The death of Brian Jones in 1969 at the age of 27 set a sad and dangerous precedent for the next few years of rock and roll. One by one, a number of legends would fall at the same age, largely by the same fate: drug addiction, careless, and misadventure.
Jones’ death was memorialised, both by those who knew him and those who didn’t. Jim Morrison penned a spacey and impressionistic poem entitled ‘An Ode to L.A. While Thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased’ while pondering the late Rolling Stone member’s early demise. Before their Hyde Park concert just two days after Jones’ death, Mick Jagger read excerpts of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ode to John Keats, ‘Adonais’.
Although he was just as poetically inclined, close friend Jimi Hendrix had a different kind of tribute in mind. Jones had introduced Hendrix to American audiences during the Monterey Pop Festival, and later Jones contributed to Hendrix’s legendary recording of Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along the Watchtower’, providing percussion on the apocalyptic track. When Hendrix appeared on The Dick Cavett Show just four days after Jones’ death, he dedicated his performance of ‘I Hear My Train A-Comin’ to Jones.
But one of the most succinct and most stirring tributes came from Pete Townshend. The Who guitarist had only just recently upstaged Jones and The Rolling Stones at their Rock and Roll Circus performance, but Jones’ death had enough of an impact of Townshend from him to compose a short poem in his honour. Entitled ‘A Normal Day for Brian, A Man Who Died Everyday’, the eight-line tribute was published in The Times shortly after Jones’ passing.
I used to play my guitar as a kid
wishing that I could be like him
But today I changed my mind
I decided that I don’t want to die
But it was a normal day for Brian
Rock and Roll’s that way
It was a normal day for Brian
A man who died every day
Notably, Townshend reneges on one of his most famous lines: “I hope I die before I get old” from ‘My Generation’. Whether the rebuke was purposefully meant to invoke ‘My Generation’ or not, it was powerful for a figure so deeply tied to the fatalistic freedom of youth to change his view due to the passing of a peer.
Jones’ legacy would forever be tied to his death, especially some the artists who paid tribute to him, notably Hendrix and Morrison, both passed at the same age within a few years. Townshend outlived them all and continues to carry the torch for rock and roll, solidifying the truth in his words that he didn’t want to live like a man who died every day.