Harriet Alexander and Kate Dennett, Daily Mail, October 12, 2021
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have announced the Rolling Stones will stop performing hit song Brown Sugar, amid discomfort about the 50-year-old classic’s references to slavery.
The hit track was originally titled ‘Black P****’, but Jagger decided before releasing it that the title was too ‘nitty-gritty’ and it was changed to Brown Sugar.
The band, currently on the road for a 13-date U.S. tour, have not played Brown Sugar – one of their most recognizable songs – since kicking off in St Louis on September 26.
The 1969 song depicts scenes of slavery and sexual violence, including lyrics telling of a slave driver whipping a group of women, and has come under fire in recent years for its comments about slavery.
Keith Richards said the band have made the decision to retire the track as they don’t want to get involved in ‘conflicts’ about the lyrics, while Mick Jagger hinted that the song may return to their setlist in the future.
The last time the Stones played the hit track, which has sold 2,700,000 times in original sales since its release, was on August 30, 2019, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida. It provoked a backlash from ‘woke’ music fans who claimed they should not still be singing the song due to its depictions of slavery.
But furious Rolling Stones fans said they don’t understand the controversy surrounding the track as it is clearly anti-slavery, with many saying artists should be free to express themselves without fearing ‘cancel culture’.
The 1969 song has been a staple of the Rolling Stones live shows since it came out 50 years ago, and is the second most played song in their catalog after Jumpin’ Jack Flash, with 1,136 known performances, according to Rolling Stone magazine.
Keith Richards, who recorded the song with Jagger over a three-day session at the famed Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama, said he was taken aback by the recent discomfort about the lyrics, since it was always a grotesque story about slavery, rape and sexual violence.
Jagger, when asked about the song’s absence from their recent set lists, told The Los Angeles Times they had decided to give the song a break.
‘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,’ he said.
‘We might put it back in.’
Speaking about the song’s meaning, Richards, 77, added: ‘I’m trying to figure out with the sisters quite where the beef is.
‘But they’re trying to bury it. At the moment I don’t want to get into conflicts with all of this s***.
‘But I’m hoping that we’ll be able to resurrect the babe in her glory somewhere along the track.’
The band has frequently changed its controversial lyrics since the song was first created, starting with Jagger changing the title from ‘Black P****’ to Brown Sugar.
One lyric that was altered after the song’s release was: ‘Brown Sugar, how come you taste so good? / Ah, got me feelin’ now for brown sugar, just like a black girl should.’
In later recordings, the band decided to swap the words ‘black girl’ for ‘young girl’.
Jagger explained in an interview back in 1995 that he was uncomfortable with the lyrics of the song, which was named as number 495 in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
‘God knows what I’m on about in that song,’ said Jagger, in a 1995 interview.
‘It’s such a mishmash. All the nasty subjects in one go.’
The song was written in 45 minutes, and Jagger described it as ‘a very instant thing’.
‘I never would write that song now,’ he said.
‘I would probably censor myself. I’d think, ‘Oh God, I can’t. I’ve got to stop. I can’t just write raw like that.’