Happy birthday, Rolling Stones! You -- Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood -- have made it through 50 tumultuous years, as revealed in Brett Morgen's new documentary, Crossfire Hurricane. Watching this fascinating film, I felt as though I had a rare and wonderful backstage pass to your professional and personal lives, something that even the sprawling and essential Beatles Anthology did not provide.
But I have an ethical question for you: Why don't you include Darryl Jones as an official member of the band?
It's an ethical question, because it hinges on a fundamental ethical issue: fairness. After all, by your own admission, your band was founded on the music of African-Americans, particularly the blues and R&B. As Keith says in the film, your mission was to take a uniquely American musical form and introduce it to many of us who weren't familiar with it. A cynic would say that you (and Elvis, and to a lesser extent, the Beatles) appropriated and profited from the music of black Americans. A more generous view would be that you brought our own musical history to a wider audience than prejudice would allow.
When your white bass player, Bill Wyman, left the group in January 1993, you hired Darryl Jones, an African-American musician, to play with you on albums and in concert. Smart move -- he's terrific. But Mr. Jones is never included with you in photographs or interviews, and he
doesn't even rate a mention in the documentary, even though he's shown in the film's final moments playing with you at the Beacon Theater (in a scene taken from Martin Scorsese's "Shine a Light").
How is this fair? A band that made its bones on the grooves of Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters (one of whose songs is the basis for your band's very name), Bo Diddley, Lightnin' Hopkins, Chuck Berry and Little Richard owes your bass player of 20 years full-fledged membership in the group and the worldwide recognition and respect this would bring.
Do you have a right to decide for yourself who shall and shall not be considered a member of the inner circle? Of course. It's your band. But just because you have a right to do something doesn't mean it's right.
As you roll out your anniversary celebrations in the U.S., it's time to rectify a long-standing injustice. I call upon you to formally announce from the stage that Mr. Darryl Jones, bass player
extraordinaire, is no longer a hired hand but a bona fide Rolling Stone. While you're at it, it's worth including keyboardist Chuck Leavell too, another indispensable musician on your recordings and in your performances.
We can't always get what we want, but maybe this time, we can get what need: social justice from the world's greatest rock 'n' roll band.