The Rolling Stones retired one of their most popular rock songs because of lyrics that depicted the horrors of slavery.
The Stones have not played the 1971 hit “Brown Sugar” on their current tour, saying the blues classic has been dropped from their setlist.
“You picked up on that, huh?,” Richards, 77, replied to the L.A. Times when asked if the Stones cut the second-highest-performed tune on their list amid an atmosphere of cultural sensibility.
“I don’t know. I’m with the sisters trying to find out where the beef is. Didn’t they understand it was a song about the horrors of slavery? But they’re trying to bury it.”
Slaves are sold and beaten in Louisiana in the first verse of the hit song, making a reference to a “slave” who “kills women only around midnight.”
The famous chorus portrays a non-consensual sexual encounter between a violent master and a young female slave, while also possibly alluding to heroin use.
In the next stanza, the song describes the mistreatment of slaves on a plantation. Lead singer Mick Jagger finished by singing, “How do you taste so good… just like a black girl.”
“We’ve played ‘Brown Sugar’ every night since 1970,” Richards told the newspaper.
“So sometimes you think, ‘We’ll just take this out for now and see how it goes.’ We can put it back.”
According to setlist.fm, The Stones have played the song 1,136 times live, second only to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”.
“At the moment I don’t want to get into conflict with all this s-t,” Richard said of his criticism of the song. “But I hope we’ll be able to resurrect the babe in her glory somewhere along the track.”
The Stones had five shows on their “No Filter” tour on Wednesday. The concerts marked the septuagenarian’s first gigs since 2019, and marked the first without drummer Charlie Watts, who died in August at the age of 80.
Jagger apparently isn’t singing the song in first person, but the danceable tune has been slammed in recent years, with some critics calling it “surprisingly raw and aggressive”.
Other commentators have deemed it “gross, sexist and surprisingly offensive”, but awesome nonetheless.
“I’ll never write that song again,” Jagger told Rolling Stone in 1995. “I’ll probably censor myself. I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t. I have to stop. I can’t write raw like that.’
Brown Sugar by Jagger/Richards
Gold Coast slave ship bound for cotton fields
sold down at the market in new orleans
Wounded old slave knows he’s doing well
Hear him whipping women around midnight
Brown sugar, how does yours taste so good? aha
Brown sugar, just like a young girl, uh, oh
The drum is beating, the blood of cold British is heating up
Home lady wonderin’ when it’s gonna stop
house boy knows he’s doing fine
You should have heard them around midnight
Brown sugar, how come you taste so good now?
Brown sugar, want like a young girl now (yeah)
Ah, come on, brown sugar, how do you taste so good?
Ahhh, I got a craving, brown sugar
just like a black girl, yeah
Ah, and I bet your mom was a tent show queen
and all her boyfriends were sweet sixteen
I’m no schoolboy but I know what I like
you must have heard me around midnight
Brown sugar, how come you taste so good, baby?
ah, come down, brown sugar
just like a young girl needs, yeah
I said yeah yeah yeah yeah woo
How did you come, how do you taste so good?
yeah yeah yeah woo
Just like a black girl
yeah yeah yeah woo