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100 Greatest Rolling Stones Songs

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"Sympathy for the Devil" (1968)


"Sympathy for the Devil" (1968)
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
3/100

No band ever summed up its mission on Earth as perfectly as the Stones did here. "Sympathy for the Devil" was a shot at their critics that also mirrored real-world evil. (Jagger had to change the lyric "who killed Kennedy" to "who killed the Kennedys" when news of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination reached the Beggars Banquet sessions in June 1968.) Originally written as a Dylan-esque folk song, it rolls forward like a storm front, driven by a menacing samba-funk groove from Watts and African percussionist Rocky Dijon and piano and bass (played by Richards), with a wicked guitar solo midway through. The unrepentant whoo-whoo backing vocals were sung by a crowd that included Watts, Jones (who would be dead in a year) and his ex-girlfriend Anita Pallenberg, who was keeping company with Richards. Jagger based his portrait of Satan as "a may-yun of way-elth and tay-ste" in part on Mikhail Bulgakov's satirical novel The Master and Margarita. But he made the role his own.


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