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It might sound odd, but The Rolling Stones’ logo was partially inspired by a religious figure. In addition, the creator of the logo drew some inspiration for it from an encounter he had with Mick Jagger. Interestingly, The Rolling Stones used it for the first time on an album they made several years into their career.

A framed image of The Rolling Stones' logo
The Rolling Stones’ logo |MAX NASH/AFP via Getty Images

The goddess who inspired The Rolling Stones’ logo

It all starts with Kali, a Hindu goddess of death. In many images of Kali, she is sticking out her tongue. There are different Hindu narratives describing why Kali outstretches her tongue. One states Kali stepped on her husband, the god Shiva, only to stick out her tongue in embarrassment. A Hindu death goddess might not be an obvious influence on The Rolling Stones, but John Pasche told The Guardian that a picture of Kali was part of the creative process for The Rolling Stones’ logo.

“Mick had a picture of Kali, the Hindu goddess, which he was very keen on,” Pasche explained. “India was very much in fashion at the time, but I thought something like that might go out of date.” It’s easy to see Indian influences in the West as one of many 1960s fads. After all, The Beatles and other 1960s rock groups drew inspiration from Indian music and religion. However, considering Hinduism’s continued popularity in countries like India and Nepal — as well as its Western adherents —  it was far from a fad. 

Someone painting an idol of Kali
An idol of Kali | STRDEL/AFP via Getty Images

Though Pasche hesitated to draw inspiration from Kali’s visage, he told The New York Times that Jagger’s image of her ultimately “triggered something” in him. In addition, a certain interaction he had with Jagger helped inspire the logo as well.

Mick Jagger’s influence on the logo

“I wanted something anti-authority, but I suppose the mouth idea came from when I met Jagger for the first time at the Stones’ offices,” Pasche told The Guardian. “I went into this sort of wood-panelled boardroom and there he was. Face to face with him, the first thing you were aware of was the size of his lips and his mouth.” This inspired Pasche to create the most famous drawing of lips in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.

The lips logo was first used on an insert from The Rolling Stones’ 1971 album Sticky Fingers. Considering how popular the logo is, it’s interesting to think The Rolling Stones existed for several years and released a number of their biggest hits before its creation.

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The significance of The Rolling Stones’ logo

Since the release of Sticky Fingers, the logo has become one of the most iconic band logos of all time. It’s shown up everywhere from the Simpsons episode “Doh-In’ In the Wind” to Rihanna’s music video for her song “S&M” to numerable pieces of merchandise. Many Westerners are not familiar with Kali, but her influence extends across the world — even into the work of a certain British rock ‘n’ roll band.