The Rolling Stones performing at Summerfestruen in Milwaukee, 2015 From left: Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
British band The Rolling Stones have gone through a lot in their 60-year history. But the trials that fell to the lot of the musicians, it seems, did not break them at all, and only made them stronger – the living members of the group – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, are well over 70, but they still record new songs and give concerts. Although sometimes the turbulent past still catches up with the classics of rock – however, not quite as one might expect. For example, they decided to abandon the performance of one of their hits – the composition “Brown Sugar” at American concerts.
What is “Brown Sugar”?
A song from The Rolling Stones' 1971 album “Sticky Fingers”. The songwriter was mainly Mick Jagger. The lyrics tell the story of the delivery of black slaves from Africa to the slave market in New Orleans, their sale and the punishment to which the slaves (one of brown sugar is translated as black woman) are subjected to the cruel master of the plantation.
The composition was released as a separate single, it took 1st place on the Billbord chart (in the USA and Canada) and 2nd on the UK song chart. At the end of the year, “Brown Sugar” took 18th place in the Billboard rating.
According to music statistics portal Setlist.fm, “Brown Sugar” is one of the songs The Rolling Stones perform most frequently at their concerts. This composition has the second place (1136 times); in the first place – “Jumpin Jack Flash” (1172 times). The famous “(I Can t Get No) Satisfaction” “Rollings” sang only 947 times during the tours (5th place).
The song “Brown Sugar” is popular outside of the band's performance, with 170 million hits on Spotify.
What's the problem with Brown Sugar?
The existence of slavery and racial segregation in the relatively recent past is a very sensitive topic in the United States. They solve it in different ways – they can give an Oscar to the Green Book film, restrict the distribution of classic cartoons from the Tom and Jerry series, or simply change the name of Agatha Christie's detective Ten Little Indians.
Back in the 1990s, the musicians themselves said that “Brown Sugar” is not quite suitable for the modern times. Jagger then admitted in an interview that today he would not have been able to write such a song, since his “inner censor” would have turned on.
But lately, with the growth of the BLM movement, the topic of controversy “Brown Sugar” has become relevant again. So, in 2020, music producer Ian Brennan told Rolling Stone magazine that the band should stop performing this song at concerts and make a profit from it. But he added that he is not calling for something to be banned or burned records, but only hopes that the musicians of The Rolling Stones realize the danger of this song.
And apparently the band heeded this advice – in any case, the last time in the US “Brown Sugar” sounded at a concert in Miami in 2019.
The decision to postpone one of the hits aside was confirmed by the band's guitarist Keith Richards. True, he noticed that he did not understand people who wanted to “bury” the song.
“Don't they understand that the composition is about the horrors of slavery?” He asked in an interview with the LA Times.
Mick Jagger, however, attributed the rejection of “Brown Sugar” to live shows by being a bit tired of the song, which the band has played every show since 1970. “We can always bring it back,” the musician told the publication.