The Rolling Stones
Writer(s): Mick Jagger, Keith Richards (see lyrics here)
Released: April 16, 1971
First Charted: April 24, 1971
Peak: 12 US, 2 CB, 3 GR, 13 HR, 1 CL, 2 UK, 13 CN, 5 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.45 UK, 0.45 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 3.0 radio, 36.9 video, 149.06 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
In 1971, the Rolling Stones launched their own label. “Once reviled as too scruffy and dirty for decent folk, they became the ruling rock elite, gentlemen of leisure, members of the international jet set.” FB They rolled out a new “immediately identifiable image” FB of a red mouth with a tongue sticking out as their logo. Their new album, Sticky Fingers, sported one of rock history’s most famous covers – an Andy Warhol-designed close-up shot of the crotch of a man’s jeans complete with a zipper.
The first song released under this new incarnation was “Brown Sugar.” It is “a muscular rock song made special by [Bobby] Keys’ and [Keith] Richards’ driving riffs and [Mick] Jagger’s steamy lyrics.” LW It was their sixth trip to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and reached #2 in the UK. The song was written in 1969 and recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Alabama that December. They debuted it live at the infamous Altamont Speedway concert in which a fan was stabbed to death.
The lyrics are 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.” SF The song understandably generated controversy for misogyny and racism. WK
In his book Up and Down with the Rolling Stones, Tony Sanchez suggests “all the slavery and whipping is a double meaning for the perils of being ‘mastered’ by Brown Heroin or ‘Brown Sugar.’” SF Mick Jagger said the song was a “dual combination of drugs and girls.” WK It was “essentially a pastiche of…taboo subjects, including slavery, rape, interracial sex, cunnillingus, sadomasochism, lost virginity, and heroin.” WK In a 1995 Rolling Stone interview, he said it was “a mishmash [of] all the nasty subjects in one go…I never would write that song now.” WK
First posted 2/10/2021; last updated 11/22/2022.