Classic Rock

Rolling Stones members discuss why the band has stopped performing “Brown Sugar” in concert

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Jeff Hahne/Getty Images

“Brown Sugar” is one of The Rolling Stones‘ biggest hits and most popular songs, but the classic’s potentially racially and culturally insensitive subject matter and lyrics apparently have prompted the band to stop playing it in concert.

A recent Los Angeles Times article, which featured a new interview with Stones members Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, noted that the band had performed “Brown Sugar” 1,136 times in concert, although the song has been left off the group’s set lists for its current No Filter Tour of the U.S.

“You picked up on that, huh?” Keith Richards commented to the Los Angeles Times when asked about the tune’s omission. “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.”

“Brown Sugar,” which spent two weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971, includes Jagger-penned lyrics that appear to be about a slave trader and a slave master abusing Black women.

On the subject of not currently performing the song, Jagger told the newspaper, “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.”

Richards added of the matter, “At the moment I don’t want to get into conflicts with all of this s***. But I’m hoping that we’ll be able to resurrect the babe in her glory somewhere along the track.”

It’s worth noting that in 1995 Rolling Stone interview, Jagger reflected with apprehension about “Brown Sugar’s” lyrics, telling the magazine, “I never would write that song now. I would probably censor myself.”

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