Marianne Faithfull recorded this during The Stones' Let It Bleed sessions (she was Mick Jagger's girlfriend at the time). Her version was released in 1969 and tanked. Decca Records pulled it after 2 weeks.
The song is about a man who gets in a car accident and dies in the hospital while asking for morphine.
Mick Jagger wrote the music in Rome in 1968. Marianne Faithful wrote the lyrics, but The Stones did not give her an official songwriting credit until they released it on their 1998 live album No Security. The Stones were very protective about songwriting credits - they made sure most of their songs were credited to Jagger/Richards.
Faithfull was not a heavy drug user when she wrote the lyrics, but became an addict in 1971, at the same time The Stones' version was released. She called this her "Frankenstein," consuming her and leading her into an abyss of drugs. In later years, she was able to break the habit resume a successful career as both a singer and an actress.
Some of the lyrics were inspired by the time Anita Pallenberg, Keith's girlfriend, was hospitalized and given morphine.
Ry Cooder played the bottleneck guitar on this track. He was filling in for the drug-addled Brian Jones, who died before this song was released, but after it was written. This was the only song on Sticky Fingers that Mick Taylor, who replaced Jones, didn't play on. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
The Stones recorded this in 1968, but their version was not released until 1971.
This was left off the Spanish release of Sticky Fingers because of the explicit content. It was replaced with "Let It Rock."
The Sticky Fingers album had an actual zipper on the cover. On many copies, this track was damaged because the zipper pressed into it. To solve the problem, the zipper was opened before the album shipped, this way it just dented the label.
This was influenced by the Velvet Underground, who were writing dark songs about drugs, especially heroin.
Marianne Faithfull recalled writing the song to The Guardian
newspaper in January 2013: "I just liked the name, and loved Lou Reed's work, 'Sister Ray
.' I liked the idea poetically. I thought it was like Baudelaire, but the song doesn't glamorise anything. It was a really interesting vision."
Not long after writing the song, the lyrics came painfully true to Marianne Faithfull. She recalled to The Guardian: "The story is about a man in a car accident in hospital, who's very damaged and wants to die. It isn't exactly what happened to me, but my feelings about it are probably the same. I was hospitalised in Sydney after an attempted suicide after Brian Jones died. It was a terrible time."