Brown Sugar

Album: Sticky Fingers (1971)
Charted: 2 1
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  • The lyric is about slaves from Africa who were sold in New Orleans and raped by their white masters. The subject matter is quite serious, but the way the song is structured, it comes off as a fun rocker about a white guy having sex with a black girl. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Phil - Palo Alto, CA
  • Mick Jagger wrote the lyric. According to Bill Wyman, it was partially inspired by a black backup singer named Claudia Lennear, who was one of Ike Turner's Ikettes. She and Jagger met when The Stones toured with Turner in 1969. David Bowie also wrote his Aladdin Sane track "Lady Grinning Soul" about Lennear.

    American-born singer Marsha Hunt is also sometimes cited as the inspiration for the song. She and Jagger met when she was a member of the cast in the London production of the musical Hair, and their relationship, a closely guarded secret until 1972, resulted in a daughter named Karis.
  • According to the book Up And Down With The Rolling Stones by Tony Sanchez, all the slavery and whipping is a double meaning for the perils of being "mastered" by Brown Heroin, or "Brown Sugar." The drug cooks brown in a spoon. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Kyle - Wichita, KS
  • The Rolling Stones recorded this in the musically rich but luxury deprived city of Sheffield, Alabama, where Jerry Wexler of the group's label, Atlantic Records, often sent his acts. The Stones arrived in Sheffield on December 2, 1969, stayed until the 4th, then performed their fateful Altamont Speedway concert on December 6, where they performed this song live for the first time. At the show, a fan was stabbed to death by a Hells Angels security guard.

    During their three days in Alabama, The Stones recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, which opened in May 1969 when four of the musicians from FAME Studios left to establish their own company. "Wild Horses" and "You Gotta Move" also came out of these sessions, making it a very productive stop. The engineer at the Muscle Shoals sessions was Jimmy Johnson, the producer/guitarist who was one of the studio's founders. The Rolling Stones engineer Glyn Johns added overdubs in England (including horns), but he left Johnson's mix intact. Johnson says that Johns called him from England to compliment him on the mix.
  • Even though this was recorded in December 1969, The Stones did not release it until April 1971 because of a legal dispute with their former manager, Allen Klein, over royalties. Recording technology had advanced by then, but they didn't re-record it because the original version was such a powerful take.
  • Mick Jagger started writing this while he was filming the movie Ned Kelly in the Australian outback. He's been in a few movies, including Performance, Freejack and The Man From Elysian Fields. Jagger recalled to Uncut in 2015: "I wrote it in the middle of a field, playing an electric guitar through headphones, which was a new thing then."
  • In Keith Richards' 2010 autobiography Life, it floats a theory as to what the lyrics "Scarred old slaver know he doin' alright" are all about. Some poor guy at their publishing company probably came up with that transcription for the lyrics, but Jagger was most likely singing "Skydog Slaver," as "Skydog" was a nickname for Muscle Shoals regular Duane Allman because he was high all the time. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • A year after this was first recorded, The Stones cut another version at Olympic Studios in London with Eric Clapton on guitar and Al Kooper on keyboards. It was considered for release as the single, but was shelved until 2015 when it appeared the a Sticky Fingers reissue.
  • Originally, Mick Jagger wrote this as "Black Pussy." He decided that was a little too direct and changed it to "Brown Sugar."
  • This was the first song released on Rolling Stones Records, The Stones subsidiary label of Atlantic Records. They used the now-famous tongue for their logo.
  • The album cover was designed by Andy Warhol. It was a close-up photo of a man wearing tight jeans, and contained a real zipper. This caused considerable problems in shipping, but was the kind of added value that made the album much more desirable (you don't get this kind of stuff with CDs or downloads).

