The Rolling Stones

Sweet Black Angel

Composed by Keith Richards / Mick Jagger

Song Review by

The Stones have never been a political band and Mick Jagger never a political songwriter. The freedom to shake your ass and screw who, when, and where you want is about the only cause Mick has ever fought for. Even on the band's great "Street Fighting Man," a song that addresses the anti-war rioting of the late '60s, Mick sums the Stones ethos up by singing "what can a poor boy do, but sing for a rock n' roll band." But with "Sweet Black Angel" Mick takes the rare political stand, defending a civil rights activist and University of California professor named Angela Davis who was all over the news in the early '70s. Davis was denied tenure at the university based on her political beliefs and was later charged with complicity in a botched bank robbery where four people were murdered, going on the lam before eventually being caught and brought to trial in a flurry of media attention. Having never heard of Angela Davis, a listener could easily overlook the political lyrics and get lost in the circular acoustic plucking or the washboard rhythm that propels the song so well. Yet, by knowing the case history one realizes how deft and clever Mick's lyrics could be, even if he hides behind his best backwoods diction and garbled annunciation obscure the point.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Exile on Main St. 1972 Universal
LP Sleeve Box Set 2005 Toshiba EMI
The Singles: 1971-2006 2011 Universal Music 2:55
blue highlight denotes editor's pick