Today at Far Out, we are remembering Mick Jagger during one of his most emotional hours. We’re looking back at the moment he paid tribute to the late Brian Jones, founder of the band and undoubted musical inspiration, by performing a poem in remembrance of the Rolling Stones founder. He did so in front of 250,000 – 500,000 people attending their iconic Hyde Park show in 1969.
The former Stones bandleader, Brian Jones, had tragically died just two days previously, and Jagger, alongside his band, dedicated the reading of Percy Shelley’s Adonais before beginning their mammoth set. It culminated in the release of thousands of white butterflies and marked a fitting tribute to their former bandmate.
Brian Jones was discovered immobile by his Swedish girlfriend, Anna Wohlin, at midnight on the night of 2–3 July 1969. His death sent shockwaves across the world the moment he was found at the bottom of his swimming pool at Cotchford Farm and his storied life had come to an end. Wohlin was convinced he was alive when he was taken out of the pool, insisting he still had a pulse. However, by the time the doctors arrived, it was too late, and he was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital at the age of 27.
The coroner’s report stated, “death by misadventure”. It noted that his liver and heart were heavily enlarged by past drug and alcohol abuse, which contributed to his fall from grace, especially with the Stones. However, during the autopsy, doctors found that the cause of Jones’ death was an accidental drowning. It was a dark end to a career that had once been so bright.
Jones had suffered his fair share of addiction problems during his brief life. It was largely what led to tensions starting to grow between him and the rest of The Rolling Stones. The guitarist was arrested for drug possession on 10 May 1967, with authorities discovering marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine in his flat. He would be arrested again a year later on drug offences.
Tensions grew further still as Jones’ behaviour became more erratic and, by 1968, he had alienated himself from his bandmates. Jones played his final show with the band in the December of that year for their Rock N Roll Circus.
Bill Wyman would note in his book Stone Alone: “There were at least two sides to Brian’s personality. One Brian was introverted, shy, sensitive, deep-thinking. The other was a preening peacock, gregarious, artistic, desperately needing assurance from his peers. He pushed every friendship to the limit and way beyond.”
The Stones decided that following the release of the Let it Bleed album in the summer of 1969; they would begin a mammoth tour of North America in November 1969. However, the Stones’ management was informed that Jones would not receive a work permit due to his previous drug convictions.
It was the beginning of the end for Brian Jones and led to the Stones deciding to appoint Mick Taylor as their new guitarist behind Jones’ back. On 8 June 1969, Jones was visited by Jagger, Richards and Watts, to tell him he was no longer a member of the group which he had founded.
Just a few weeks later he was tragically found dead.
Following his death, The Stones performed a free concert at London’s Hyde Park to 500,000 fans who were also mourning Jones.
Before they began to play, Mick Jagger fought back the tears and performed Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem Adonais in tribute to his friend. When he had finished reading the heart-wrenching poem, 3,500 butterflies were then released in homage to Jones as the group performed ‘I’m Yours and I’m Hers’.
Read the poem in full and watch Jagger’s poignant reading of it, below.
“Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep —
He hath awakened from the dream of life —
‘Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep
With phantoms an unprofitable strife,
And in mad trance, strike with our spirit’s knife
Invulnerable nothings. — We decay
Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief
Convulse us and consume us day by day,
And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.
The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven’s light forever shines, Earth’s shadows fly;
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity,
Until Death tramples it to fragments. — Die,
If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!
Follow where all is fled!”