stone wall pictured. The stones are coated with moss.

What Exactly is a Rolling Stone?

By Paris Foster
Music Journalist

Many music fans are probably familiar with the popular rock group “The Rolling Stones”, and the popular “Rolling Stone” magazine, and even the numerous songs on the subject of “Rolling Stones,” but it’s more than likely that fans do not know what a Rolling Stone is.

The term is uncommon in day-to-day conversation. at first glance it’s not very important-sounding, and it is sparsely heard in dialogue from old movies and tv show— so what’s so enticing about this trivial saying and what does it even mean?

Well to begin, the saying is rooted in an old proverb dating back to the 1500s used to describe a vagabond: “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” This is a clear indication of why the term may have been adopted during the 1950s and 60s.

A rolling stone is one who adventures and “rolls around,” and the proverb argues that those who adventure “gather no moss,” meaning they will stay young, as opposed to those who settle down and live a bland, ordinary life.

This idea meshed with the youth culture of the ’50s and ’60s, where young individuals countered straight edge traditionalist values with rock music. Furthermore, the idea of the adventurous “Rolling Stone” was first made popular by bluesman Muddy Waters in his 1950 single, “Rollin’ Stone.”

Then in 1962, a club owner asked a young Brian Jones the name of his new blues group. Jones looked around the room in panic and spotted his beloved Muddy Waters record which became the inspiration for his soon-to-be massive band, “The Rolling Stones.”

Three years later, Bob Dylan would write a sweltering song by the name of “Like a Rolling Stone.” Lastly, these three things would prompt Jann Wenner to publish the first issue of what would become “Rolling Stone” magazine.

So what was first a term for a nomadic individual in the 1500s, became a definitive title for wanderlust-filled youth 450 years later. Many also wonder what the “roll” in rock n roll means as well.

It can be concluded that rock n roll is a fully realized idea made up of music- rock, and adventurous spirit- roll. Rock n Roll.

So with that, “the rolling stone” is the origin of rock’s counterpart, roll.

Featured Image by Logomimi

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