The Rolling Stones have removed “Brown Sugar” from their concert set, saying they fear 21st century fans don’t understand the song is about the “horrors of slavery” and celebrate it.
In an interview published last week in the Los Angeles Times, guitarist Keith Richards confirmed the song’s status after a reporter noted its glaring absence from the band’s current “No Filter” tour.
“Got that, huh?” Richards said.
The song is no longer on rotation at the moment, but Richards and Mick Jagger said it hasn’t been kept for good.
“I don’t know. I’m trying to figure out with the sisters where the beef is,” Richards told the newspaper. “Didn’t they understand that it was a song about the horrors of slavery? But they’re trying to bury it.”
The opening lyrics of the song paint a grim picture of the slave trade:
“Gold Coast slave ship bound for the cotton fields. Sold in the New Orleans market. Slave owner Skydog knows he’s fine. Hear him whip the women around midnight.”
The # 1 fan favorite hit on the Billboard charts on May 29, 1971.
“We’ve played ‘Brown Sugar’ every night since 1970, so sometimes you think, ‘We’re going to pull this one out for now and see how it goes,’” said Jagger, the Stones frontman and author of the song. Times. “We could put it back. “
Daphne Brooks, director of graduate studies in the African American Studies department at Yale University, considers herself a longtime Rolling Stones fan, but said the black female fetish in “Brown Sugar” – and Puerto Rican women in “Miss You,” another The Stones song has always troubled her.
She welcomed the removal of “Brown Sugar” from the live performances.
“This is the most popular song about the systemic rape of enslaved black women and the anthem of celebration for this unspeakable crime,” said Brooks, author of “Liner Notes for the Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound. “, about the image of Black. women in music.
“So it’s a good time.”
The inspiration for “Brown Sugar” has been alternately attributed to one of the two singers affiliated with Jagger, Claudia Lennear or Marsha Hunt.
“When he wrote it it didn’t suggest to me that he was the only one, he was the slave owner, that wasn’t his point of view,” Lennear told NBC News Wednesday. “I don’t think he was celebrating slavery at all. If he was celebrating anything about having sex with someone, you know like ‘Woo, woo,’ he said.
And just like a music fan, Lennear, a member of the Ikettes who has supported Ike and Tina Turner, said she was sorry to hear the song had been dropped, even temporarily.
“I mean that hook, ‘Brown sugar, how come you’re so good now?’ It’s fun to hear, it’s fun to dance, ”Lennear said.
The Stones play Thursday and Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif.
A representative of the group could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Diane dasrath contributed.