Why The Rolling Stones Nixed ‘Brown Sugar’ From Set List After 50 Years
If you've been to any Rolling Stones concerts this year, you may have noticed that the band no longer plays "Brown Sugar" anymore. In a new interview with the LA Times, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger explain why they removed it from their set list after nearly 50 years.
“You picked up on that, huh?” Richards acknowledged. The song, which is from the band's 1971 album Sticky Fingers, is one of their most popular, and opens with the lines, "Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields / Sold in the market down in New Orleans."
Richards defended the track, stating that it's about the horrors of slavery.
"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. At the moment I don’t want to get into conflicts with all of this shit,” the guitarist remarked. "But I’m hoping that we’ll be able to resurrect the babe in her glory somewhere along the track.”
According to Setlist.fm, the last time The Rolling Stones played the song was during their show in Miami, Fla. on Aug. 30, 2019.
"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,'” Jagger added, though he noted that they may reintroduce it to their live show at some point.
Back in 1995, the frontman told Rolling Stone that he wouldn't have written the song then due the problematic themes in the lyrics — "brown sugar" is also a reference to heroin.
"God knows what I’m on about on that song. It’s such a mishmash. All the nasty subjects in one go," he said. "I didn’t think about it at the time. 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.'”