The Rolling Stones

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About The Rolling Stones

It wasn’t that rock music didn’t exist before The Rolling Stones—it did. But it didn’t exist at quite the same scale, or with the same reach, or with the same sheer attitude that made the Stones so seismic. You wonder if it had something to do with their otherness, as though the fact that the American sounds they emulated—blues, country, R&B—didn’t belong to them made them both more reverential and more free to explore. Like excavations from an archaeological dig, the band’s best music played out like a conversation between present and past, finding fresh meaning and connections in sounds that feel classic, bygone. Mick Jagger once said he’d rather be dead than singing “Satisfaction” at 45. Certainly there were other artists of his generation who took the same attitude, figuratively and otherwise. Un-rock as it may be, The Rolling Stones decided to live. Formed in 1962, the band—which went on to include guitarist Keith Richards, jazz drummer Charlie Watts and bassist Bill Wyman, among others—became one of the spearheads of the British Invasion, bad boys to The Beatles’ teddy bears. They toyed with folk and psychedelia in the mid-’60s (“Ruby Tuesday,” “Mother’s Little Helper”) but always circled back to something grittier, darker. With some exceptions (including The Beatles’ famous live farewell at Shea Stadium), the idea of “arena rock” didn’t really exist until The Stones: There wasn’t the infrastructure, the technical capacity. As classic as their late-’60s and ’70s albums are (the country sprawl of Beggars Banquet and Exile On Main St., the swagger of Some Girls), they made their legacy on stage, scaling up the sweaty rush of small clubs to hockey rinks and football stadiums, using the studio as a place to refine instead of retreat. In commemoration of Mick Jagger’s 75th birthday, a German entomologist persuaded his colleagues to name several fossils after members of the band—a singular tribute, not to mention a loving jab at their longevity. Even death itself never stopped the Stones. After Watts passed in 2021, they kept touring, with Steve Jordan filling the founding drummer’s sizable shoes. And in 2023, they honored his memory by releasing their last sessions with him on their 28th studio album, Hackney Diamonds. With a stellar guest list including Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Elton John, and Lady Gaga, the record went to No. 1 in multiple countries. And in April 2024, The Stones mounted a three-month North American tour, which was Mick and Keith’s first trek as octogenarians. But the outing made it clear to the world that the ultimate OGs of rock ’n’ roll were as full of fire as ever.

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