    Sticky Fingers also marked the first appearance of the famous tongue and lips logo, which was printed on the inner sleeve. The logo was designed by John Pasche, who was fresh out of art school (the Royal College of Art in London).
  • "Brown Sugar" was used in commercials for Kahlua and Pepsi. The Stones have made big bucks licensing their songs for ads. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Whitney - Houston, TX
  • The fortunate souls who got to see The Rolling Stones on their nine-date UK tour in 1971 got a preview of this song, since it was included on the setlist even though Sticky Fingers wouldn't be released for another month.
  • This was one of four songs The Stones had to agree not to play when they were allowed to perform in China. After getting approval to play in China for the first time in 2003, they canceled because of SARS, a respiratory illness that was going around the country.
  • Jimmy Johnson, who was a guitar player for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (also known as "The Swampers"), engineered the sessions that produced this song as well as "Wild Horses" and "You Gotta Move." Johnson worked with many artists, including Aretha Franklin, Bobby Womack, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Johnnie Taylor. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Artists to cover this song include Little Richard, Collin Raye and Alice Russell. Bob Dylan performed it on his 2002 US tour.

    ZZ Top released a completely different song called "Brown Sugar" in 1971, and "D'Angelo" released his own song with that title in 1995. In 2002, a movie called Brown Sugar was released with a title song by Mos Def called "Brown Sugar (Extra Sweet)."
  • In 327BC Alexander the Great came across the cultivation of sugar cane in India. From this reed, a dark brown sugar was extracted from the cane by chewing and sucking. Some of this "sweet reed" was sent back to Athens. This was the first time a European had come across sugar. (From the book Food for Thought: Extraordinary Little Chronicles of the World by Ed Pearce)
  • The bootleg version which has Eric Clapton playing lead slide guitar was recorded at a birthday party for Keith Richards. It is widely considered to have been part of an informal audition by Clapton to become The Stones second guitarist. The bootleg version shows why Clapton likely did not get offered the job, or withdrew himself from consideration: While Clapton plays a million notes a minute, his lead has almost no interaction with the rest of the band. It is like a studio musician simply playing along with a CD that has already been recorded.

    In many interviews, Richards has spoken admiringly of his good friend Clapton's musicianship, but has always commented that the two-guitar sound he and Ron Wood have developed is not Eric's cup of tea. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    David - Orlando, FL
  • This features Bobby Keys on saxophone. A favorite of The Rolling Stones, having guested notably on Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street, he was also heard on John Lennon and Elton John's hit "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" and on classic albums like George Harrison's All Things Must Pass and Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On.
  • The year after this was released, Randy Newman released a much more earnest song dealing with slavery: "Sail Away."
  • This song gets a mention in the 2002 episode of The Wire, "A Man Must Have A Code." When a group of detectives are listening to a phone call they intercepted, one of them can figure out what's being said while the others are baffled. Asked how he can decipher the mumble, he speaks the opening lines of "Brown Sugar" ("Gold Coast slave ship bound for cotton fields, sold in a market down in New Orleans") and says, "I bet you've heard that song 500 times but you never knew, right? I used to put my head to the stereo speaker and play that record over and over."
  • "Brown Sugar" was a staple of Rolling Stones setlists until 2021, when they dropped the song. Asked why by the LA Times, Keith Richards said, "I don't know. I'm trying to figure out with the sisters quite where the beef is. Didn't they understand this was a song about the horrors of slavery? But they're trying to bury it."

    Mick Jagger gave this explanation: "We've played 'Brown Sugar' every night since 1970, so sometimes you think, We'll take that one out for now and see how it goes.' We might put it back in."

