The meaning of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ explained by Mick Jagger

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Before Heavy Metal’s devilish anthems took center stage, The Rolling Stones pioneered a groundbreaking track that defied expectations. Released in 1968 on the album “Beggars Banquet,” “Sympathy For The Devil” stands as a testament to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards‘ songwriting prowess, becoming one of the band’s enduring hits.

Contrary to the speculations of the time linking the song to black magic, Mick Jagger provided a different narrative. In a 1995 interview with Rolling Stone, he clarified that the inspiration behind the track stemmed from French literature and Bob Dylan, distancing it from the realm of black magic embraced by later bands like Megadeth.

Jagger explained, “It wasn’t put into words. I think that was taken from an old idea of Baudelaire’s, I think, but I could be wrong. Sometimes when I look at my Baudelaire books, I can’t see it in there. But it was an idea I got from French writing.”

Despite Keith Richards being credited, Jagger asserted that he wrote the entire song alone. Richards’ key contribution lay in suggesting a change in rhythm, infusing the track with what Jagger described as “a very hypnotic groove,” elevating its sonic impact.

Jagger acknowledged the band’s conscious effort to step back from the satanic imagery that had been associated with them. The song marked a departure from the path of devilish themes that had permeated their previous releases.

In the interview, Jagger commented, “The satanic-imagery stuff was very overplayed (By the press). We didn’t want to really go down that road. And I felt that song was enough. You didn’t want to make a career out of it.”

Drawing inspiration from diverse sources, Mick Jagger’s time in Brazil left an indelible mark on the rhythm of “Sympathy For The Devil.” In 1968, he immersed himself in Brazilian music festivals and Candomblé sessions, an Afro-Brazilian religion. Recalling the experience, Mick Jagger stated, “We played hand drums with candomblé worshippers.” The Brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo highlighted the connection, revealing that the song’s rhythm was inspired by the pulsating beats of Brazil’s Samba.

In 1975, Jagger revisited the influence, acknowledging the strong and steady Samba rhythm. He emphasized, “Yeah, it’s samba, not in a formal way. But for me, it is. I don’t care if it doesn’t sound like a ‘real’ samba.”

“Sympathy For The Devil” remains a multifaceted masterpiece, blending cultural influences and defying conventional genre boundaries, a true testament to The Rolling Stones’ innovative spirit.

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