Why the Rolling Stones have dropped ‘Brown Sugar’ from their setlist amid unease over lyrics

Why the Rolling Stones have dropped ‘Brown Sugar’ from their setlist amid unease over lyrics

The Rolling Stones have decided to drop “Brown Sugar”, one of their most famous hits, from their live setlist.

It comes due to unease about references to slavery and black women – though the band has not ruled out bringing it back in the future.

The track reached number one in the US in 1971, and number two in the UK. It is the group’s second most-played live song, behind “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”.

The Stones are currently on a 13-date US tour, and “Brown Sugar” has been notably absent from each of the shows.

Why has “Brown Sugar” been scrapped?

Frontman Sir Mick Jagger told the LA Times: “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.”

Guitarist Keith Richards confirmed it has been removed from the setlist, but defended the song.

“Didn’t they understand this was a song about the horrors of slavery?” he said.

‘Brown Sugar’ lyrics

Gold Coast slave ship bound for cotton fields

Sold in the market down in New Orleans

Skydog slaver knows he’s doin’ all right

Hear him whip the women just around midnight

Brown Sugar, how come you taste so good

Brown Sugar, just like a young girl should

Drums beatin’ cold, English blood runs hot

Lady of the house wonderin’ when it’s gonna stop

House boy knows that he’s doin’ all right

You should have heard him just around midnight

Brown Sugar, how come you taste so good?

Brown Sugar, just like a young girl should

Brown Sugar, how come you dance so good?

Brown Sugar, just like a black girl should

I bet your mama was a tent show queen

And all her boyfriends were sweet 16

I’m no school boy but I know what I like

You should have heard them just around midnight

Brown Sugar, how come you taste so good

Brown Sugar, just like a young girl should

I said, yeah, yeah, yeah, wooo!

How come you, how come you dance so good

Yeah, yeah, yeah, wooo!

Just like a, just like a black girl should

Yeah, yeah, yeah, wooo!

Criticism of the song’s lyrics has intensified in recent years. Producer Ian Brennan told Rolling Stone magazine last year: “The call is not for censorship or ‘record burning,’ but greater consciousness and sensitivity.

“This particular case is far from nitpicking or searching into the furthest corners of someone’s history for any misstep. ‘Brown Sugar’ is not some obscure B-side.”

The track was originally titled “Black Pussy”. The lyrics make reference to slavery, sexual violence and heroin, with the opening verse depicting a slave driver whipping black women.

The song is believed to be inspired by one of the band member’s former girlfriends. It took Sir Mick just 45 minutes to write.

The frontman admitted back in 1995: “I never would write that song now.”

He told Rolling Stone: “I would probably censor myself. I’d think, ‘Oh God, I can’t. I’ve got to stop.’.= God knows what I’m on about on that song. It’s such a mishmash. All the nasty subjects in one go.”