Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones perform in St. Louis, Missouri during the British rock band's "No Filter" 2021 North American tour Photo: AFP/File
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Rolling Stones drop hit 'Brown Sugar' from U.S. tour

55 Comments

The Rolling Stones have cut their popular track "Brown Sugar" from their U.S. tour, at least for now, in the wake of criticism over its lyrics referring to slavery.

"You picked up on that, huh?" Keith Richards told the Los Angeles Times in a recent interview, when asked about the song's absence at the British band's stadium shows.

"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," the superstar told the paper.

"I'm hoping that we'll be able to resurrect the babe in her glory somewhere along the track," Richards, 77, added.

The gritty rock chart-topper officially released in 1971 opens with the lyric "Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields" and references beating enslaved people, and sex with young enslaved women.

In recent years magazine critics and others in the industry have criticized the song as "racist," including one writer for New York Magazine who called the track "gross, sexist, and stunningly offensive toward black women."

"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," frontman Mick Jagger told the LA Times.

"We might put it back in," he said, adding "the set list in a stadium show, it's kind of a tough one."

In 1995 Jagger told Rolling Stone magazine that "I never would write that song now."

"I would probably censor myself. I'd think, 'Oh God, I can't. I've got to stop'. God knows what I'm on about on that song. It's such a mishmash. All the nasty subjects in one go."

The Stones resurrected their "No Filter" tour in September after a long pause due to the coronavirus pandemic.

They will play a string of dates into November, including in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Detroit.

© 2021 AFP

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

55 Comments
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"You picked up on that, huh?"

Something about a septuagenarian trying to sound modern . . .

-12 ( +2 / -14 )

A retired Stones song is unlikely to be sung again.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Once all references to past misdeeds are censored, those whose ancestors were allegedly oppressed will have no grounds for complaint.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

They might want to change that tour name.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Always thought this was a by-the-numbers Stones song and never understood why it's been elevated to best-of status. Still, when you look at the lyrics, they are pretty off.

"Gold Coast slave ship bound for cotton fields

Sold in the market down in New Orleans

Skydog slaver knows he's doin' all right

Hear him whip the women just around midnight

Brown Sugar, how come you taste so good

Brown Sugar, just like a young girl should"

Come on, Keef. That's got nothing to do with the "horrors of slavery", not the way Mick sings it, and neither does the rest of the song. And what is a skydog slaver anyway?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I always thought Brown Sugar was a reference to heroin which was a slang name for it.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I always thought Brown Sugar was a reference to heroin which was a slang name for it.

It was, so it could well be the case. Check out the lyrics - they're not exactly focused. This is not the first time the song's been controversial, either, and Jagger (ever sensitive to his public) has changed them from time to time. Another lyric I just looked at has the line "scarred old slaver" rather than "skydog slaver" which at least makes some sense.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Original lyrics

https://genius.com/The-rolling-stones-brown-sugar-lyrics

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Still playing ???..

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields" and references beating enslaved people, and sex with young enslaved women.

Oh, no, those things actually happened! So let's erase their mentioning. Societies that practice such censorship, whether voluntary or enforced, are always awful societies, points out this armchair historian.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Oh, no, those things actually happened! So let's erase their mentioning. Societies that practice such censorship, whether voluntary or enforced, are always awful societies

Jeff - first, it's self-censorship. If the Stones still had the cojones, they'd keep singing the song and to hell with the critics. No-one would stop them - although some might stop coming to their concerts, which might be the bottom line.

Second, no way the song is any kind of reasoned critique of slavery or an impassioned plea for sympathy for the enslaved. If you look at the lyrics, it's more just a paean to having a good time than it is anything else.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

If the "woke" movement gets their way, there'll be no more Rolling Stones.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

If time gets its way, there will be no Rolling Stones.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Societies that practice such censorship, whether voluntary or enforced, are always awful societies

Are they? Got some examples, or just innuendo?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Cancel culture, baby.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Cancel culture, baby.

Who is cancelling them? Is their tour off now?!

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Might as well be once people who don’t listen to their music and never will dictate the set list at a concert they won’t attend.

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

Might as well be once...

Oh, so they haven't been canceled? What are you guys freaking out about then?

Sounds like more manufactured outrage.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

By this logic any textbook that mentions slavery should be censored because slavery was racist.

Doh!

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1989 .

Good thing there wasn't a "woke" movement back then.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Might as well be once people who don’t listen to their music and never will dictate the set list at a concert they won’t attend.

Can you demonstrate that this is the case? Thanks.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1989 .

Good thing there wasn't a "woke" movement back then.

There were many movements in 1989 that the right would have called, "woke", if the term had existed back then. Like the boycott of apartheid South Africa, or the fight of the LGBTQ community, especially in the face of government indifference to the AIDS pandemic.