Comments: 75

  • John from ConnecticutThey can play it off as much as they want but this song was sung with such Glee. Neill Young's southern Man was sung with horror and was clearly about the horrors of slavery. Hear him whip the woman just around midnight. I heard screaming bull whips cracking. They must really think we're stupid.
  • Chris Simon from AustraliaSounds to me like it's not true Rolling Stones' historians who condemn songs like Brown Sugar. The apex of their image was offensive. Ex US President Obama raves about Brown Sugar and its lyrics were originally supposed to be anti-slavery and anti-racist by illustrating evilness from the viewpoint of the people doing the mistreating. I hope it goes back in their set. I've been rocking to this for more than three decades.
  • Tony from Scotland Only just heard today about the controversy over “Brown Sugar” A great rock song, but how many fans really understood the meaning of the lyrics relating to the slave trade? I suggest that Mick’s vocal “strangulation” of lyrics meant that most fans couldn’t really make out the actual words sung. Only in the internet age can we see the lyrics in print.
  • Ovind from NorwayIt is alleged (above, by Brett - Edmonton, Canada) that ZZ Top has done a cover of Brown Sugar. That might be true, but ZZ Top regularly do their own Brown Sugar, an entirely different song!
  • Jodie from XxFred from Laurel MD. Can you confirm if the lyrics are "Scarred old slaver" or "Skydog slaver". What does it say in your book?
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 26th 1971, the Rolling Stones were appearing in concert at the Marquee Club in London; on the VIP passes they used for the first time their 'lips and tongue' logo...
    The last song in their set was "Brown Sugar"; a month later, save one day, on April 25th, 1971 the song would entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #40, four weeks later on May 23rd, 1971 it would peak at #1 {for 2 weeks} and spent 12 weeks on the Top 100...
    It was their second straight #1 record on the Top 100, "Honky Tonk Woman" preceded it and was in the top spot for 4 weeks, and "Brown Sugar" was their sixth of eight #1 records on the Top 100.
  • Duke from Fresno, CaI was at Altamont and Mick introduced it as being a song they recently worked on in the studio and we are going to playing for you today for the first time anywhere.
  • Craig from Durham, NcRegarding the "whip/with the women" debate, I think the original recording does say "whip"; I believe Mick even when sings it here he gives a slight backhand to accentuate the word. But as the world has become more civil, I believe they've changed the word to "with."
  • Craig from Durham, NcSomeone asked above who the sax players is and he's Bobby Keyes, long time member of the Stones. To the Brown Sugar lyrics...I get the whole "music is art and people can interpret it anyway they like." I get it. But this one seems to be clearly about men, Englishmen in particular..."Drums beating cold English blood runs hot" desiring dominance over black women. And I haven't seen anyone mention "I bet your mama was a tent show queen and all her boyfriends were Sweet 16..." It was well known in the American Slave south that to be a Blues Tent Show Queen was just a notch above slavery and many queens prostituted themselves to make ends meet. To's only rock and roll...and yeah. It f--kin' rocks.
  • Deethewriter from Saint Petersburg, Russia FederationTaken from Original Rolling Stone Review [June 10, 1971]: "Brown Sugar:" It begins with some magical raunch chords on the right channel. In the tradition of great guitar intros ("All Day and All of the Night," "Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown," and "Satisfaction" itself) it transfixes you: instant recognition, instant connection. Suddenly the electric guitar is joined by an acoustic guitar on the left channel, an acoustic that is merely strumming the chords that the electric is spitting out with such fury. It washes over the electric to no apparent purpose, stripping it momentarily of its authority and intensity. and so, in the first 15 seconds of the albums first cut we are presented with its major conflict: driving, intense, wide-open rock versus a controlled and manipulative musical conception determined to fill every whole and touch every base.
    As soon as the voices come on, the acoustic recedes into inaudibility: on "Brown Sugar" wide open rock wins by a hair, but it is a hollow victory. Opening cuts on Stones albums have always been special, fro the early ones — "Not Fade Away," "Round and Round," and "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love: — with their promise of rock and roll to come, to the tour de force openings of the later albums — "Symphony for the Devil" and "Gimme Shelter" — which served as overwhelming entrances into a more complex musical world view.

