Rolling Stones outlive cancel culture, controversy with new music 60 years later

The Rolling Stones will release a new album, "Hackney Diamonds," and they continue to tour and perform six decades since their launch in the 1960s.

Rolling Stones outlive cancel culture, controversy with new music 60 years later

The Rolling Stones are still rocking.

The legendary band will announce details about their new album, "Hackney Diamonds," during an event livestreaming today on YouTube.

Band members Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood will gather for an interview in East London’s Hackney district, which appears to be the inspiration for the album’s title.

"Hackney Diamonds" marks the first original studio album from the band since 2005’s "A Bigger Bang." It’s also their first album since the death of their original drummer, Charlie Watts, in 2021.

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Through decades of ups and downs and cultural shifts, the Rolling Stones have maintained their legacy and relevancy in pop culture.

"The Rolling Stones have lasted this long because they wanted to," Rob Weiner, popular culture librarian at Texas Tech University, told Fox News Digital. "At some point, the Rolling Stones will be no more, but as long as they are able to do it and they still enjoy recording and performing why shouldn't they? There is no rule book which says you have to retire from music."

Mick Jagger told Rolling Stone magazine in 2015 he doesn’t really think about retirement, saying, "I’m thinking about what the next tour is. I’m not thinking about retirement. I’m planning the next set of tours, so the answer is really, ‘No, not really.’"

Keith Richards echoed the sentiment in 2020, telling the BBC he still enjoys touring. 

"I don't know if you can get immune to it, but it's still a kick, man," Richards said. 

"Yeah, it's been pretty exceptional, this particular life. I'm really at a loss sometimes to sort of figure out how the hell I got here.

"But the music is the thing that keeps you going, so that's what I try and concentrate on" Richards added, joking that for the band’s 60th anniversary at the time, he "might get a new wheelchair" to celebrate.

Marc Myers, a Wall Street Journal music and arts contributor and author of "Rock Concert: An Oral History" and "Anatomy of 55 More Songs," explained that touring also has a certain financial appeal for bands, particularly if they have "toured tirelessly" over the years, like the Rolling Stones.

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"It also doesn’t hurt that the economics of rock has turned to live performance and away from recording," Myers said of the band’s longevity. "Hence, the Stones earn a fortune each time they tour. Money has a way of ensuring that great bands stay together."

Formed in 1962 in London, the Rolling Stones, originally made up of Jagger, Richards, Charlie Watts, Brian Jones and Bill Wyman, began their career playing covers of songs rooted in early blues and rock ‘n’ roll before finding success with their own original music. 

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Apart from their many hits, including timeless classics "(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction," "You Can’t Always Get What You Want" and "Gimme Shelter," the band was known for a "bad boy" image in its early days, the edgy counterpart to the more clean-cut Beatles.

The band’s manager at the time, Andrew Loog Oldham, even encouraged headlines like, "Would you let your daughter marry a Rolling Stone?"

"They are icons of the deviant side of the boomer ethos. At this point, they are on par with Harley-Davidson, jeans and Tide detergent. It’s hard to unseat a generational brand that has come to mean more than the sum of its parts," Myers said.

The Rolling Stones have also had some controversial songs in their catalog, most notably their 1971 hit, "Brown Sugar."

"Brown Sugar" contains lyrics like "Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields/ Sold in the market down in New Orleans/ Scarred old slaver knows he's doing alright/ Hear him whip the women just around midnight." The lyrics stirred controversy in recent years amid the #MeToo movement and because of their depiction of slavery.

In 2021, Jagger and Richards spoke with the Los Angeles Times about removing the song from their set list on their "No Filter" tour.

"I’m trying to figure out with the sisters quite where the beef is. Didn’t they understand this was a song about the horrors of slavery? But they’re trying to bury it. At the moment, I don’t want to get into conflicts with all of this s---," Richards said. "But I’m hoping that we’ll be able to resurrect the babe in her glory somewhere along the track."

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Jagger told the outlet, "We’ve played ‘Brown Sugar’ every night since 1970. So, sometimes you think, ‘We’ll take that one out for now and see how it goes.’

"We might put it back in."

Despite the criticism of "Brown Sugar" and a few other songs from the group, like "Under My Thumb," the Rolling Stones have more or less sailed through cancel culture.

"Cancel culture only seems to unseat those who we have come to think of as good and noble," Myers said. "If you’ve always been known as a scoundrel, and you’re popular, you’re almost impossible to cancel unless you break the law. From the start, many of the female characters in Stones songs are objects. For some baffling reason, women didn’t seem to have a problem with that and still don’t now."

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There was also a controversy this year when the band was accused of using elements from an unknown performer for their 2020 song "Living in a Ghost Town." 

According to Billboard, songwriter Sergio Garcia Fernandez, whose stage name is Angelslang, claimed Jagger and Richards "misappropriated many of the recognizable and key protected elements" from his 2006 song, "So Sorry," and his 2007 song, "Seed of God."

While the dispute is pending in court, Weiner doesn’t foresee any issues for the band.

"The Stones have always had someone claiming they stole songs, but if you listen to their early music, so much of it is derived from blues, soul, R&B and just basic rock. But the songs stand up and still sound original," he said. 

"The Rolling Stones have good lawyers and managers from the early days to today. So, they know the business inside and out and are not afraid to stand up for themselves against those type of claims."

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The samplings of genres blended with their own consistent rock sound has helped the band maintain its enduring popularity. 

"The Stones have weathered the trends and stayed true to their roots in basic rock 'n’ roll and the blues despite trends to modernize (disco/techno/punk), which [they] have always thrown in as a song or two on their albums," Weiner said.

Weiner also credits Jagger with keeping up to date with up-and-coming musicians and working with them on tour.

"Mick Jagger, who is well educated and interested in politics, is [an] astute observer of trends and culture. …[That’s] one of the reasons the Rolling Stones always had trendy bands open for them, like Living Color, Matchbox 20, Dave Matthews, Smashing Pumpkins, etc."

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As part of the musical British invasion in the 1960s, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles are often compared in a variety of ways, including how the Stones outlasted the Beatles as a group.

"The Stones also were early to view what they did as an enterprise. Each of the Stones was relatively equal in the ego department, and each had their own role to play in Team Stones," Myers explained. "The Beatles, by contrast, viewed what they were doing the way contestants on ‘Survivor’ viewed what they were doing. Someone had to be the winner." 

The Beatles broke up in 1970, with a formal dissolution coming later in 1974, amid in-fighting about musical and business decisions. Any hope for a full reunion with the band ended with the murder of John Lennon in 1980. 

"The Stones always felt they were inferior to the Beatles and were hell-bent on outlasting them and strived to become bigger," Myers added.

Ultimately, comparisons between the bands and their legacies are difficult because both have left such an impact on pop culture. But the Rolling Stones have maintained an ongoing legacy and clearly enjoy what they do.

"Musicians love to play. It’s what they do," Weiner said.