Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, who wrote "Brown Sugar" in...

Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, who wrote "Brown Sugar" in 1969, says the band is giving their No. 1 hit a break during the rockers' "No Filter" North American tour. Keith Richards, background right, is credited as a co-composer for the song.  Credit: AFP via Getty Images / Kamil Krzaczynski

As the Rolling Stones' No Filter tour, its first without recently deceased drummer Charlie Watts, continues through U.S. arenas, the set list has not included the band's 1971 No 1. hit "Brown Sugar," the lyrics of which include lascivious allusions to interracial sex and a description of an American slave-owner whipping an enslaved woman.

"You picked up on that, huh?" guitarist Keith Richards, 77, responded to the Los Angeles Times when interviewer Mikael Wood noted the song's absence. Richards is credited as co-composer, though frontman Mick Jagger wrote the song in 1969 in Australia while shooting the film "Ned Kelly."

"I don't know. I’m trying to figure out with the sisters quite where the beef is," Richards continued. "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 … . But I'm hoping that we'll be able to resurrect the babe in her glory somewhere along the track."

Rock critics have interpreted the song's lyrics variously as historical narrative, commentary on sexual and racial power dynamics, and allegory for white appropriation of Black people's music, among other analyses. In a 1995 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Jagger agreed with interviewer-publisher Jann Wenner that the song concerned slavery and interracial sex, adding, "And drugs. That's a double-entendre, just thrown in. … Brown sugar being heroin … . God knows what I'm on about on that song. It's such a mishmash. All the nasty subjects in one go."

Jagger additionally stated, "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.' "

In the new interview with the Times, Jagger said "Brown Sugar" could return to the set list. "We've played 'Brown Sugar' every night since 1970, [sic] so sometimes you think, We'll take that one out for now and see how it goes. We might put it back in."

The legendary band, inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1986, released "Brown Sugar" as the lead track in its 1971 album "Sticky Fingers." The song was one of the Stones' eight no. 1 singles and 23 Top 10 hits on the Billboard chart.

PAUL McCARTNEY ON ROLLING STONES. In a wide-ranging interview in the current issue of The New Yorker, fellow Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Paul McCartney, 79, weighs in with his most recent take on the age-old debate The Beatles versus the Rolling Stones.

In the context of The Beatles' evolving 1960s music, which helped expand rock's repertoire with what music critics have called sublime influences by sources from madrigals to neoclassical, McCartney said of his band's friendly rivals, "I'm not sure I should say it, but they're a blues cover band, that's sort of what the Stones are." He added, "I think our net was cast a bit wider than theirs."

Virtually all the earliest rock bands began as either blues-based or country-Western-based, and both The Beatles and the Rolling Stones early in their careers frequently covered other artists' songs. None of the Stones has commented publicly on McCartney's statement, nor has the former Beatle followed up on social media.

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