Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Rolling Stones: What are the lyrics to Brown Sugar and why was it dropped?

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The Rolling Stones kick off their U.S. tour, a month after the death of drummer Charlie Watts, in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. September 26, 2021. REUTERS/Lawrence Bryant
The Rolling Stones have dropped a classic song from their setlist (Picture: REUTERS)

The Rolling Stones have sparked a debate after confirming that their 1971 classic Brown Sugar has been dropped from their tour setlist.

The legendary rock band have resumed their No Filter tour with a series of North American dates, and in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Sir Mick Jagger confirmed that the song has been dropped.

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The 78-year-old said: ‘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. We might put it back in.’

Why did The Rolling Stones drop Brown Sugar from their setlist?

Keith Richards seemed to suggest that the reason behind Brown Sugar’s removal from the setlist was to do with its lyrics, which reference slavery and allude to rape.

The 77-year-old said: ‘I don’t know. I’m trying to figure out with the sisters quite where the beef is. Didn’t they understand this was a song about the horrors of slavery? 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.’

What are the lyrics to Brown Sugar?

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The first verse of Brown Sugar goes: ‘Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields/ Sold in the market down in New Orleans/ Scarred old slaver knows he’s doing alright/ Hear him whip the women just around midnight.’

It is believed 2,000 African slaves were brought to New Orleans on slave ships between 1717 and 1721, with the Omni Royal Orelans hotel on St Louis Street building on the site of one of New Orleans’ most notorious slave markets.

The second verse refers to the ‘lady of the house’ and the ‘house boy’, and alludes to a man getting sexual gratification from the slave in the house, while the third verse switches to the present day where the narrator ‘knows what he likes’ and has sex with black women.

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On the chorus, Jagger sings: ‘Brown sugar, how come you taste so good?… Just like a black girl should.’

Over the years, Sir Mick has has toned down the lyrics, singing: ‘You should have heard him just around midnight’ rather than the whipping line in the first verse, and changing ‘brown sugar, just like a black girl should’ to ‘just like a young girl should’ in the chorus.

The star was the primary writer behind the song and has previously expressed discomfort with the lyrics.

Speaking to Rolling Stone in 1995, Sir Mick said: ‘God knows what I’m on about in that song. It’s such a mishmash. All the nasty subjects in one go. I never would write that song now.’

When asked why, the rocker replied: ’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.”’


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