July 3, 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the untimely death of Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones, founding member of The Rolling Stones. Brian is a member of the notorious “27 Club,” along with other luminaries such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Pete Ham, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. Brian Jones was a musical genius – a trendsetter – who was the inspiration for The Rolling Stones during the early days of the band; specifically, the 60’s. He was a member of the Stones for seven years, and his importance to the band – and to the rock genre – should never be underestimated.
Brian Jones was among the early innovators of slide guitar. His appreciation of the blues formed the very foundation of The Rolling Stones. Brian’s diverse instrumentation helped to propel The Rolling Stones into the top of the recording charts.
Brian Jones was a gifted and talented multi-instrumentalist; he was comfortable playing any musical instrument. Jones expertly would play those instruments that weren’t typical of a blues or rock and roll ensemble. For example, Brain Jones played sitar on “Street Fighting Man” and “Paint It Black,” recorder on “Ruby Tuesday,” dulcimer and harpsichord on “Lady Jane,” and saxophone on the Beatles B-side to “Let it Be,” “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number).”
Brian Jones was not just an instrumentalist. He was much more than a rock star. Brian Jones was the heart, soul, and spirit of the 60’s musical revolution. Brain was the quintessential embodiment of the music that defined that era.
Brian Jones battled his own personal demons. Toward the end of the 60’s, Brain’s addiction and destructive behavior lead to an estrangement with his band mates. Ultimately, on June 8, 1969, approximately a month prior to his death, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Charlie Watts visited Jones and told him that the band that he had formed would continue without him.
Brain Jones was the victim of drowning; the official police file reads “death by misadventure.” To quote Percy Bysshe Shelly, as Mick Jagger did at Hyde Park following the death of Brian Jones:
“Peace, peace! He is not dead, he doth not sleep –
He hath awakened from the dream of life – “
Truer words were never written about Brain Jones. Indeed, Shelly captured the essence of Brian Jones.
John Di Genio