In the pantheon of elite rock bands who can teach us valuable business lessons, The Rolling Stones of course deserve premium membership.
Their ability to stake out a distinct and defiant look and sound—which they've capably exploited for forty-five years—is a timeless lesson in branding, and no trivial triumph. (This one-time band of outcasts has grossed billions in the last decade.)
What's all but forgotten, however, is that the Stones in their prime were one of the most innovative rock bands around, thanks in large part to the multi-instrumental virtuosity of Brian Jones—until his untimely death forty years ago today.
Brian was the founder, spokesman, and de facto manager of the Rolling Stones—before he was eclipsed by the emergence of Mick Jagger as flamboyant lead singer, Jagger-Richards as songwriting juggernaut, and Andrew Loog Oldham as manager/producer/publicist.
But Brian remained the group's musician-genius-in-residence (every great band has one) whose background in both classical music and blues shone through on the early Stones' performances.
After Brian Jones was bounced from the band (due to declining health and substance abuse—the apparent cause of his death a few weeks later) the Rolling Stones went on to become the archetypal rock band—the gold standard of basic, solid, catchy (and insolent) rock & roll. But what was irretrievably lost, in one man's opinionated view, was their innovation spark plug.
If you listen to the dulcimer and harpsichord on "Lady Jane," the marimba in "Under My Thumb," the sitar on "Paint It Black," the recorder on "Ruby Tuesday," or the slide guitar on "Little Red Rooster" and "No Expectations," you'll have all the proof you need that Brian Jones was a creative deviant whose influence enabled the Stones to be taken as seriously by the critics of the day as the Beatles and Bob Dylan (who, by the way, still raves about Brian's guitar playing).
Requiescas in pace, Mr. Jones.