Conservatives were opposed to those movements then. They're opposed to equality now.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

These days, they are just The Stones.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In recent years magazine critics and others in the industry have criticized the song as "racist," including one writer for New York Magazine who called the track "gross, sexist, and stunningly offensive toward black women."

non concert goers, non fans, who have the media platform.

So ”woke” journalists and Twitter.

No fan would go to the concert hoping they don’t play this song and being angry if they did.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

I'm not a fan of the Rolling Stones myself (because I'm under the age of 60) but I can imagine fans who love the band but dislike the song. I like lots of bands who have songs I dislike.

I think music journalists and people in the industry probably are fans, or at least very much enjoy, the work of one of the most influential bands of the 20th century. I'm neither, and I'm not a fogey, so I don't really care about them, as I say, but I wouldn't dismiss anyone who disagrees with me as a "fake fan".

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Cancel culture, baby.

Good thing there wasn't a "woke" movement back then.

I’ll just listen to the sole expert on this matter:

In 1995 Jagger told Rolling Stone magazine that "I never would write that song now…I would probably censor myself.”

How about that? He knew more about this 25 years ago than you do now. So you can put the brakes in the outrage.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I'm not a fan of the Rolling Stones myself (because I'm under the age of 60) but I can imagine fans who love the band but dislike the song. I like lots of bands who have songs I dislike.

I'm well under 60 and a pretty big fan. While far from my favourite, I like this song but not for its lyrics. It has a great riff, saxaphone solo and the late, great Charlie Watts lays a great beat under it. Oh well, plenty more great Stones hits to listen to.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

And yes, I do say 'great' a lot.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Jagger is an acute businessman.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I'm not a fan of the Rolling Stones myself (because I'm under the age of 60)

Mozart, Beethoven, Ravel, Nat King Cole, Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Patsy Cline, Robert Johnson, Django Reinhardt... tons of great music from before I was born of which I am a huge fan. I can't imagine tuning out the great music that was created because it was popular before I was born. That would be a great loss to anyone.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I'm well under 60 and a pretty big fan

(I'm just having a little joke)

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Taking it off the playlist seems a bit extreme to me.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Jagger is an acute businessman” AND he has ‘acute angina’. It’s probably for the best that he refrain from any brown sugar as well. We still don’t know the cause of his bandmate. RIP Charlie Watts.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/despite-his-heart-operation-mick-jagger-could-be-jumpin-in-a-flash-vmffhjwfm
-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Political correctness gone mad!

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Brown Sugar is a reference to opioid drugs, horrors' of slavery?

I think, Keef many have lost more than his marbles when he toppled out of a tree and scrambled his memory.

Brown Sugar

https://rehabs.in/indian-drug-guide/brown-sugar/

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

The woke warriors strike again.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Up And Down With The Rolling Stones 

Tony Sanchez.....

Read this, Sanchez was Richards errand boy for some eight years.

Quote......

All the slavery and whipping is a double meaning for the perils of being "mastered" by Brown Heroin, or "Brown Sugar." The drug cooks brown in a spoon

0 ( +1 / -1 )

My dad reckons that "Any band dropping a song from 1969 is as important as counting raindrops in a storm." But then, he's a Beatles fan so what would he know?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I think for Jagger who wrote the song it had many meanings. Heroin addiction, sex, Marsha Hunt, his girlfriend at the time.

Former Ikette Claudia Lennear disputes this claim, saying that it was written about her. In 2014, Lennear told The Times that she is the subject of the song because she was dating Jagger when it was written. Bill Wyman stated in his book Rolling With The Stones (2002) that the lyrics were partially inspired by Lennear.

We can not be sure what was in his mind when he wrote nor what drugs were in his brain. He was filming Ned Kelly at the time.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Cancel culture, baby.

Why does everything have to be black or white? What's happened to all the shades of grey?

They either play the song or don't - and if they don't then that means it's cancel culture?

Nobody has been cancelled here.

It sounds like they've just decided to take the song off the set list because of the current climate, and the specific audiences they are likely to be playing to.

We all do 'self censorship' ourselves every day. I will speak differently depending on who I speak to. I wouldn't dream of speaking to my gran the same way I speak to my friends. I wouldn't talk about the same topics with my co workers compared to my brothers.

If I decide to 'tone down' my language when I meet my gran, that doesn't mean I've been cancelled. It means I'm able to read the room, and behave accordingly.

That's what appears to have happened here - they've 'read the room' and decided the song isn't appropriate to perform.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Richards and Jagger could market blood out stone.

This nonsense has little or nothing in relation to servitude, serfdom, subjugation.

Both Jagger and Richards pulled Brown Sugar because. to do so would turbo charge opportunities a PR campaign coupled with a the underpinning of social media

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The Rolling Stones - Brown Sugar (Live) - OFFICIAL

Texas 1972.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fmfi3UbDPnQ

Now, Jagger, Richards wouldn't recognize a black bondsman or women if they fell from the lighting gantry above and landed on top of them.

