Brian Jones: The tragic Rolling Stones star's too-short life and career remembered

3 June 2024, 15:00

Brian Jones in 1965
Brian Jones in 1965. Picture: Getty

By Tom Owen

Brian Jones, a seminal figure in the history of rock music, is best remembered as the founder and original leader of the Rolling Stones.

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His life, though tragically cut short, was marked by a remarkable blend of musical talent, charismatic presence, and personal turbulence.

Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones was born on February 28, 1942, in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. From a young age, Jones displayed an aptitude for music, learning to play the piano, clarinet, and saxophone.

His parents, both amateur musicians, encouraged his interest in music, fostering an environment where his talent could flourish. By his teens, Jones had developed a rebellious streak, often clashing with authority figures at school and eventually leaving home to pursue a life that would lead him into the burgeoning music scene of the early 1960s.

Jones's early influences included blues legends like Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. In London, he immersed himself in the vibrant rhythm and blues scene, playing in various bands and honing his skills on the guitar and harmonica. His passion for blues music and his determination to succeed set the stage for his future endeavours.

Creating the Rolling Stones

In 1962, Jones placed an advertisement in Jazz News, seeking musicians to form a rhythm and blues band. This ad led to the formation of the Rolling Stones, with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ian Stewart, and Dick Taylor joining Jones in what would become one of the most influential rock bands of all time. They were later joined by Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts, while Ronnie Wood joined in the 1970s.

Rolling Stones in 1964
Rolling Stones in 1964. Picture: Getty

Jones named the band after a Muddy Waters song, 'Rollin' Stone,' reflecting his deep admiration for American blues.

As the driving force behind the Rolling Stones, Jones was instrumental in shaping the band's early sound. His ability to play multiple instruments, including the sitar, dulcimer, and marimba, added a distinctive edge to their music. Jones's contributions to songs like 'Paint It Black,' 'Under My Thumb,' and 'Ruby Tuesday' showcased his versatility and creativity, helping to define the band's unique style.

Despite his musical prowess, Jones's role within the band began to diminish as Jagger and Richards emerged as the primary songwriters. This shift, coupled with Jones's increasingly erratic behaviour and struggles with substance abuse, led to tensions within the group.

Personal life and struggles

Jones's personal life was as tumultuous as his career was groundbreaking. Known for his flamboyant fashion sense and magnetic personality, he became a prominent figure in the swinging London scene of the 1960s.

Brian Jones Of The Rolling Stones
Brian Jones Of The Rolling Stones. Picture: Getty

However, his lifestyle choices often led to trouble. He fathered several children with different women and faced legal issues related to drug possession.

Jones's descent into substance abuse took a toll on his health and relationships. His drug and alcohol problems exacerbated the existing tensions within the Rolling Stones, leading to his alienation from the band he had founded. By 1968, it was clear that Jones's role in the group was becoming increasingly marginal.

In June 1969, Jones was officially dismissed from the Rolling Stones. The band's press release cited his inability to contribute creatively as the primary reason for his departure. Jones himself admitted that he could no longer keep up with the band's demanding schedule and was unable to cope with the pressures of touring and recording.

Tragic death

Just a month after his departure from the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones was found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool at his home in Hartfield, East Sussex, on July 3, 1969. He was only 27 years old.

The circumstances surrounding his death have been the subject of much speculation and controversy, with theories ranging from accidental drowning to foul play. The official cause of death was recorded as "death by misadventure," attributing it to a combination of alcohol and drugs.

Rolling Stones talk about Brian Jones

Jones's untimely death added him to the so-called '27 Club', a group of influential musicians who died at the age of 27, including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison. His passing marked the end of an era for the Rolling Stones, who would go on to achieve even greater success in the years that followed.


Despite his relatively short career, Brian Jones's impact on music is undeniable. As the founder of the Rolling Stones, he played a crucial role in shaping the band's early sound and establishing their identity.

His innovative approach to instrumentation and his dedication to blues music helped lay the foundation for the Stones' success.

Jones's legacy lives on through the enduring popularity of the Rolling Stones and the countless musicians he influenced. His contributions to the band's iconic hits and his pioneering spirit continue to inspire new generations of artists.

While personal struggles and a tragic end marked his life, Brian Jones's musical genius will always be remembered as a pivotal figure in the history of popular music.