    At their best these opening cuts were statements of themes that transcended both the theme itself and the music that was to follow. As I listened to "Sticky Fingers," for the first time I thought "Brown Sugar" was good, but not that good. I certainly hoped it wasn't the best thing on the album. As it turns out, there are a few moments that surpass it but it still sets the tone for the album perfectly: middle-level Rolling Stones competence. The lowpoints aren't that low, but the high points, with one exception, aren't that high.

    As to the performance itself, the chords, harmony, and song are powerful stuff. The instrumentation however, is too diffuse, occasionally undermining the vocals instead of supporting them. But when Richards joins Jagger for the last chorus they finally make it home free.
  • Paul from Boston, MaWhip the women: Marianne was related to Sacher-Masoch (masochism), author of "Venus in Furs". 'Whip' could also refer to copulation. Also to a junkie 'whipping' his cubital fossa with his fingers to get his veins to rise. And of course it's not all about men exploiting women: the house-boy does alright: "pleasure me, Mandingo!"

    My understanding of the genesis of the song goes like this: MJ was in the Outback filming "Ned Kelly" in summer of 1969 and was possibly under the influence of peyote when the riff came to him (similar to Keith's story of the "Satisfaction" riff coming to him in a dream). He got a satellite phone connection to London, woke Keith up, and they banged out the rudiments of the song . The cost of the call was over 1,000 pounds back in the world before skype.
  • Mark from Mchenry, Ilm from left coast, CA - The sax was played by Bobby Keys.
  • Peet from Paris, FranceWell, now that Keef's "Life" is out , this songfact (and some hilarious comments..) needs SERIOUS updates !!
    For ex, yes it's definitely Jagger all alone, words and sound, on this one / the line "hear him whip (and not WITH !!) the women" was saved by Jim Dickinson behind the glass at Muscle Shoals because Mick forget it during the first take.. / MJ wrote the whole lyrics during the session in less than 40 mn / the line "Scarred old slaver" -printed everywhere included on this site- was in fact sung as Skydog Slaver, nickname of Duane Allman, always high on dope and i'ts just sounded pretty nice to Jagger's ears…etc etc.
    So please, go buy the book, it's a pretty good one, the man talks like he plays, and btw, he was there ! And stop pretending knowing some facts in your comments when you don't, it's so rude when the light is coming out … :-)
  • Valentin from Beijing, Chinahey, who wrote that ZZ Top covered that song??
  • Drew from B\'ham, AlThe intro sounds much like that of "Hot Blooded" by Foreigner. Anyone else noticed that?
  • M from Left Coast, CaWho's the dude playing sax in the youtube video?

  • Rick from Belfast, MeBrown Sugar, Wild Horses and Angie.....the best back to back to back songs ever from a rock band!
  • Nico from Amstelveen, NetherlandsWiki quote from the lemma Marsha Hunt: "Christopher Sanford writes in his book Mick Jagger that when the Rolling Stones released the song "Brown Sugar" there was immediate speculation that the song referred to Hunt or to soul singer Claudia Lennear. In her 1985 autobiography, Real Life, Hunt acknowledged that "Brown Sugar" is about her, among a few other songs, a fact she reiterated in her 2006 book Undefeated. When Hunt was asked how she felt about the song for an interview with the Irish Times in 2008, Hunt said "it doesn't make me feel any way at all."
  • Ryan from Bethany, Okhey andy from minneapolis, i think u meant bryan adams
  • Craig from Melbourne, AustraliaThe version with the spoons on it is on the remastered 1994 Virgin re-issue. It's a cool little addition too.
  • Kristyn from Louisville, KyThis song is not written about Claudia it is about the beautiful Marsha Hunt, Mick Jagger's FIRST child's mother. There was only speculation that the song was about Claudia. The song was released not even a year after the birth of his daughter with Marsha--whose brown sugar he was obviously indulging in.
  • Shahane from Greensboro, NcIn "Old Gods Almost Dead" it says the lyrics are about Claudia Lennear and a "particularly potent form of Chinese heroin"
  • Closetiguana from Vancouver, BcThe first line of the song:

    Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields,

    It's about a DJ, Heroin, Black date, uhmm no, it's about slaves and their abusers.
  • P from Birmingham, AlThis song is NOT about a DJ. Mick said he wrote it about one of The Ikettes, who Mick romanced while they were touring with Ike Turner & his band. (Funny... Mick went on to record a song w/ Tina Turner). I hate the way rumors get started because someone speculates, assumes & then spreads it around as fact.
  • P from Birmingham, AlThe man behind the board in Muscle Shoals, Jimmy Johnson, had a great career long before he worked with The Rolling Stones. In fact, it was the work that had been done with previous acts who'd scored mega-hits that lured The Stones to this northwest Alabama town. Muscle Shoals was red-hot in the 60's, and it continued to be on into the 70's and early 80's. The Rolling Stones didn't breathe life into this area. This area breathed new life into The Rolling Stones. By the way - Jimmy Johnson is one of four members of the legendary "Swampers" (as they were nicknamed by Leon Russell) - also known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. These guys worked with countless artists. Look it up. They started in the late 50's in garage bands and hooked up to make some mid 60's magic with Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Bobby Womack... and you can look up the other legendary names on the endless roster of artists who came to THEM for their unique sound. People came to them when they wanted HITS. With this album, The Rolling Stones' sound changed to a more gritty, bluesy tone. Compare this to "Mother's Little Helper." The Stones came to Alabama specifically to get that swampy sound they'd heard on so many other people's hit records.
  • David from Youngstown, OhThe opening guitar piece is amazing. Strangely, my favorite part is the squeaking sound Keith gets from sliding his fingers across the strings about 10 to 15 seconds into the song. With all the crap that hits No. 1 on the pop charts, it's refreshing to see a song as strong as this get recognized for its greatness by the masses.
  • Cynthia from Scranton, Pathis song is so hot! i just think of it as a fun song, but not about women being abused. only janie's got a gun is like that.
  • Fred from Laurel, MdRobin (Birmingham, AL), re your request for something approaching original source material--I have in my hands my kid sister's copy of a large-format, paperback book, "Rolling Stones (An unauthorized biography in words, photographs, and music)," edited: David Dalton, designed: Jon Goodchild; Copyright 1972 Amsco Music Publishing Co., "all songs,...used by permission of the copyright holder." ISBN: 0-8256-2669-2 (softcover), 0-8256-2653-6 (cloth cover). *** p. 313 has a copy of the sheet music for Brown Sugar, marked c/r 1971 Abkco Music, Inc. In the first verse, the last line is "Hear him whip the women just around midnight." The corresponding lines in the 2nd and 3rd verses are "You should have heard him just around midnight" and "You should have heard me just around midnight."

  • George from Pelham, NyProbably because of the delay between recording the song and releasing it, there are at least three studio versions of this song. Probably the least well known of the three features someone playing the spoons. One of the first, if not the first, live performances of the song was at Altamont. The line "Enlish blood runs hot" is rendered "English blood's on fire" in this version.
  • Brad from Lexington, Kyawesome song. can be about three possible things:
    1. mick's love of black women
    2. heroin
    3. rape

