Brian Jones, born Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones on February 28, 1942, was an English musician and a founding member of The Rolling Stones, one of the most successful and influential rock bands in history.
Known for his multi-instrumental abilities, Jones played various instruments including guitar, harmonica, keyboards, and sitar, among others. His innovative approach to music and distinctive playing style were instrumental in shaping the sound of The Rolling Stones during the band’s early years.
Jones’ eclectic musical influences and his ability to play a variety of instruments allowed the band to experiment with different styles and genres, from blues and rock to psychedelia and world music. This versatility was key to The Rolling Stones’ initial success and helped establish them as a unique force in the rapidly evolving music scene of the 1960s.
Despite his significant contributions to the band and music as a whole, Jones’ life was marked by personal struggles and controversy, culminating in his untimely death at the age of 27. His death remains a subject of intrigue and speculation, with many unanswered questions surrounding the circumstances of his passing.
Early Life and Career
Brian Jones, born Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones, was born on February 28, 1942, in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire county, 98 miles to the west of London. He was the child of Lewis and Louise Jones and grew up in a middle-class family.
Despite suffering from asthma his entire life, Jones developed a keen interest in music from an early age. His parents, who were both musical, encouraged his passion.
Jones’ musical journey began with him mastering a variety of instruments, becoming particularly adept at guitar and harmonica. His versatility and innovative approach to music would later become a defining feature of his career.
In 1962, Jones co-founded The Rolling Stones along with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. As a member of the band, he played multiple roles: he was not only a guitarist but also a multi-instrumentalist who could play slide guitar, rhythm guitar, piano, marimba, dulcimer, and more.
His ability to play various instruments allowed the band to experiment with different styles and genres, from blues and rock to psychedelia and world music.
Personal Struggles and Departure from The Rolling Stones
Brian Jones’ tenure with The Rolling Stones was marked by escalating personal struggles, particularly his issues with substance abuse. His increased drug use began to affect his contributions to the band, both in recording sessions and live performances. It also led to legal troubles that further strained his relationship with his bandmates.
Jones’ escalating drug use did not only affect his performance but also his mental stability. Self-medication through drug abuse became a significant issue, leading to further estrangement from the rest of the band.
His addiction got to a point where it was past the point of return, and his inability to control it significantly contributed to his departure from The Rolling Stones.
On June 8, 1969, The Rolling Stones officially announced that Brian Jones was leaving the band. Jones released a statement saying, “I no longer see eye to eye with the others over the discs we are cutting.” However, it was clear that his departure was largely due to his significant drug use which had alienated him from the other band members.
His departure opened the door for Mick Taylor, who would play on some of The Rolling Stones’ most acclaimed albums. Despite his troubled exit, Jones’ impact on the band’s sound and success during their formative years remains undeniable.
Death of Brian Jones
Brian Jones, the founding member of The Rolling Stones, tragically passed away on July 3, 1969, less than a month after his departure from the band. His untimely death occurred at his home, Cotchford Farm in East Sussex, where he was found drowned in his swimming pool.
The circumstances surrounding Jones’ death have been a subject of speculation and intrigue. On that fateful day, he was discovered at the bottom of his swimming pool. Initial reports suggested he had accidentally drowned due to heavy intoxication.
The official coroner’s report concluded it was “death by misadventure,” noting that his liver and heart were greatly enlarged due to sustained drug abuse.
Jones’ death sent shockwaves through the music world. As a founding member of one of the most influential rock bands of all time, his loss was deeply felt. The news of his death was met with disbelief and sorrow by fans and fellow musicians alike.
His passing also added him to the notorious “27 Club,” a group of popular musicians who all died at the age of 27, often under tragic circumstances. Despite the mystery and controversy surrounding his death, Brian Jones’ legacy as a pioneering musician endures.
Investigation into Brian Jones’ Death
The initial investigation into Brian Jones’ death on July 3, 1969, was conducted by the Sussex Police.
The official cause of death was declared as “death by misadventure,” a term used when an accidental death occurs due to a dangerous and often reckless activity, in this case, swimming while heavily intoxicated. However, this verdict did not put an end to the questions surrounding his untimely demise.
Over the years, various controversies and conspiracy theories have arisen concerning Jones’ death.
One of the most persistent theories suggests that Jones was murdered, a claim that is often linked to Frank Thorogood, a builder who was doing work on Jones’ house at the time and was one of the last people to see him alive.
According to some sources, Thorogood allegedly confessed on his deathbed to killing Jones.
This theory, among others, has led to multiple re-investigations into Jones’ death over the years. The Sussex Police conducted reviews of the case in 1984 and 1994, but these did not lead to any changes in the official verdict.
As recently as 2023, a previously unseen witness statement cast doubt on the investigation into Jones’ death. Despite these developments, the Sussex Police have stated they have no plans to reopen the investigation.
More recently, new evidence suggesting foul play in Jones’ death was presented in a Netflix documentary. Despite these ongoing questions and theories, the official cause of Jones’ death remains unchanged.
While the mystery surrounding Jones’ death continues to intrigue fans and investigators alike, it is clear that his legacy as a music icon endures.
Legacy and Impact
Brian Jones’ death had a profound impact on The Rolling Stones and the music industry as a whole. His abrupt departure and subsequent death marked a turning point for the band. It led to a shift in their musical style, with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards taking over as the primary songwriters.
The band’s first concert after Jones’ death, held in Hyde Park, London, became a de facto memorial for him. Mick Jagger read an excerpt from a Percy Bysshe Shelley poem before releasing thousands of butterflies into the air in tribute. This event symbolized the end of an era for The Rolling Stones and the beginning of a new one.
Jones’ death also sent shockwaves through the music industry. As a founding member of one of the most influential rock bands in history, his loss was deeply felt. It added him to the notorious “27 Club,” a group of popular musicians who all died at the age of 27, often under tragic circumstances.
Despite his tumultuous life and early death, Brian Jones left a lasting legacy in rock ‘n’ roll history. His musicianship and unique approach to guitar playing influenced many musicians, and his contributions to the band’s early albums helped shape The Rolling Stones’ sound and image.
Even today, Jones is remembered as a pioneer of rock music. His innovative use of non-Western instruments like the sitar and marimba introduced new sounds to the genre and broadened its horizons. Despite the controversies surrounding his life and death, Brian Jones’ influence on music continues to be acknowledged and celebrated.
Brian Jones, the original leader of The Rolling Stones, died under mysterious circumstances on July 3, 1969. He was found unconscious in his floodlight swimming pool at his home in Hartfield and was pronounced dead shortly after.
The official cause of death, according to the coroner’s report, was listed as drowning, later clarified as “death by misadventure” due to heavy intoxication. An autopsy revealed severe liver dysfunction associated with his history of substance abuse.
The circumstances surrounding Jones’ death have been a source of much speculation and controversy. Over the years, various theories have emerged suggesting foul play, leading to periodic reviews of the case by Sussex police. However, despite these reviews and the persistent doubts, the official verdict remains unchanged.
Jones’ death had a profound impact on The Rolling Stones and the music industry as a whole. His innovative approach to music, particularly his use of non-Western instruments, helped shape the sound of The Rolling Stones and influenced many musicians that followed.
Despite his untimely death, Brian Jones’ legacy endures. As a founding member of one of the most influential rock bands in history, he left an indelible mark on rock ‘n’ roll. His contributions to music continue to be celebrated, ensuring that his influence will be felt for generations to come.