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Beast Of Burden


The Rolling Stones

Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Sometimes misunderstood as a putdown, this is a rare Stones song that treats women as equals. Jagger sings that he "Don't need no beast of burden."
Ron Wood: "That's another one that just came very naturally in the studio. And I slipped into my part and Keith had his going. It may have appeared as though it was planned. We can pick it up today and it will just naturally slip into the groove again with the guitars weaving in a special way. It's quite amazing really. Ever since Keith and I first started to trade licks, it was a very natural thing that, for some unknown reason, if he's playing up high, I'm down low and the other way around. We cross over very naturally. We call it an ancient form of weaving-- which we still are impressed by it to this day. Unexplainable, wonderful things happen with the guitar weaving. There's no plan." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
This isn't about a specific woman. Most women in Stones' songs are composites of many.
A live version from their 1981 US tour was used as the B-side of their "Going To A Go-Go" single.
A beast of burden is an animal that labors for the benefit of man, like an ox or a pack mule.
Keith Richards wrote this, but a lot of the lyrics were improvised in the studio. While the band played, Jagger came in with different lines to fit the music. As a result, some of the lyrics are less than meaningful and a little repetitious.
This song could be allegorical - it was written by Keith as a kind of homage to Mick for having to carry the band while Keith was strung out on heroin: "All your sickness I can suck it up, throw it all at me, I can shrug it off." (thanks, Eric - London, England)
Bette Midler covered this in 1983. Jagger appeared in the video.
The Chinese ministry of culture ordered The Stones not to play this when they performed there in 2003. It was going to be the first time The Stones played in China, but they canceled because of a respiratory disease that was spreading through the country.
Whilst Richards spent much of the '70s insulating himself with drugs, former London School of Economics student Jagger was running the band. However, by the time of Some Girls, Richards wanted to share the workload. Mojo magazine January 2012 asked Richards how much this song was about his relationship with Jagger? He replied; "Mick wrote a lot of it but I laid the general idea on him. At the time Mick was getting used to running the band. Charlie was just the drummer, I was just the other guitar player. I was trying to say, 'OK I'm back, so let's share a bit more of the power, share the weight, brother."
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Comments (34):

Actually the original opening line in this song was "I'll Never Leave You're Pizza Burnin"....
- Larry, Detroit, MI
It is one of the best ever songs. I have been trying to play the opening riff on piano, and when I finally saw it, the way the bass goes down and the chords change over it is just beautifull.
Thx to Brick [above] - that makes perfect sense, Keith wrote it for his wife...