    listening to the lyrics, i say it could be any of these choices. I guess it is up to the listener to decide.
  • Brad from Lexington, Kythe lyric is "Hear the whip the women". The lyrics are posted on this page. THe song is about three possible things. Rape of black slaves, herion, or Mick having sex with a black woman. Who knows?
  • Kevin from Reading , PaTwo quick things: As noted, Bob Dylan covered this in 2001 in concert. I've heard a bootleg of one performance, and it sure sounds like ol' Bob didn't bother to learn the lyrics. He mumbled his way through it, true to form, but didn't seem to actually any words save the title and a few other lines here and there. As for the Stones recording, it is a classic, of course, but damnit, the sound quality is poor. Very muddy. Can't they remaster this thing into something resembling hi fidelity? Come on ! This is the Stones for cryin' out loud.
  • Patrick from Greenville, Scyeah, I don't think "Black Pussy" would have been to radio-friendly in 1971, Mick. wow
  • Vinnie from Philadelphia, PaThis Song is About a Prostitute In New Orleans I have been to alot of rolling stones shows steele wheels will really let you know what the song is about from the giant blowup doll behind the band
  • Andy from Minneapolis, MnRyan Adams does an amazing version of this with the piano.
  • Michel from Capelle A/d Ijssel, AlBrown Sugar? The famous female DJ from the USA.
    According the biography of Bob Dylan.
  • Don from Muscle Shoals, AlYou have great info on your site and I do thank you for the labor you put in it. Please allow me to correct a statement made in the songfacts for "Brown Sugar". You said that Jimmy Johnson is a guitar player for Stax records. Not true. He was one of the four members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section also know as "The Swampers". He played rhythm guitar, produced and engineered. He is going strong today and I will be seeing him this coming Monday.
  • Jack from Peoria, IlThe lyrics really are not confusing at all. It's pretty cut and dry I think. It's about Mick Jagger getting "jungle fever" (for lack of a better term). It's not really about slavery either, that's just used to emphsize the idea that many white men hav enjoyed the company of black women since longe before Mick.
  • Neil from Liverpool, U.k., EnglandJagger has said that if he could change the lyrics to 'brown sugar', he would.....don't you dare! This and the fact that m&k didnt initially like 'get off of my cloud' goes to show you just how wrong an artist can be about their own work because these are my 2 fave ever Stones songs that I listen to 9 mornings out of 10. As for what i do on the 10th morning...well..i've gotta get SOME sleep havent I?
    Anyhows, BS was recorded in 1969 and then they did another studio take with eric clapton but Keef had a preference for the original, so at least they were right on that one. It was a very important element that bobby keys was with them to do the sax solo when i saw them live in 2006 seeing as it was him on the original recording. Sadly, yes, the first ever live performance of it was at altamont..but..thats not what that concert is famous for. It's famous for a young black man being murdered by hells angels simply because they dont like to see black men with white women. And if the song is a testament to the sexual allure of black women, that makes the incident even more tragic.
    Also, why would the Stones revitalise and promote black music to the point of making muddy waters popular again when he was relegated to painting the Chess studio he was when Keef first met him..and it make him sick....and then go and slag off black people in song? Ridiculous allegation.....nevertheless, this is my fave ever Stones song if not my fave song EVER so lets remember it with warmth. No Stones gig is complete without it....even in the case with the Stones tribute bands. I don't know if the original single was the first ever to have 3 trax on it without being classed as an E.P....but...great value for money from a band considered to be drowned in corporate greed. what utter nonsense.
