The Importance of the Rolling Stones on American Culture
In case you haven't heard, the Rolling Stones will be headlining this year's edition of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Now, I know opinions greatly differ when you start talking about the Stones. Some people love them and think they're the greatest band ever...others think they're a cheap Beatles ripoff that got lucky.
Personally, I love the Stones. I think they are one of the most important bands of all time. And not just because I dig their music, but they kind of saved American roots music. This group of guys from the UK grew up loving the American Blues. They worshiped Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry and others.
But, when the Stones kind of broke through in America, the cultural landscape had shifted. The greater American audience had moved on from Elvis' early work (which made black R&B artists like Little Richard and Chuck Berry super popular) to more of the pop oriented sound of Tom Jones, the Byrds and the Beach Boys. Not to say that Motown and black artists weren't popular during the time...just that the root of all that music, the blues, had pretty much been forgotten and pushed out the main stream. Famously, when the Stones met Muddy Waters when they first came to America, Muddy was painting the Chess offices because he wasn't selling records.
But, when the Stones showed up, playing blues covers, it kind of turned America's attention back to the source of all the great music that was basis for the pop hits on the radio at the time. Also, they were the first popular band (American or otherwise) where each individual member was presented as an individual...they dressed differently, they acted differently, the whole nine. They weren't Buddy Holly and the Crickets, wearing matching Mohair suits. Everyone had their own identity.
The Stones, in my opinion, are one of the greatest bands of all time. But, even if you hate their music, they did change the dynamics of popular music. They broke the mold of pre-packaged, record label created bands like the Monkees and created a trend of artist being able to have their own identities. And they also re-introduced the world to the blues.
If you want to see the legendary Rolling Stones at Jazz Fest, tickets for the show go on sale today. You can also see the Stones live in Houston.