Rolling Stones Pulling Song 'Brown Sugar' from Concerts for Lyrics That Reference Slavery

The band has performed the 1969 chart-topper in nearly every performance since its release

The Rolling Stones
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Photo: Backgrid

The Rolling Stones are retiring one of their biggest hits for the foreseeable future.

Last week, bandmates Keith Richards and Mick Jagger confirmed to Los Angeles Times that, for now, they won't be performing "Brown Sugar" due to its lyrics referencing slavery. The rockers are currently on their long-delayed No Filter tour and have yet to perform the song, typically a regular on their setlist.

"You picked up on that, huh?" Richards, 77, told the outlet when asked why they nixed the track. "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."

In the song, recorded 1969, the rockers sing, "Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields/Sold in the market down in New Orleans /Scarred old slaver knows he's doing alright/Hear him whip the women just around midnight/Brown sugar, how come you taste so good?"

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"At the moment I don't want to get into conflicts with all of this s---," Richards explained. "But I'm hoping that we'll be able to resurrect the babe in her glory somewhere along the track."

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The band last publicly performed "Brown Sugar" in August 2019 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida. Jagger, 78, agreed with Richards and said it was pulled for the time being.

"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," the frontman told the Times. "We might put it back in."

The Rolling Stones
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Backgrid

Back in 1995, Jagger discussed the "mishmash" track and admitted that he probably wouldn't write new music on such heavy topics like the decades-old tune.

"I never would write that song now. I would probably censor myself," he told Rolling Stone magazine at the time. "I'd think, 'Oh God, I can't. I've got to stop. I can't just write raw like that.' "

In a 2019 piece for The Chicago Tribune, Grammy-winning producer Ian Brennan called out the themes of "slavery, rape, torture and pedophilia" heard in "Brown Sugar," in a plea for it to be pulled from the airwaves.

"The violence and stereotypes depicted by the lyrics of the Rolling Stones' 'Brown Sugar' are repulsive, yet the song continues to be broadcast without a peep by radio stations around the world and is blasted in cafes, airports, gyms, shopping centers and the ilk, even now well into the #MeToo and #TimesUp era," Brennan wrote.

In a larger sense, he also urged the Rolling Stones to drop the song from their setlist.

"The issue today is not that they ever wrote the song. Nor that they have ever sung it," Brennan wrote. "The fault is that they keep singing it."

The Rolling Stones continue the U.S. leg of their No Filter tour, which kicked off on Sept. 26 in St. Louis with Ronnie Wood. The tour marks the band's first without drummer Charlie Watts, who died Aug. 24 at age 80.

The No Filter tour will run through November before wrapping in Austin, Texas on Nov. 20.

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