    As i say, recorded in '69...this & the version of stret fighting man from the 'liver than you'll ever be' bootleg (Oakland 9/11/69) convinces me that '69 may well have been their best year.
    But....'Exile..' was yet to come....
  • Mikey from Boston, MaIt is definately 'Whip' the women. However "It's only rock and roll" so it's ridiculous to try and analyze it like it's the encyclopedia. In other words, what historically happened on slave ships meant far less to the author of this song than whatever rhymes with the last word in the previous line.
  • Ian from Lethbridge, CanadaKelly, upon reading your comment, I think I should rethink my liking towards this song. I hated it because of the lyrics, but if a black female can enjoy this song, I think a white male should learn to lighten up and enjoy it as well. Besides, the instrumentation on this song still rocks! The sax solo is incredible!
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScI didn't notice that line. Thanks. It' easy to get caught up in the music in this case.
  • Garrett from Nashville, TnThe 1st comment mentions that this song was written entirely by Jagger. Not true.
    Anyone who has ever played this on guitar would know that the extremely complicated chord structure would be WAY beyong Jagger's limited skills as a guitarist, but right up Keith's alley.
    The lyrics are quintessential Mick, however.
  • Garrett from Nashville, TnThe line is "whip the women."
    That should be obvious by the content of the lyrics.
    Also, Jagger sings both the lines "just like a black girl should" and "just like a young girl should " in the hit version, so he's not selling out. (although he has a long history of selling out).
  • Robin from Birmingham, AlSam, I stand corrected: there is no mention of whips in the second verse where we're told, "you shoulda heard 'em (or "him") just around midnight." (Don't know what I was thinking when I wrote otherwise...!) **As for the "with-versus-whips" issue, however, I'm still not completely convinced. After all, on a SHIP, the prisoners were often SHACKLED. Also, they were kept in the most vile and wretched of conditions with minimal food, drink or sanitation. Many died due to the illnesses that would (naturally) result from such foul conditions, and those who survived were left weakened--both physically and psychologically--by the ordeal. So what need would there be to whip ANYONE under those circumstances?! They were already in submission and, thus, highly vulnerable. **But enough historical speculation. I just wish I knew where/how to view the original composition itself as it was submitted for copyright, or some reliable source relating thereto. The numerous "Lyrics-here" Internet sites to which we have access are fun and informative, but are hardly definitive in their accuracy or authority.
  • Louis from Tulsa, OkMos Def did not cover this song. He did another song called 'Brown Sugar' for the movie of the same name. I'm conflicted about the lyrics of this song but I believe the Angela Davis tribute of 'Sweet Black Angel' sheds light on the Stones intentions and I imagine they meant this as much as a protest as an exploitation.
  • Sam from Shanghai, ChinaRobin, I disagree. I definitely think it's "whip the women", not "with the women". Seeing as he's the slavemaster on a slaveship, he'd definitely be whipping the women. Irregardless of whether he's getting what he wants, that doesn't preclude him whipping them. Second, it has nothing to do with the second verse and the houseboy. I don't see/hear anything suggesting any whipping going on while the houseboy is getting his way with the missus?
  • Jo-c from Lima, PeruGreat, great song, but the guitar work is too complex. The main riff uses three guitars!
  • Robin from Birmingham, AlThree comments:

