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Rolling Stones drop Brown Sugar from US tour set list amid controversy over song's lyrics reference to slavery


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Rolling Stones rockers Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have spoken out about dropping one of their biggest hits from the set list on their US tour due to the lyrics' connotations to slavery.

The Dartford-born duo were asked about the omission of Brown Sugar from recent gigs.

Rolling Stones are currently touring the US, pictured here in Cuba in 2018. Picture: Jim Pietryga
Rolling Stones are currently touring the US, pictured here in Cuba in 2018. Picture: Jim Pietryga

The band has returned to touring after the death of drummer Charlie Watts in August.

But conspicuous by its absence is one of the group's best known tunes.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, guitarist Richards said he had no idea what the issue was given the song is a commentary on "the horrors of slavery".

Meanwhile, Jagger said the hit could make a return at some stage.

The 78-year-old front man, who grew up in the Kent town, said: "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.”

Keith Richards was less understanding of why the song had been pulled saying the controversy was misunderstood given the song comments on the 'horrors of slavery'. Picture: Dave J Hogan
Keith Richards was less understanding of why the song had been pulled saying the controversy was misunderstood given the song comments on the 'horrors of slavery'. Picture: Dave J Hogan

But Richards said: "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. At the moment I don’t want to get into conflicts with all of this.

"I’m hoping that we’ll be able to resurrect the babe in her glory somewhere along the track."

Mick Jagger says the song Brown Sugar could make a return. Picture: Dave Hogan
Mick Jagger says the song Brown Sugar could make a return. Picture: Dave Hogan

Jagger has previously revealed the song was written in just 45 minutes back in 1969 and says he would never write it again today.

The song begins with the lyrics: "Gold Coast slave ship bound for cotton fields/Sold in the market down in New Orleans/Skydog slaver knows he's doin' all right/Hear him whip the women just around midnight"

Some lyrics have been replaced over the years but critics have often referred to its controversial subject matter as being inappropriate when combined with the Stones' with "gyrating, glib lyrics and guitar solos", according to critic Tom Taylor who wrote about the "uncomfortable reality" of the song earlier this year.

The Rolling Stones are currently performing across the USA taking in LA this week and moving on to cities including Atlanta, Las Vegas and Detroit before ending in Austin, Texas on November 20.

Read more: All the latest news from Dartford

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