Brian Jones was a guitarist – but that's like saying Hugh Jackman is an actor. Just as Jackman is prized in Hollywood for his triple-threat abilities to act, sing and dance with ease, Jones had a rich musical talent that went far beyond the ability to play a great riff on the guitar.
Born 70 years ago today, Brian Jones, a founding member of the Rolling Stones, contributed unique instrumentation that helped the band's sound grow and evolve. From the early days of the band's career, Jones played harmonica on a variety of tracks, and he soon branched out to include more unusual instruments – traditional and ethnic instruments like sitar and dulcimer; keyboards like organ, accordion and harpsichord; woodwinds like saxophone and oboe; and more.
Today, we're honoring Jones's short life – he died in 1969 at just 27 years old – with a few songs that showcase his multi-instrumental talents.
Jones helped fuel the burgeoning craze for sitar music in the mid-1960s when he played the traditionally Indian instrument on "Paint it, Black." The song became the first No. 1 single featuring sitar.
"Ruby Tuesday" featured Jones on two instruments: recorder and piano.
When the Rolling Stones released "Lady Jane" in 1966, many of their British fans – American ones, too – hadn't heard of the dulcimer, a folk instrument created in the mountain hamlets of Appalachia in the 19th century. But Jones played it beautifully and expanded their awareness.
Those songs are just a drop in the bucket of what Brian Jones could do. For more of his musical talent, check out any Stones record up to Let it Bleed. It was his last recording with the band, on which he played just two tracks – but he again showcased his talent, playing not guitar but percussion and autoharp, and advancing the band's new psychedelic sound.
Written by Linnea Crowther