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The Rolling Stones Explain Why They’ve Dropped ‘Brown Sugar’ from Their Setlist After 50 Years

The Rolling Stones are a few dates into their current No Filter US tour, but fans have noticed that one of the band’s most frequently-played live songs has been omitted from the setlist.

Sticky Fingers cut ‘Brown Sugar’ has been one of the most popular songs among the Stones’ live performances since it was released in 1971, with the band playing it at every one of their concerts for some five decades.

But in a recent interview with The Los Angeles Times, the band’s Keith Richards elaborated on why it had been withdrawn from the set. The song, which opens with Jagger singing “Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields,” has been the subject of debate over whether its lyrics – which explore sex, race and power with allusions to slavery throughout – are problematic.

“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?” Richards replied when asked about the song’s exclusion from the set.

“But they’re trying to bury it… At the moment I don’t want to get into conflicts with all of this shit. But I’m hoping that we’ll be able to resurrect the babe in her glory somewhere along the track.”

Jagger, meanwhile, was a little more guarded in his response. “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,” he said.

The Stones’ current tour is their first since the death of longtime drummer Charlie Watts, who performed with the band from 1963 until his passing back in August. His replacement on the road has been Steve Jordan, a longtime associate of the Stones who has recorded and performed as part of Richards’ X-Pensive Winos side project.

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