The Rolling Stones may have dubbed their tour “No Filter,” but the iconic rock band has filtered out one of their most popular songs from their setlist.
The band retired their 1971 hit song “Brown Sugar” from their current tour, for now, over “conflicts” surrounding the controversial lyrics that depict slavery, rape and drugs, guitarist Keith Richards confirmed to The Los Angeles Times.
“You pick up on that?” Richards spoke out after being asked by the outlet why the band had decided not to play it. Richards stated that he does not understand all the controversy.
“I’m trying to figure out with the sisters quite where the beef is,” Richards said. “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.”
USA TODAY reached out for comments to The Rolling Stones.
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According to Genius’ song interpretation, “‘Brown Sugar’ runs through different white and Black sexual interactions,” including nonconsensual sex between a slave and slave owner, who had “total ownership of Black women but also had total physical and sexual access.”
The first verse of the song depicts slaves being sold in the slave trade in New Orleans and being beaten at will: “Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields/ Sold in the market down in New Orleans/ Scarred old slaver knows he’s doing alright/ Hear him whip the women just around midnight.”
“Brown Sugar,” ends You are so tasty! Like a Black woman should.
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The song has faced renewed criticism amid heightened cultural awareness and sensitivity in light of the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements.
In 2019, music producer Ian Brennan accused the band of “glorifying slavery, rape, torture and pedophilia,” adding that they have “brazenly gotten away with this jeering harassment for decades.” He demanded that the songs be removed from radio.
It is irrelevant that they wrote it. They have never sung the song. Brennan, writing in The Chicago Tribune said that their fault was singing the song.
However, Richards and Mick Jagger both stated that “Brown Sugar” may not be gone for good.
“I’m hoping that we’ll be able to resurrect the babe in her glory somewhere along the track,” Richards told the LA Times. Jagger stated, “We might return it in.”
“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 said.