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The Rolling Stones and the Evolution of Rock


Some things never change. But, music does. The Rolling Stones have innovated and kept up with every twist and turn. Experience their journey at Exhibitionism: The Rolling Stones Exhibit.

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There’s no doubt that rock and roll’s sound has changed over the past 60 years. That Elvis pelvis was the scandal of the day when rock came on the scene, and now, EDM’s hypnotic beats have inspired some unique dance moves as well.

From rock’s beginnings in soul to the Southern Rock sound that became so popular in the 1970s to the poppy bounce of 80s rock to Grunge vibes of the 1990s and the eclectic style of today, one band has been recording and performing hits through the decades: The Rolling Stones.

Take a look at the changes in sound over the years and see how the Stones’ sound has stood out in a sea of thousands of bands.


This is the decade when the members of the Rolling Stones were finding their own inspiration. Popular artists of the day included Elvis, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. Music in these years was influenced by soul and jazz styles and turned into a vibrant sound of its own.


The Rolling Stones officially became a band in 1962, and eventually claimed the crown of having the top rock hit of the decade in “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. Other emerging bands included The Beatles (maybe you’ve heard of them?), Marvin Gaye, Roy Orbison, the Beach Boys, the Four Tops, and The Jackson 5.

A new, edgier vibration started creeping into rock music in the 60s when artists like Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and The Who came on the scene. Guitar-heavy tracks were crowd pleasers, and these artists could straight up shred a guitar solo.


A split in the rock sound happened in the 1970s when disco influenced many artists, and others embraced a more gritty rock sound. Top hits of the decades belonged to acts like the Eagles, the Bee Gees, Sly and the Family Stone, Elton John, Blondie, Pink Floyd, the Ramones and Boston. Look, y’all, the 70s were a weird time, don’t ask us to explain it! All we know is that the Rolling Stones recorded one of their biggest hits, “Brown Sugar”, produced six albums and toured the world (again).


Hair Bands and New Wave were the ticket, and hip hop started to creep into the rock lexicon in this decade. The Stones released one of their most iconic hits, “Start Me Up”, in 1981. Pop weaseled its way in with the early years of MTV, and the definition of the rock genre became more nebulous. Other bands making the greatest hits list included Prince, Human League, Beastie Boys, Journey, Metallica, Depeche Mode, Van Halen, U2, Bryan Adams, Def Leppard and Bon Jovi.


Speaking of living on a prayer, 1990s music was allll the things all at once, and we didn’t have a prayer of keeping up with the New Wave to Hip Hop to Grunge to Death Metal to the seeds of emo punk evolution that happened when pop culture took root in mainstream conversation. Bands like No Doubt, Pearl Jam, Korn, Eminem, Eric Clapton, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Beck, Oasis, Soundgarden, Guns ‘n Roses and Dave Matthews band all found themselves side-by-side on the charts.

Know who was still rocking out with that bizarre collection of stars? Yep. Our bros Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie (oh, and Bill too, until 1993.)


Moving into the new millennium meant moving into some new and strange territory. Rock got in touch with its inner demons and embraced either the angry or the emo they found there. Papa Roach, The Killers, Linkin Park, Feist, Wilco, Foo Fighters, 3 Doors Down, Arcade Fire, The White Stripes, Coldplay and Kings of Leon all appeared on the charts, though they probably couldn’t see each other with their bangs in their eyes.

The Rolling Stones brought the heat in this decade by playing 264 shows during two tours that spanned three years.


Honestly, who knows where this crazy train is going this decade? We’ve got progressive/experimental (which we think means it was entirely made by robots, probably?) and EDM, which we know is made by robots. Either way, bands like 12 Foot Ninja, Chainsmokers, Calvin Harris, Owl City and Highly Suspect are sharing space on hit lists with holdovers from the hard rock boom of the late 2000s. Seether, Theory of a Deadman, Disturbed, Saving Abel, along with other ominously named groups.

This is the decade when The Rolling Stones have decided to bestow some of these years of wisdom on new acts and fans alike. Their archives are on tour in an incredible, immersive display called Exhibitionism: The Rolling Stones Exhibit.

Now that you’ve journeyed through rock history with the Stones, come see all the evidence of a career for the ages.  


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Julie Holt
Julie Holt
Julie Holt is a freelance writer and magazine editor in Nashville. When she's not writing or reading, she spends her time yelling at her three children, drinking coffee, hiking and avoiding laundry.
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