The 10 Most Controversial Rolling Stone Covers

by Newton Gimmick on July 17, 2013

in Lists

Since it’s inception in 1967, Rolling Stone magazine has been a lightning rod of controversy. Whether it was the bizarre journalism of Hunter S. Thompson or the touchy nature of it’s “Best Of” lists, Rolling Stone has always had someone up in arms about something.

Along with that, Rolling Stone has become an institution in print and all forms of media and has often brought with it some of the finest pieces of journalism within the mainstream. One thing that has always remained true for Rolling Stone magazine is the often contentious cover photo. Here’s a look at ten of the most infamous Rolling Stone covers of all time.


1. Michael Jackson

At the height of “Jacksonmania” in 1971, Rolling Stone placed Michael front and center on their magazine cover. It was the beginning of Jackson’s rise above the rest of his family and although years before his singles career, proof that Rolling Stone has often had its finger on the pulse of pop culture.

Although some photos of the other Jacksons were taken, dozens were taken of the young star. The one that was chosen became not only iconic, but sparked some debate about Michael’s placement. Jackson still remains the youngest person to appear on the cover.


2. Britney Spears

When Britney first made her appearance on Rolling Stone, it was right at the crossroads of her long-term image. Was she going to be the wholesome teeny-bopper superstar or was she going to become a sultry sex symbol?

Although the cover itself seems relatively tame by today’s standards (and what Spears became) it was a hot button topic of conversation when it came out in 1999.


3. Kanye West

The 2006 cover of Kanye West as Jesus drew a lot of criticism not only from the religious right, but from music enthusiasts who felt West’s ego was starting to take away from his work.

It’s easy to see why this image might offend some people. Back then it seemed pretty controversial on a lot of levels, but these days we know that Kanye West’s ego knows no bounds.


4. John & Yoko

From the very beginning, Rolling Stone brought in-your-face images that couldn’t be easily forgotten. John Lennon and Yoko Ono appeared naked more than once on the cover of Rolling Stone and while their later issue is often more remembered, it was the 1968 cover that first brought the outrage.

This was right as the Beatles were starting to unravel at the seams and offered a stark contrast to the other magazine covers of the day. It was also the magazine’s first issue to be a complete newsstand sell out, proving the old adage that controversy creates cash.


5. Roman Polanski

In 1981, Roman Polanski was still the subject of media scrutiny and Hollywood superstardom. The famed director’s flippant attitude toward the US justice system made him an interesting topic of conversation.

Rolling Stone’s illustrated cover of Polanski, smirking and enjoying his freedom with the caption “On the Lam with Roman Polanski” drew negative criticism when it was published.

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Depoty July 17, 2013 at 5:45 pm

I was hoping to see that Jen Aniston nude cover, not because its controversial, I just love looking at it.

LoviByProxy July 18, 2013 at 9:40 am

And the Janet Jackson cover mmm

Bianchi79 July 18, 2013 at 10:19 am

I never realized that was the caption on the Jim Morrison cover. Jeez.

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