The Origins and Scope of the Rolling Stones’ Music

The Rolling Stones were like many other British acts of the 1960s as they were heavily influenced by American rock ‘n’ roll and R&B. They were at the leading edge of the so-called British Invasion of the mid-1960s, as the Stones and contemporaries such as the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Kinks, the Animals, the Yardbirds, the Who, Herman’s Hermits and the Hollies all made at least a significant showing on the charts, both in America and at home in Britain. Out of all of those groups, the Beatles, in spite of breaking up in 1970, became and still remain the most successful act in music history in terms of sales and influence. The Rolling Stones became a constant presence that is still active today. In addition to their longevity, the Stones have had significant success on the charts in America, Britain, and around the world. There is little doubt that any act since the Beatles fails to meet the Beatles’ standards, however there are few acts that meet the standards of the Stones either. For the most part, comparing the Beatles to the Stones is like comparing apples to oranges as they have different styles, with the Beatles being more influenced by early rock ‘n’ roll while the Stones were not only influenced by early rock ‘n’ roll but also by American Blues.

As noted above, the Stones and their British contemporaries were indeed influenced by early American rock ‘n’ roll artists such as Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly the Everly Brothers and Jerry Lee Lewis, and therefore had a foundation deeply rooted in rock ‘n’ roll. Once again, what made the Stones stand out from the Beatles and all of their other contemporaries, save for maybe the Yardbirds, was the fact that they were also heavily influenced by American Blues and R&B artists such as Muddy Waters, Rev. Gary Davis, Bo Diddley, Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf and Arthur Alexander. A significant majority of the Stones’ recordings from their first three years (1963-1965) showcased both their rock ‘n’ roll influences and their blues influences. As a matter of fact a great deal of their recordings from this period would be cover songs of the American Blues and R&B artists mentioned above.

As the years went on however, the Stones added and incorporated more genres into their blues and rock ‘n’ roll foundation such as country, folk, baroque pop, psychedelia, adult contemporary, reggae, dub, new wave, punk and disco too name a few. It is this characteristic of the band which has made them very successful over the years as their ability to incorporate these other genres into their repertoire has enabled them to build upon their original foundation and consequently build an enormously successful career. Artists that influenced the Stones to incorporate news genres into their sound include George Jones, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, The Flying Burrito Brothers and Otis Redding. Hits and popular songs over the years such as “Ruby Tuesday,” “Angie,” “Wild Horses,” ‘Tumbling Dice,” “Miss You,” “Paint It Black,” “Sympathy For The Devil,” “Start Me Up” and “Honky Tonk Women” are all indicative of their musical diversity. “Ruby Tuesday” is baroque pop; “Angie” is a 70s-style adult contemporary ballad; “Miss You” is a disco-rock fusion; “Wild Horses” and “Honky Tonk Women” have a strong country influence; “Tumbling Dice” is inflicted with gospel and soul; “Paint It Black” is eastern-tinged psychedelia; “Sympathy For The Devil” has a tribal meets rock ‘n’ roll sound, while “Start Me Up,” although sounding like a straight-forward rocker, is in fact a reggae based track. Even their biggest hit, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” is an example of the Stones building upon their foundation as it features a much harder edge than their early cover songs.

The sound of the Stones would help lay the groundwork for a diverse array of rock artists which followed them such as Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, The Doors, The Stooges, Thin Lizzy, Oasis, Blur, The Stone Roses, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, T. Rex, The Ramones, AC/DC, Creedence Clearwater Revival, New York Dolls, Def Leppard, Foreigner, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steve Earle, Neil Young, Elton John, The Sex Pistols, Bon Jovi and Pearl Jam–And that is just the first generation. One must consider the number of artists that the Stones-influenced artists have influenced themselves. The only thing that is as long-lasting as the Rolling Stones themselves is without a doubt the legacy they have left and will continue to leave even after the band calls it a day. When that day comes, it will be long after most of their British Invasion contemporaries have hung it up, most of them retiring back in the ’60s and ’70s. As rock music has changed, and even faltered over the years, the Rolling Stones remain one of the few constants as an excellent source of entertainment.