Rock and Rolling Stones; their legacy today

Fellow Rolling Stones guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood rock out on stage together (photo courtesy of
Fellow Rolling Stones guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood rock out on stage together (photo courtesy of
Roger Woolman
In the spring of 1964,

Tom Zimmerman and his friends took a trip to Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center to see The Rolling Stones perform live. Zimmerman and his friends, who were in high school at the time, could barely contain themselves as they entered the concert venue and gazed at the giant hole in the middle of the floor, which was a rising stage that would come up once the concert started. 

All of a sudden, opening chords started to rise out of the hole, and out came the men Zimmerman and his friends had been listening to and worshiping for so many years: the Rolling Stones. The next hour was a blur and bolstered Zimmerman’s lifelong affair with rock and roll. 

Zimmerman, The Rolling Stones superfan whose rock and roll dreams came true that night, is my grandfather. 60 years later, his experiences with rock and roll as a teen helped influence my music taste and interests. 

Growing up in Mount Prospect, his love for The Stones was a natural progression from the blues-rock he and his friends heard every day on stations like WLS and WCFL; they were just looking for the next harder music genre. However, The Rolling Stones took influence from certain Chicago artists that they had never heard before. 

“Their first couple albums were covers of mostly Chicago blues songs, which [my friends and I] from Chicago had never heard of,” Zimmerman said. “It took somebody from England to tell us what we were missing all those years.”

Lead singer Mick Jagger and lead guitarist Keith Richards originally met by chance at a train station in 1961, and they started talking about the Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters records that Jagger was carrying. Jagger invited Richards to play in his band Blues Incorporated, kickstarting the friendship that would lead to The Rolling Stones. The Stones’ unique interpretation of classic Chicago blues is what attracted Zimmerman and his friends to their music for so many years.

“The way they did the blues songs…I [just] get chills when I hear it because it’s [such] a part of my youth,” Zimmerman said. “We just played the heck out of those albums. That’s the music I took to college with me, and [I] just played it over and over.”

Since Zimmerman’s time, the Stones have grown their discography and released successful music. Hackney Diamonds, released on Oct. 20, 2023, was The Rolling Stones’ first album of original music since 2005’s A Bigger Bang. The album reached No.3 on the U.S. Billboard charts within a week of its release, making the Stones the only band with a top 10 album from each decade since the 1960s. 

With such a long-lasting cultural presence, younger music fans may wonder what made the Stones so unique as to be held in such a high echelon of stardom. 

Their cultural image in the early sixties certainly played a role. Compared to their contemporaries, most notably The Beatles, The Rolling Stones were painted in the media as dirty, rabble-rousing junkies. This caused them to stand out amongst the crowd along with their covers of older vocal jazz, such as Nat King Cole’s “Route 66”, where they added guitars and their own personal flair.

It wasn’t just their American blues and jazz influences, though; the Stones also frequently experimented with instruments from other cultures, especially on their second album Aftermath. Two of their most famous songs, “Paint It, Black” and “Under my Thumb” use instruments like an Indian sitar and a Mexican marimba.

Junior Alex Pignataro has been a fan of older rock her whole life and credits her parents for introducing her to music from the 60s, 70s and 80s at a young age. She first started to listen to older hard rock in 2018, when she started taking classes at School of Rock in Arlington Heights. 

She joined a Grateful Dead cover band called Uncle James’s Band because her friend was in it, and she slowly realized that she enjoyed the community in these groups as well as the music she got to play. Since then, classic rock has been an important part of her life. 

“Older rock has unique sounds, sounds that you can’t really get today,” Pignataro said. “There was autotune, but they didn’t use that in rock; it was their actual voices. Rock from the 80s and 70s, [there] was a specific sound to those groups. These [modern] groups will never get those same sounds because they’re not them.”

However, there are still lyrical aspects of some older songs that stand out in today’s political context. 

“[Older artists have] songs of their time, and then we have songs of our time,” Pignataro said. “Like, ‘Dude (Looks Like a Lady)’ by Aerosmith; that is definitely a piece of their time because it’s transphobic, but it’s also a classic that you have to know. It may not be acceptable today, but it was a song that people made.”

The Rolling Stones, on the other hand, transcended their time and found relevance throughout the decades, with many people of all ages still listening to their music today. On Spotify, they managed to get an average of 27.1 million monthly listeners and have amassed more than a billion streams on “Paint It, Black.” 

Zimmerman thinks that as Jagger and Richards moved from blues covers to their own material, they were able to grow as songwriters and musicians, which is what kept them relevant to this day.

Through their dirty, troublemaking persona, the unique influences their music took and their lyrics, The Rolling Stones rose to the top of the British Invasion pile and created a nearly unrivaled youth following. Perhaps even more impressive, they managed to hold on to that energy of rawness and zeal into the 21st century, where it reaches young people today.

 Zimmerman is happy that young people today are looking back and appreciating the music that affected him so much when he was a teen. 

“[It’s] the same reason [why] kids [these days] listen to The Beatles: just because they know they were classic rock groups,” Zimmerman said. “[The Rolling Stones] have such a presence in the history of rock and roll, and kids who appreciate all kinds of music will be listening to them even though they also listen to everything else.”

According to and Spotify.
According to and Spotify.
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