What gets right up my hooter, is one of my most iconic tracks is fool to cry

What on earth have Jagger and Richards become?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This is a brave step for the Stones, voluntarily giving up their White Privilege and showing sensitivity to the very real pain experienced by 2SLGBTQQIA+ bodies when they are subjected to such 'music'.

I am now eagerly awaiting OTHER artists whose work contains similar hurtful lyrics and racist slurs agains BIPOC people.

Cardi B? Snoop? anybody out there.....

anybody.......

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Fool to Cry is obviously hurtful to fools - and we know there are plenty of them waiting to take offense.

How about Miss You, where Jagger sings about “colored girls dying to meet you”?

Too Much Blood is about a murder - and of a woman no less!

We haven’t even scratched the surface of problematic Stones songs . I could go on but just the thought of it all is so I stressful I need my safe space!

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

I am now eagerly awaiting OTHER artists whose work contains similar hurtful lyrics and racist slurs agains BIPOC people. 

Cardi B? Snoop? anybody out there.....

Brown Sugar is 50 years old. Pull up a comfy chair, you’ll be waiting a while.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Their song Gimme Shelter has a section with a black woman ( oh dear!) singing “Rape, Murder!

Time to cancel The Rolling Stones.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

I am now eagerly awaiting OTHER artists whose work contains similar hurtful lyrics and racist slurs agains BIPOC people. 

Cardi B? Snoop? anybody out there.....

@Bob Fosse Brown Sugar is 50 years old. Pull up a comfy chair, you’ll be waiting a while.

I don’t follow your “logic” Bob. Could you explain.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Would the audience sing the words if the band played only the instrumental and are those singing racist?

You bet! Especially if the audience is white. Critical Race Theory teaches us that all whites are inherently racist. Any blacks in the audience singing along are just Tomming.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

I’m having extreme difficulty swallowing Richards’ explanation that Brown Sugar is “about the horrors of slavery”. Pull the other one Keef!

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

..if the band played only the instrumental of that song in concert, and you were in the crowd singing the lyric with the crowd, would it be fair to label you racist?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Critical Race Theory teaches us that all whites are inherently racist. 

Does it? First I've heard of it.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

zichiOct. 14  09:58 am JST

I always thought Brown Sugar was a reference to heroin which was a slang name for it.

The same week the Stones first played in my hometown there was an ad on TV for a brand name of the confectionary product and it used the song's chorus. I litterally leaned over on the couch and LMAO.

Funny thing is, I've heard that this song was banned from radio in the so-called Bible Belt because of the implied interracial sexual connotations. Furthermore, both times that I have seen the Rolling Stones the stadium crowd consisted of people of every category and classification and ethnicity - Any Colo(u)r You Like.

And that includes Black Americans. They know that the Rolling Stones are greatly inspired by the music of Black Americans. Besides, it's simply a sing-song for many of us. It mentions slavery but it sure doesn't glorify it by any means, just like 'Undercover Of the Night' (a Top 10 when I was a teenager) certainly does not glorify the Latin American fascist dictatorships prevalient during the 70s and 80s.

When the Stones played this number, Mick would strut his butt on the walkway and snarl the lyrics. He (used to) do a leg kick while the crowd sung along, 'I say "yeah, yeah, yeah, ****whooooh!!!!"'. And we'd love it!

Still, if this song has been played at every gig since 1970 then maybe it's time to retire it, at least for a little while. They've got LOTS of other great songs to pull out of the hat, a few surprizes never hurt anyone. At my second Stones show they played my college's fight song 'Hang On Sloopy' (Ohio State University) and then Ron Wood whipped out an electric sitar for 'Paint It Black'.

As for that famous riff, it's used again on their hit '(Stuck Between a) Rock And a Hard Place' which is a song with a lyrical theme and content that is much more relevant today than it was in 1990. I saw them do it in 1997, it'll work up a crowd. I guarantee it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

starpunk

Yes. Stones fans come in all colors and their music is influenced by black music.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@helix... thought she sings Heyyyy Babehayyy... its just a kiss away...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Of course the Stones have done songs that are a lot more offensive than 'Brown Sugar' ever could be or interpreted to be. The last song on 'Goat Head Soup' is 'Star Star', better known by a more explicit word. It's not the repeated use of that word that's so bad, it's the raunchy descriptive content in the lyrics themselves that make that song so offensive. And there's no disguising the meaning or any real metaphors as to what it's all about.

Recently 'Goat Head Soup' got re-released in several forms and formats with outtakes, remixes, B-sides, unreleased tracks, demos, etc. One of the songs that didn't see the light of day (until now) is titled, 'You Should've Seen Her Ass'. And in 1983 they released 'The Pain of Love' on the 'Undercover' album.

Need I say more?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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