During their 50 years as a band, The Rolling Stones changed rock ‘n’ roll and changed our culture forever. But just like any other band, they also started out small, playing at small venues and paying musical tribute to their influences. The only difference between them and most bands is that they went on to become global superstars, filling up large stadiums in the world. The singing and showmanship of Mick Jagger, the powerful guitar work of Keith Richards, and the exhilarating drumming of Charlie Watts helped them become one of the most important bands in music history, and still going strong decades later.
The Rolling Stones has long been called the greatest rock and roll band of all time – an opinion so widespread that it has become accepted as a fact. They had a vast impact on the culture, changing what a band could be, how rock artists were perceived, as well as the general culture of the ‘60s to ‘70s.
The band was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, and in the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004. The Rolling Stone magazine also ranked the band fourth on 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. They also won three Grammy Awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Billboard magazine ranked them second in their list of “Greatest Artists of All Time,” and fourth on Rolling Stone’s list of the Greatest Artists of All Time. They are truly one of the greatest in the music industry.
Here are some of the ways The Rolling Stones influenced pop culture:
They brought blues to the masses.
For the Rolling Stones, their defining musical love is the blues, a genre they helped bring to the masses in the ‘60s. When they first hit the scene, they received more attention for their physical appearance rather than their music. But after they released several covers, and later, their original music, the Rolling Stones got attention for blending blues with rock and roll. The band brought a simpler form of blues to the forefront of pop culture, as even the band’s name shined a spotlight on the blues genre.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards first got close due to their mutual liking for Muddy Waters, a musician from the post-War blues scene. They formed a band, and founding member Brian Jones called Jazz News magazine to place an ad for their first proper gig. When asked about the name of the band, his eyes went straight to the first song on the Muddy Waters album lying on the floor, and it happened to be “Rollin’ Stone.”
Jagger and Richards brought the influence of Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and other blues artists to the band. Jones has been into a more sophisticated jump blues style. Jagger and Richards turned Jones unto the simpler styles of artists like Chuck Berry.
Through the years, the band was heavily influenced by blues and it was evident in their own sound. But they also blended other genres in their own sound. Over the years, the band used a variety of musical styles like folk, reggae, dance, and country.
They wrote a lot of influential songs.
Though they started out covering blues, the joint work of Jagger and Richards in composing songs is one of the most successful songwriting partnerships in music. In the 1960s, the band was responsible in producing iconic hits such as “Paint It, Black,” “Get Off Of My Cloud,” “Lady Jane,” “19th Nervous Breakdown,” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Not to mention the Stones’ best-known tune, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. The latter almost never existed, as Richards thought the song was as basic as the hills, and if he had his way, it would never have been released. Luckily, he didn’t get his way.
They created iconic album covers.
During the ‘60s, it was common for bands to commission their album covers from artists and friends from art school. The Beatles worked with Richard Hamilton and Peter Blake, while the Rolling Stones partnered with Andy Warhol and Robert Frank. The band broke new ground with their album covers. They were never short of confidence, which is evident in their defiant poses for Nicholas Wright’s photograph for their debut album, bearing no mention of the band’s name.
For their follow-up album in 1965, The Rolling Stones No. 2, the band used a cover shot taken by the celebrated photographer David Bailey, with Jagger stuck at the back of the group.
Their creative album covers inspired other bands to collaborate with artists as well for their album covers.
They were the original rock ‘n’ roll rebels.
The Rolling Stones challenged conventions. Their song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” summed up the controversial, anti-status-quo swagger of young musicians who were in revolt against the middle-class pretensions. They band seemed more rebellious and edgy than established stars such as Adam Faith and Cliff Richard.
When they titled their 1967 album “Their Satanic Majesties Request,” the title was a satirical take on the words inside a British passport “Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State requests…” The band got in trouble with the police, following a drug raid on a party at Redlands. The officer in charge found Jagger and his then-girlfriend on a couch, where the woman wrapped a fur rug in her body, from which she let fall from time to time to show her nude body. Jagger was apparently wearing makeup. Jagger and Richards had prison sentences of three and 12 months, respectively. However, the sentences were considered harsh and the Lord Chief of Justice quashed the jail terms.
This rebellious behavior was typically seen in rock band musicians, but the Rolling Stones were the OG.
They set new fashion trends.
Mick Jagger claimed that the costume helps you be the performer. The band frontman has worn a number of celebrated, iconic outfits down the years. Their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, ushered them away from the strait-laced appearance of the pop stars of the ‘50s towards a shaggier, bad-boy image that stuck with them.
The Stones looked great during the ‘60s, and Jagger wasn’t afraid to be bold and different. He was seen wearing a skin-tight sequin jumpsuit, a top hat, or even a white voile dress. Their outlandish clothes made other musicians and artists confident to explore new fashion trends as well.
Their love for the dark arts influenced heavy metal.
Jagger read occult books like the Taoist guidebook, The Secret of the Golden Flower, and the song that resulted with their work with Jean-Luc Goddard caused a lot of stir when it was released in 1968. The song “Sympathy for the Devil” contains references to the crucifixion of Christ, World War II, the Russian Revolution, and JFK’s assassination, where Jagger and Richards imagined Satan’s appearances as these moments in history. The song became an inspiration for later heavy metal bands. Ever since, heavy metal and rock bands carried lots of occult images, to the horror of conservative and religious people.
They were masters of showmanship.
The ‘60s was a fruitful time for the Stones. They released 15 studio albums across the UK and the US in just five years, and they became one of the greatest live acts in music. And by the end of the decade, the band revolutionized touring by using the latest amplification and speaker technology to create shows tailored for big arenas. Jagger once said that they did not want to be known as a “rock ‘n roll outfit” in 1962, but by the time they played in Hyde Park in 1969, they were already celebrated and introduced as “the greatest rock and roll band in the world.”
The band’s showmanship is mostly evident in Mick Jagger’s stage moves, and the spell that those moves cast over audiences. British novelist Philip Norman summed it up in 1984 by comparing Jagger to Elvis, saying, “Presley, while he made girls scream, did not have Jagger’s ability to make men feel uncomfortable.” Norman likens Jagger to a male ballet dancer in his early performances in the ‘60s, with his conflicting and colliding sexuality. Jagger’s performance style is even studied by academics who analyzed gender, sexuality, and image. Jagger is said to have opened up definitions of gendered masculinity, laying down the foundations for self-invention and sexual plasticity.
Also, the acceptance of Jagger’s voice on pop radio became a turning point in rock and roll. “He broke open the door for everyone else. Suddenly, Eric Burdon and Van Morrison weren’t so weird – even Bob Dylan,” according to musician Steven Van Zandt. His influence on other front men has crossed generations, including Steven Tyler, Lenny Kravitz, Iggy Pop, and David Bowie.
They helped shape American culture.
The Rolling Stones became popular from the start in the US and had five Billboard No. 1 singles during the ‘60s. Their albums sold so well in the US that throughout the ‘60s, they helped inspire the name of the famous, reputable music magazine Rolling Stone, which launched in 1967.
The attitude of not conforming oneself to one genre or label has been extremely prominent in today’s music scene, and it has been adapted by mot artists from every genre. This is the trait of the Stones that are revered today, which is a trait that not a lot of their peers embodied. The Stones’ impact on American music – being undefinable and not holding itself to one instantly-recognizable style – is their legacy.