The Rolling Stones are an English rock band formed in London in 1962. The first stable line-up consisted of Brian Jones (guitar, harmonica), Mick Jagger (lead vocals), Keith Richards (guitar, backing vocals), Bill Wyman (bass), Charlie Watts (drums), and Ian Stewart (piano). Stewart was removed from the official line-up in 1963 but continued as a touring member until his death in 1985. Jones left the band less than a month prior to his death in 1969, having already been replaced by Mick Taylor, who remained until 1974. After Taylor left the band, Ronnie Wood took his place in 1975 and has been on guitar in tandem with Richards ever since. Following Wyman’s departure in 1993, Darryl Jones joined as their touring bassist. Other touring keyboardists for the band have been Nicky Hopkins (1967–1982), Ian McLagan (1978–1981), Billy Preston (through the mid-1970s) and Chuck Leavell (1982–present). The band was first led by Jones, but after teaming as the band’s songwriters, Jagger and Richards assumed leadership while Jones dealt with legal and personal troubles.
The Rolling Stones were at the forefront of the British Invasion of bands that became popular in the US in 1964, and identified with the youthful and rebellious counterculture of the 1960s. Rooted in blues and early rock and roll, the group began a short period of musical experimentation in the mid-1960s that peaked with the psychedelic album Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967). Subsequently, the group returned to its “bluesy” roots with Beggars Banquet (1968) which along with its follow-ups Let It Bleed (1969), Sticky Fingers (1971) and Exile on Main St. (1972) is generally considered to be the band’s best work and is seen as their “Golden Age”. During this period, they were first introduced on stage as “The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band”. Musicologist Robert Palmer attributed the “remarkable endurance” of the Rolling Stones to being “rooted in traditional verities, in rhythm-and-blues and soul music”, while “more ephemeral pop fashions have come and gone”.
The band continued to release commercially successful albums, including Some Girls (1978) and Tattoo You (1981), which were their most popular albums worldwide. From 1983 to 1987, tensions between Jagger and Richards almost caused the band to split. However, they managed to patch up their friendship after they separated temporarily to work on solo projects, and experienced a comeback with Steel Wheels (1989), which was followed by a large stadium and arena tour. Since the 1990s, new recorded material from the group has been less well-received and less frequent. Despite this, the Rolling Stones have continued to be a huge attraction on the live circuit, with stadium tours in the 1990s and 2000s. By 2007, the band had four of the top five highest-grossing concert tours of all time: Voodoo Lounge Tour (1994–1995), Bridges to Babylon Tour (1997–1998), Licks Tour (2002–2003) and A Bigger Bang Tour (2005–2007).
The Rolling Stones were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004. Rolling Stone magazine ranked them fourth on the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” list and their estimated album sales are above 250 million. They have released 30 studio albums, 18 live albums and numerous compilations. Let It Bleed (1969) was their first of five consecutive No. 1 studio and live albums in the UK. Sticky Fingers (1971) was the first of eight consecutive No. 1 studio albums in the US. In 2008, the band ranked 10th on the Billboard Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists chart. In 2012, the band celebrated its 50th anniversary.