Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones died forty years ago yesterday. On July 3, 1969 he was found at the bottom of his swimming pool. Death by misadventure was the official ruling but controversy has surrounded his death for decades.
Brian Jones was a master musician. He played such varied instruments as the guitar, sitar, organ, dulcimer, mellotron, autoharp, and probably about a dozen others. He was a heavy drug user and is said to have produced children by a number of different women. He also had the idea of starting a little rhythm and blues band.
On May 2, 1962 he placed an advertisement in a local newsletter seeking musicians to join him in a band. Ian Stewart was the first person too reply. And so was born one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands, The Rolling Stones.
The early Stones were the gritty rhythm and blues band that Brian Jones envisioned. As time passed however, the vision passed to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. They wrote the majority of the songs and so controlled the group. Under their leadership The Rolling Stones would sell tens of millions of records and become a leading concert attraction. The group’s members would quickly become stars.
In many ways Jones remained the poster boy for the Stones. It was his face that was most prominently displayed on their album covers and posters. He also lived the lifestyle that the Stones wrote about and portrayed. He remained in the public eye just as much as Jagger and Richards but for different reasons.
His contributions to the Stones music were through his instrumental versatility. Just listen to Their Satanic Majesties Request, Between The Buttons, and Aftermath too catch him at his best. His development of a dual guitar sound with Keith Richards was unique at the time. They would switch leads and blend their sound together to form what would become the group’s signature.
Fame and loss of influence within the group were not easy for him too handle. Drug use would cause his withdrawal from the process and estrangement from the other members. He would be asked to leave The Rolling Stones on June 8, 1969 and would be replaced by Mick Taylor who would help the group create some of the best albums in rock history. The bottom of his swimming pool was less than a month away.
It is doubtful that he could have envisioned what the history would be for that little group he wanted to form when he placed that advertisement nearly five decades ago or that they would still remain popular 47 years later.
His legacy remains that of the founder of a legendary rock group and a musician extraordinaire. Forty years has quickly passed but for tonight at least a couple of early Stones albums are on my turntable. Rest in peace Brian Jones.
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