And I think Mick sings it like he really feels this song, it is real to him
- Karlin, Nelson, BC
I can't stop listening to this song. It's one of my favorites by the Stones.
- Britt, Boston, MA
This song is soooo amazing, I got it on two differant compilations
- Andrew, The Seas of Cheese, CA
I hear a laugh by Mick Jagger in the song. What do you think that is about folks?
- Sean, Altoona, WI
One of the few Stones tunes in which there truly are 3 guitars weaving. On many others where Mick picks up a guitar in concert it is really a stage prop or turned down with the volume so low as to be meaningless. On this tune, Mick's guitar is an integral part of the sound. Also a tune that really works well for Ronnie Wood's style of playing, as opposed to some of the Mick Taylor era tunes which are not really suited for Ronnie's style which is more interactive and less stand alone solo than Taylor.
- David, Orlando, FL
One of my best friend owned a copy of the LP this song was released on. And he said that a line of this song read " I'm so confused I could suck a dick". Mick disguises this somewhat,but if you know what he is saying,it is pretty clear...for the record,I have never personally seen the LP lyrics,but why would my friend lie about that.
- Chris, Atlanta, GA
I swear I used to hear "I could suck a d!ck" instead of "suck it up". Haha, now I keep hearing "suck a duck" Hmm..Whatever?
- Scott, Macon, SC
My favorite part of the song is the two verses between "You can put me out on the street, Put me out with no shoes on my feet...All your sickness I can suck it up...There's one thing that I don't understand You keep on telling me I ain't your kind of man"
That whole part is really good, because of the play on words for "put me out" (on the streets/out of misery) and how he can handle any physical pain, but not the pain she gives him.
- Nicole, Chicago, IL
Years recording BEAST OF BURDEN, when the Stones recorded the "Steel Wheels" album, they kept reworking the song ALMOST HEAR YOU SIGH because Keith felt it sounded too much like BEAST OF BURDEN.
- Susan, Toronto, Canada
The 8-track-tape version of SOME GIRLS has an alternate version of this song. I had someone record it onto a cassette for me in an internet trade, and I'm glad I tracked it down. It has some different lyrics and Mick coos more during the fadeout.
- Susan, Toronto, Canada
Sal from NYC is right, it IS relaxing. It helped me through my big breakup and my Dad always said it's his favorite Stones song, now I see why
- James, Gettysburg, PA
Marc in Vancouver, Canada, "Christine" was a 1958 Plymouth Fury that was really more like a Belvedere. "Beast of Burden" was the last song that the bad guys listened to in their 1968 Camaro before Christine killed them in the gas-station fire. I am probably one of the biggest fans of Christine, especially since I have license plates with the number "CQB241" from 30 states at home, including fake plastic 1956 California "Christine" plates for the fronts of red-and-white 1957 and 1958 Plymouths.
- Darrell, Eugene
A really good one. Slow rythmin, pause between chords; superb drum by Charlie.
I play that one every week on guitar; lovely tune to play.
- R, Montreal, QC, Canada
What a tune. The greatest R and R band at their greatest.
Very good song, and although I would have loved it to hear Keith singit, Mick sings it very nice I must say.
- Bram, Zoetermeer, Netherlands
fantastic song. fan - tas -tic.
- Ethan, Portland, OR
This song was in the movie "Christine" (1983) by Stephen King. It was about a high school nerd who buys a 1957 Plymoth Fury, but the car has a mind of it's own.
- Marc, Vancouver, Canada
Richards stated in some interview that this song was, along with "Gimme Shelter" and "Make no Mistake" (from his solo record "Talk is cheap") was one of the rare ocasions in which all the song structure (intro-verse-chorus) came all together at once, with no need to ensemble different random bits. You can feel that organic vibe all along the song.
- J L, Sevilla, Spain
I dig the off beat Watts does on the snare about every 4th measure.
- Jay, Atlanta, GA
This song was written by Keith about his then wife Anita Pallenberg who was also a heroin addict. When Keith got clean in the late 70's, Anita kept using and she got the boot.
- brick bradford, L.A., CA
Pearl Jam did a cover of this song, but many of the lyrics are different.
- Cheb, LosAngelas, NH
i love this song.. jagger's vpice and the guitars just seem to blend together so well.. .
- maya, cal, United States
laid back relaxing song you can just sing to.
- Suzi, Charleston , SC
The most common misheard lyric was "Don't ever leave your pizza burning" instead of "I'll never be your Beast of Burden."
- Howard, St. Louis Park, MN
My all time favorite Stones song. It's so mellow and relaxed. I love to just cruise around listening to it, it's the perfect slow cruise song.
- Mark, Philadelphia, PA
the lyrics to this song are phenominal. i actually feel like keith richards is threatened by this woman, she makes him feel insecure. its as though he is trying to convince himself that she isn't above him, he's trying to act tough. but then, he is asking her if he is "rich enough", "tough enough" etc. i just love it.
- Amanda, New York City, NY
This si my favorite Stones song to perform. The riff is awesome. The girls love it. If you can sing it like Mick Jagger the reaction is always good. And the best part is the girls always dance.
- kevin, Canada, Canada
Keith brought this to the SG sessions. It's all his.
- Dave, London , Canada
my favortie song by the rolling stones. brilliant!
- britt, foutain valley, CA
this song is so relaxing somehow, can someobyd tell me why they were not allowed to play it in china? and i do'nt listen to the stones that often because of their whole sexist crap, but i love this song anyway
- sal, ny, NY
Its about a member from the Stones falling in love with a girl, but the girl not feeling the same way as he does,and him exepting that...listen to the lyrics
- Tyler, Buffalo, NY
Very catchy and uplifiting song, but relaxed. Often used by the Stones to take a bit of breather between faster numbers when performing live.
- Ty, Niagara Falls, Canada
This tune was performed in the great episode of SNL that featured the Stones in 1978.
- Chelsea, NYC, OR
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