The Rolling Stones perform during the "No Filter" tour at The Dome at America's Center, in St. Louis, 26 Sep 2021. (Amy Harris/Invision/AP/Shutterstock)

Rolling Stones Officially Retire Classic —Yet Controversial — Rock Song ‘Brown Sugar’ That Includes Lyrics About Slavery

“Brown sugar” appears to no longer “taste so good” for U.K. rock band the Rolling Stones.

The New York Post’s Jesse O’Neill reported that the group has “retired one of their most popular rock songs due to lyrics that depict the horrors of slavery.”

According to O’Neill, “the Stones have not played the 1971 hit ‘Brown Sugar’ on their current tour and said the blues classic has been removed from their setlist.”

In a recent interview, the Los Angeles Times asked if the long-controversial song had finally officially been banished, guitarist Keith Richards said, “You picked up on that, huh?”

Popular concert tracker Setlist.fm has estimated that The Stones have played “Brown Sugar” live at least 1,136 times over the course of their career, making it their second most-played song ever after “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”

“We’ve played ‘Brown Sugar’ every night since 1970. Sometimes you think, ‘We’ll take that one out for now and see how it goes.’ We might put it back in,” Richards told LA Times. “At the moment, I don’t want to get into conflicts with all of this s–t, but I’m hoping that we’ll be able to resurrect the babe in her glory somewhere along the track.”

Although “Brown Sugar” was a huge hit for the Rolling Stones, many critics have long called the track “gross,” “sexist,” and “stunningly offensive.” It includes lyrics depicting slaves being beaten and sold in Louisiana and references a “slaver” who whips “women just around midnight.” 

The song also includes a reference to a non-consensual sexual encounter between a slave owner and a young female slave, as well as references to heroin use.

Stones lead singer Mick Jagger has also clearly recognized the problematic nature of the song for decades. As far back as 1995, he told Rolling Stone magazine, “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. I can’t just write raw like that.’”

 

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