Ian Stewart: The lesser known member of the Rolling Stones

Ian Stewart was a crucial part of the Rolling Stones and he was there since the beginning and he was the pianist. Think about how so many Stones songs would sound with out piano? Just empty. The piano was a big part of the Stones sound. Ian Stewart was an original member of the band along with Mick, Keith and  Brian. Even before Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts came in. However, he was pushed out of the official band because of publicity. He didn’t have the right face, Andrew Loog Oldham said Six in a band was too many and piano was not a cool enough instrument. Ian was also Scottish. In those days of the early 60’s, the goal was to make the band very marketable and also to sell merchandise. It is no different today.Ian remained in the band as pianist and road manager, he set up guitars and brought equipment in and out as well as being the full time pianist.

“It was obvious that Ian Stewart didn’t fit the picture. I’m not dissing him as though he wasn’t part of the whole thing, but there were a lot of numbers which he didn’t play on. It was plain that Ian didn’t want to be a pop singer.”

Mick Jagger, 1965

I don’t personally believe this quote, I think Mick used it and Ian also assumed this attitude for the sake of the band. He said that he liked the peace and quiet of the anonymity. I still think he would have liked a bit more recognition. On the other hand it is believed that The Stones would not have made it as far as they did with Ian as an official member of the band. Andrew Loog Oldham and Ian also had bad blood between them and certainly disliked each other So that may have also played a role.However, this position allowed Ian to work on many different projects. He collaborated with Eric Clapton, Ringo, Steve Winwood and Led Zeppelin. Speaking of Zeppelin how about another under appreciated member, John Paul-Jones.

Unfortunately, Ian died on Dec 12th 1985 from a heart attack at age 47. It was a great loss for the music community. In February the next year, The Stones played a tribute concert for him. Ian Stewart was very influential to the Stones and when they were inducted into the hall of fame. The current members insisted on having his name along with them. All in all, it is sad that he was marginalized in a band he helped form and shape but at least he got recognition.

“Ian Stewart. I’m still working for him. To me the Rolling Stones is his band. Without his knowledge and organization … we’d be nowhere.”
Keith Richards, Life

Some of the notable songs that Ian worked on
Brown Sugar
Dead Flowers
Honky Tonk Woman
Stupid Girl
It’s Only Rock and Roll (but I like it)

* Some of my favourite piano parts like Tumbling Dice and Sympathy for the Devil were played by Nicky Hopkins another great pianist but that will be for another post.

This will be my last post before the New Year and I won’t be doing anything until mid January. Also this is my 35th post, Word press tells me it means something special, but I can’t tell what it is.

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