“Shine a Light” by The Rolling Stones
To begin with, Mick Jagger penned “Shine a Light” about Brian Jones (1942-1969), one of the legendary founders of The Rolling Stones who passed away prematurely at the age of 27. Jagger began penning the tune about a year before Jones actually died. One of the contributing factors to his death was likely the fact that he had an addiction to drugs and alcohol. And it is that selfsame issue that is at the center of “Shine a Light”.
The singer depicts himself as being closely associated with a person who is fundamentally destroying himself via intoxication. That is to say that he is in a perpetual, visible inebriated state, sometimes to the point of even appearing like a street bum.
Lord, please shine Your light on him!
Thus in the chorus Mick asks “the good Lord” to “shine a light on” this individual. This term can be interpreted in one of two ways. Upon its original conception, the singer likely meant it as an expression of his longing for a higher power to intervene favorably in the life of his friend. However, considering that the song wasn’t actually released until long after Jones passed away, it can also refer to Mick hoping that Brian is enjoying the afterlife in heaven.
But whether this track is interpreted within the context of Jones being alive or deceased, what it all boils down to is The Rolling Stones wishing the best for their friend. And whereas they wrote the song about a specific individual, no direct references to him or anyone else is made. As such, “Shine a Light” can be said to have a general applicability. And from that perspective, it features an individual (the singer) who is clearly concerned about a junkie friend (the addressee). He cares so much about this friend that he hopes a divine power gets involved and helps him see that there’s something more to life than intoxication.
Song’s Original Title
The original title of this song wasn’t “Shine a Light”. It was actually “Get a Line on You” and Mick Jagger began writing the song in 1968.
Different Versions of “Shine a Light”
An earlier version was recorded during October of 1969 by American musician Leon Russell (and a couple members of The Rolling Stones) entitled “(Can’t Seem to) Get a Line on You”. However, that particular rendition wasn’t released until 1993.
The Rolling Stones’ version came out on 12 May 1972 as part of their album, Exile on Main St. That particular project was released on their own label, Rolling Stone Records.
A live version of the song also made it onto “Stripped”, a live album The Rolling Stones dropped in 1995.
Who played the piano on this Rolling Stones classic?
Billy Preston (1946-2006), a successful solo artist who worked extensively with The Beatles, played both organ and piano on this track.
Writing Credits for “Shine a Light”
“Shine a Light” was officially written by The Rolling Stones’ members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. And the song was produced Jimmy Miller, who worked extensively with The Rolling Stones.
Inspiration for Noel Gallagher
“Shine a Light” has over the years inspired many a song and artist, most notably Noel Gallagher of Oasis fame. A number of songs written by Gallagher received direct inspiration from this Rolling Stones classic. One notable example is Oasis’ 1994 hit single “Live Forever“.