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The Worldview Behind The Rolling Stones' Music
in the news: It's been fifty years since the generally considered to be the world's greatest rock and roll band--The Rolling Stones--first performed on stage. Jill Lawless and Louise Dixon of the Associated Press mark the occasion and provide some additional background in an article entitled "It's only rock 'n' roll but they like it."
commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, project Worldview, www.projectworldview.org): What themes characterize the worldview of The Rolling Stones' songs--typically written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards? Given that many of the songs are fun, celebratory, with sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll connections, certainly a Hedonistic Orientation (theme #28A) thread consistently runs through decades of Stones' music. While they later (1969) recognize that "You Can't Always Get What You Want," the Stones' first (1965) big hit "Satisfaction" can be viewed in terms of a venting frustration--with personal sexual matters and with aspects of society such as advertising. Yet if that song's lyrics suggest disgust with an I Know What's Best for You (theme #2B) attitude, other Stones' songs of this era (like "Stupid Girl,""19th Nervous Breakdown," and "Under My Thumb") adopt a related attitude in offering advice (frequently to women) in a disrespectful way.
With that bow to political correctness out of the way, I can now afford to be more generous. As innovators and creators of music that will long be remembered--London mayor Boris Johnson goes so far as to call them important historic figures of the 20th century--The Rolling Stones must be credited with possessing something of The Artistic Worldview (theme #12). Certainly with their music they strive to arouse feelings and maximize their audience's emotional commitment. Speaking of emotion, many Stones' songs communicate a Passionately Impulsive nature (theme #18A) and lack of restraint (theme #29A). The latter, in this writer's opinion, is what both their classic "Sympathy for the Devil" and Joseph Conrad's novel The Heart of Darkness have in common. The 1994 song "I Go Wild" provides another example. Unrestrained Threatening Person (theme #29B) darkness pervades other Stones' song--notably "The Midnight Rambler" and "Gimme Shelter." This latter song's words and especially eerie sound wonderfully communicate Apocalypticism (theme #9B)--as does "Sympathy for the Devil".
Many rank "Gimme Shelter" at the top of greatest classic rock songs, while others give Led Zepplin's "Stairway to Heaven" that honor. While the two songs share an incredible driving intensity, in this writer's opinion they present an interesting contrast with the latter invoking the brilliant white light of a Mysticism (theme #7A) / cosmic consciousness experience. It seems that Stones' songs chiefly touch on spiritual / religious matters in a skeptical (theme #1B) way. Despite Jagger's sometimes ending concerts with a "God Bless You" wish for the audience, Stones' songs like "Blinded By Rainbows" seemingly have no use for Belief in a Personal God (theme #8B). Many are seeped in Cynicism (theme #36A) and take a rather dim view of human nature. Certainly "Dangerous Beauty" --a song about American soldiers' abuses of prisoners in Iraq--and "Sweet Neo Con" are two of those. The latter (2005) song is perhaps the Stones most openly political one; it provides quite a contrast with the 1968 classic "Street Fighting Man" which seems to take a Left Anarchist (theme #50B) perspective.
It, like a few other Stones' songs, suggests Working for Change (theme #35B). Yes this band once promoted a "bad boy" satanic image, perhaps to distinguish themselves from the "good guy" Beatles to sell records. And they apparently have no use for a Moralistic God (theme #14A). In actuality I suspect their Secular Humanism (theme #10) extends to promoting progressive change that betters the human condition and concern for the downtrodden. This--and an appreciation for those Struggling With A Basic Need: Sustenance (theme #24) comes across in songs like "Factory Girl," "Salt of the Earth," "Luxury," and especially the 1988 song "Rock and a Hard Place."
Finally, while those whose lives are built around hedonism often childishly and narrowly have a small picture Focused Vision (theme #3) type preoccupation, a few Stones' songs show their ability to see a bigger picture and employ Global Vision (theme #4). This comes across with early (mid 1960s) songs like "I am Waiting" and "2000 Light Years From Home" and decades later with "Time Waits for No One". Speaking of which, hopefully time will allow these old guys at least one more big world tour since I want to see them again...Rock on!
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