A half century of history and entertainment news available in the Rolling Stone Archive

By Mitch Farish | January 3, 2021

Top section of Rolling Stone magazine title banner superimposed over cover photo of John Lennon kissing his wife, Yoko Ono, his arm curled around her head.
Rolling Stone magazine cover, January 22, 1981.

The Library has the entire backfile of Rolling Stone magazine in the Rolling Stone Archive — now available in the Library’s A-Z Databases list from its beginning to the present: full-color scans, full-page content, cover-to-cover, including articles, editorials, and advertisements, with article-level indexing and searchable text.

Rolling Stone is a key resource and guide to understanding pop culture changes in music, film, television, and entertainment — from John Lennon to Billie Eilish, from Aretha Franklin to Beyonce, from the conceptual themes and cover art of vinyl albums to individual digital files and back to vinyl again.

Rolling Stone is also a window on history. At the time of the magazine’s launch in November of 1967, it sought to appeal to a generation that defied middle-class conventions and embraced the counterculture rising from the Vietnam-era peace movement. In later issues, you can trace changes in content as the magazine evolved to become more at ease with corporate boardrooms and mainstream politics. Researchers will find a wealth of primary source material illuminating 20th and 21st century history, politics, music, cultural studies, media studies, sociology, and more!

Stories from a half century ago still resonate, such as “gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s “Strange Rumblings in Aztlan” about the killing of Los Angeles Times reporter Ruben Salazar in an LA County police “sweep of more than 7000 people in (Laguna) Park” after the peaceful National Chicano Moratorium March against the Vietnam War. Police accounts of Salazar being struck by random fire from street snipers fell apart after sworn testimony of witnesses revealed that Salazar was hit in the head by a shell fired into a bar “by a cop with a deadly tear gas bazooka.”

Other historic items include:

  • 27 installments of what would become Tom Wolfe’s novel “The Bonfire of the Vanities”.
  • Photographs by legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz — Whoopi Goldberg in a bathtub filled with milk, John Lennon curled naked, cuddling on a bed with his fully clothed wife Yoko Ono only five hours before he was shot dead by Mark David Chapman.
  • An early feature on the then-mysterious and deadly AIDS virus.

Find more iconic material in the Rolling Stone Archive today!