    1)The song, thought probably inspired by an affair with a black woman, is primarily about antebellum miscegenation in general--and NOT just the variety that went on between white men and young slave girls/women. Don't forget about the "houseboy" who's "doing alright." We're told to "hear him with the women just around midnight," so just WHICH women would this be referring to? Simple: at least one of them would be the neglected "lady of the house" whose husband was too often out cavorting in the slave quarters. Yes, folks, like it or not, this sort of thing DID happen.

    2) Will people PLEASE stop quoting the lyric as "hear him whip the women...?!" It's "hear him WITH the women...!" The first reference is to a "scarred old slaver" whose "doing alright." HE may be scarred, but that doesn't automatically mean that he's whipping anyone. It's already been established that he's getting what he wants from the poor slave girl (he's "doing alright," remember?) so there'd be no need to whip her into submission. And the "whip" lyric makes even less sense when referring to the houseboy: not only does the same logic apply for him as well, but what black household domestic worker would have had a whip anyway? (Stableboys and fieldhands, maybe, but not a houseboy!)

    3) Like Kelly from Atlanta, I too am a black female that thinks the song ROCKS. I'm 46, so I remember when it was released. I loved it then (the music, that is--I didn't know all the lyrics back then, and probably might not have understood their meaning anyway if I HAD known),and I still love it today. Stones RULE!
  • Christina from Nor*cal, Ca... im black and proud too!
  • Christina from Nor*cal, CaI agree with homeslice from alanta because this song just goes dumb.... Well as far as rock goes. I wonder if all those prejudice ppl ccepted this song and actually tried to experience what blood [mick] was talking about.
  • Jack from Soperton, GaOne of many RS songs with a powerful, patented Keith Richards opening bar-chord riff. This song blew the dust off many a corner jukebox. Once Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman jump in with drums and bass, the song rolls along like a finely tuned American V8.
  • Maya from Cal, United Statesthis song rocks so hard.. classic stones.. and they havent gone pc!!
  • Jim from Honolulu, HiThe Stones have not gone PC. When played live, Mick sings, "Just like a young man should!" instead of young girl.
    Also, it was Allen Klein who sold this song to Kahlua and Pepsi, not the Stones themselves.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScNever mind... thinking back oon it... If I remember correctly some of the words in the first verse seem to point to it being about slavery. I can't believe I didn't notice that. Awesome song though! I can also tell the part where it talks about having sex with a black girl.
  • Dan from Lee, NhWild Horses says more to me, but this song still rocks.
  • Greg from Garden City, Nythis song is about a singer or of the two down in New Orleans named Brown Sugar.Dylan wrote a song about this too
  • Jim from Toronto, CanadaZZ Top did not cover the Stone's Brown Sugar. ZZ Top did have a song on their first album called Brown Sugar, however it is a totally diferent song (and very cool too)
  • Kelly from Atlanta, GaI am a black female, and I think this song ROCKS!!!! I have no anger towards this song or the Stones. And if it was about any of the "Ikettes"....then Jagger got a taste of "Brown Sugar" ;)
  • Tanya from Los Angeles, CaIn fact, the first two stanzas are about slavery, though the last stanza sounds more about personal experience with a black girl.
  • Tanya from Los Angeles, CaThe song though about slaves, does refer to his affairs with both Marsha Hunt and Claudia Lennear
  • Barry from New York, NcAlthough the basic track was recorded in 1969 at Muscle Shoals, there was an overdub session in August 1970 right before their European tour. The saxophone solo by Bobby Keys was recorded then.
  • Kendall from Thomasville, GaI love this song, this is one of those ones that only the Stones could ever get away with
  • Scott from Nyc, NyI agree with Jake, the saxophone solo is INCREDIBLE...does anyone know who played that? Is it the Bobby Keys who Chelsea from NYC, OR mentioned?
  • Sophia from Austin, TxActually the song wasn't written for Claudia Lennear, but for Marsha Hunt
  • Eric from Cincinnati, OhI've loved the song for years and know the lyrics by heart, so when I heard the Stones perform this one in D.C. (on the "40 Licks" tour) I noticed that they changed the words from, "just like a black girl should" to "...young girl should." Have the Rolling Stones gone PC? Hopefully just an error...
  • Deadzeppelin from San Francisco, CaI had always thought that this song is about heroin also because that is another name for it. i guess it makes sense either way but it is about slaves. The lyrics seem more on the serious side, but it sounds more like a fun dancing song to me. good tune
  • Jake from Philadelphia, PaMy Favorite Song. I love the beat and the saxophone solo!
  • Bernhard from Mannheim, Germanymany bands play this song and it never sounds original, because the guitarplayers are not aware of the different tuning that is necessary to achieve this special chord-voicing. Keith Richards plays it in his personal tuning of an open G, but missing the 6th string E (he only has 5 strings on that guitar). Same for many other Stones songs.
  • Gary Dethberg from Dethburgh, PaRegarding confusing lyrics: is not one of them "just like a black girl should"? Fairly explicit.
  • Dylan from Chicago, Ili always thought it was about heroin. either way it is a jam
  • Michael from Kearny, NjI think the only reason this song got so much airplay was because most people couldn't figure out the lyrics. Today the subject would surely cause an uproar.
  • Janis from Port Arthur, TxIt really sounds like Mick anyway, Chelsea!
  • Simon from Brno, Czech RepublicIan Stewart played the piano.
  • Chelsea from Nyc, OrThe Clapton/Kooper version was recorded at Keith's birthday party and featured Keith on lead vocals. Bobby Keys still blows his legendary saxsolo to this day. Considered a "Keith" song, it was written entirely by Jagger.
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