The Day The Rolling Stones Gave Us Brown Sugar
"I never would write that song now. I would probably censor myself. I'd think, 'Oh God, I can't. I've got to stop.'I can't just write raw like that." – Mick Jagger to Rolling Stone, 1995
In a songwriting career filled, to that point, with lyrics about spending the night together, trying to "make some girl," little chemical helpers for mother and giving a wee bit of sympathy to old Lucifer himself, this may have been the single where Mick Jagger went too far. "Brown Sugar" hit on everything from slavery to rape to oral sex to BDSM to (then-taboo) interracial sex, but it has somehow managed to endure, nonetheless, as one of the most popular tracks in rock and roll history.
Usually, the Glimmer Twins of Jagger and Richards were true partners at songwriting, with Richards doing much of the music and Jagger the lyrics, though the lines have often blurred in both directions. "Brown Sugar" was different. For one thing, Jagger was half a world away from his counterpart when he came up with the idea. Sitting in his hotel room in Braidwood, New South Wales, Australia, Jagger was nursing a hand injury caused by a backfiring pistol on the set of the film, Ned Kelly. With some discomfort, he began strumming the chords that would eventually form the musical backbone of "Brown Sugar."
The original rough lyrics were about a white woman who has sex with one of her black servants, but Jagger wasn't happy with them. By this point, the Stones had convened at the legendary Muscle Shoals Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It was early December, 1969 and Jagger was, by now, deeply involved with actress-singer Marsha Hunt. Whether or not she was his inspiration for the lyrics of "Brown Sugar," we may never know (it's also been theorized that the real "Brown Sugar" was the lovely Ikette, Claudia Lennear). Whatever the spark, Jagger wrote the final lyrics in a heartbeat inside the studio. more on this story
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