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Salt Of The Earth by The Rolling Stones

Album: Beggars BanquetReleased: 1968
  • This was one of Keith Richards' first lead vocal performances for The Stones (his first was on "Something Happened To Me Yesterday" from Between The Buttons). He and Mick Jagger both sing on this with the Watts Street Gospel choir singing background.
  • The title refers to the working class - they're "The salt of the Earth." In 1970, Jagger said: "The song is total cynicism. I'm saying those people haven't any power and they never will have." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France, for above 2)
  • The Stones played this on Rock and Roll Circus, a British TV special The Stones taped in 1968 but never aired because they were upstaged by other acts on the show. A series of musical acts and circus performances, it was released on video in 1995.
  • The Stones performed this in Atlantic City in 1989 with Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin of Guns N' Roses on vocals.
  • Mick Jagger and Keith Richards performed this at the 2001 "Concert For New York," which honored the rescue workers, cops, and firefighters in New York City after the World Trade Center disaster.
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Comments: 14

While I agree with "mike, berkeley, CA"'s criticism that Mick an 'em gave in to cynical commercialism and "[just getting] product out not the shelf," I forgive them!
Why? Just lookit the huge opus of classics they've produced over 50 years, establishing Rhythm and Blues as the true the sound track of the End of Century!
Since "Salt of the Earth" was written in '69, a time when music still was sold on vinyl and made boffo money$$!! for the artists - before .mp3 sharing - I don't blame them for getting it while they still could.
Today they can only make money by touring. A tough life!
Besides that, recall many Dylan lyrics that remain obscure to this day! He got huge accolades for his nutty lyrics. And then there was "I am the Walrus."!
It was totally OK for big names like Dylan, the Stones and the Beatles to toss off slag and garbage bits and pieces and call it avant grade.
The weird lyrics of Salt of the Earth just keep us guessing! That's no crime.
James - Greater Vancouver, Bc
I'm convinced this song, while geniunely ambivalent, leans more towards mocking the "salt of the earth" rather than praising them. You don't refer to someone you want to praise with words like "lowly at birth", "rag-taggy people", "stay-at-home voter", etc. It's just thinly disguised ruling class mockery of the masses, some of it well deserved, but one can take solace in the fact that very few true working-class heroes have spent much time listening to Rolling Stones music. If this comment seems confusing it's because I share Mick's ambivalence towards the working class. I think John Prine said it best: "Give my needs to the needy - don't pull that stuff on me" (Please don't Bury Me Down in the Cold, Cold Ground)Lou - Los Angeles, Ca
I agree with Dave, Le Mars, IA "A truly great, if not the best drinking song of all time."

I recently picked up the DVD of 'Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus.'
IT BLEW MY MIND ...a close-up tight-camera look at The Stones, to watch skinny, skinny Mick really MOVE and bring surprise and drama to their music. His presentation on 'Sympathy For The Devil.' and 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' were _made_ for a small venue, and the CAMERA ATE HIM UP! Wow!

Even tho' the Circus tent itself was a small stage, Mick worked to the camera's eye brilliantly!
James - Greater Vancouver, Bc
When I hear, "a swirling mass of grey, blue, black and white" I think of (white) old men (grey) in suits (blue and black), the establishment - or the people keeping the "Salt of the Earth" down...Madeline - Grass Valley, Ca
In response to Wayon, from gig harbor, Keith says in the opening verse "raise your glass to the good NOT the evil"... very clever keith. Definitely a good song to play for that benefit.Snoot - Boston, Ma
the working class is the salt of the earth, without voice, but we don´t need to have a leader or a president, Mick and Keith say what many politicians never say, we drink not just for the working class, we drink for all homeless, and for the mst in Brasil, for all the workers that wander in the third world without a destiny.we drink for comandante Marcos in Mexico. we drink for el comandante Ernesto Che Chevara, "El Che". we drink for all poor people from Africa and latin america, for the good and evil.Camillo - Guarapuava, Brazil
A superb track that closes Beggars Banquet perfectly. And once again shows that by 1968 the Stones had not only caught up to the Beatles, but had overtaken them. It was all down hill for the fab 4 and only the beginning of the Stones golden age.

The coda to this song is incredible. The immense sound of Charlie's drums is still astounding.
Craig - Melbourne, Australia
In the "Rock and Roll Circus" the before mentioned lyric is changed to "A swirling mass of gray, blue, black, and white. They don't look real to me, in fact we all look so strange."

And about it offending people for saying we "raise a glass to the good AND evil." The thought is that there has to be an evil in order to have good. They are drinking to all that makes the world go 'round. I don't hear them drink to the kings and presidents because humanity would survive without them, but the common folk are what keeps our human race alive.

(Sorry for that little rant)
Clayton - Blount County, Al
I agree with what Mike says. "Mass of grey..." just sounds like filler. Whenever I play this song I omit those lyrics, the music is powerful enough.Bill - Erie, Pa
Tend to agree Kelly.. This song does kick ass on the R & R circus.. but the album version is just as breathe taking i asure you..Stephen - London
The closer to Rock and Roll Circus was this song, and I must admit, whoever came up with that one was a genius. While I don't know whether The Who (my personal favorite act aside The Rolling Stones) upstaged them or not, I know that this was a great, great performance. Mick and Keith and all the cast of the circus join in for the chorus and it's just magic. I own the DVD and watch it a lot. I don't even own the CD that has this song on it, but I don't know if I could switch off the cirus version because it's just so good. Any opinions if there are better versions of it out there?Kelly - Burbank, Ca
you know its funny, i was thinking about how the stones played this for new york, which i havent seen and at that time our country was very tender to evil and the terror of the middle east so then what did they sing for the line "Raise your glass to the good and the evil?"
i mean if they said it, wouldnt if offend many people.
Wayon - Gig Harbor, Wa
A truly great, if not the best drinking song of all time.Dave - Le Mars, Ia
This song is very ambiguous. When I see a lyric like:

And when I look
In the faceless crowd
A swirling mass
Of grey and black and white
They don't look real to me
Or they don't look so strange

it shows they were just sticking something (anything) in there to go with the music sometimes. They got product out on the shelf and that was the most important thing to them.
Now, I'm a Stones fan, but there's other lyrics by them that I find the same fault with. They wrote afew GREAT songs. Don't get me wrong... but I think they've always been exTREMELY commercial and had their minds on making money FIRST.
Mike - Berkeley, Ca