert; it was included in set lists on their 1973, 1975, and 1976 tours, and they have performed it on every tour since their 1982 European tour. Concert renditions were released on the albums Stripped and Live Licks.
In the documentary Protagonist, the former German terrorist Hans-Joachim Klein remarks that the song inspired him to adopt “Angie” as the moniker he used during his militant activities in the 1970s. In 2005, the German political party CDU used the song in its election campaign for Angela Merkel, although the Rolling Stones had not given them permission to do so.