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Rolling Stones songs: Indian Girl
*Click for MORE ROLLING STONES SONGS 1962-PRESENT
Lesson number one that you learn while you’re young/ Life just goes on and on getting harder and harder…
Written by: Jagger/Richards
Recorded: EMI Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris, France, June 10-Oct. 19 1979; Electric Lady Studios, NYC, USA, Nov-Dec. 1979
Guest musicians: Nicky Hopkins (xylophone)
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
Mick Jagger sets a vague sort of political message to a musical hybrid consisting of a Keith Richards country-rock acoustic guitar part reminiscent of the Eagles’ “Best of My Love,” a marimba part played by heartthrob Rastafarian Max Romeo, Latin percussion, country-flavored piano by Jagger, pedal steel guitar from Ron Wood, and Mexican mariachi horns, with an arrangement by Jack Nitzsche — who had not worked with the Rolling Stones for seven or eight years — and somehow the Stones pull it off to make it one of the strongest ballads on a hot-and-cold record.
With just a cursory listen to the lyrics, one could be forgiven for thinking that the song was a country & western love ballad to a Native American woman, what with the Tex-Mex flavor of the tune. But closer inspection reveals a picture of young girls caught in the civil strife of Latin American countries, the parents of whom fight for Castro and Che Guevara and the communists.
By name, Jagger mentions Masaya (Nicaragua); Nueva, Granada; and as far away a locale as Angola. Jagger, despite his affected accent, seems heartfelt in his concern for a child: “All the children were dead/Except for one girl who said/’Please Mr. Gringo, please find my father.'” With Jagger recently divorced from his wife Bianca, a politically involved native of Nicaragua, there is a distinct chance that Mick might have been involved in just such an incident. Certainly, he could have also understood secondhand the level of destruction and the toll that such civil wars were taking on the people of these Central and South American countries.
But Jagger chooses a compassionate point of view over a sided and political one. “Indian Girl,” with its weary refrains “Life just goes on and on, getting harder and harder” and “Little Indian girl, where’s your papa?,” is a moment of gravity on a record mostly known for its levity, its “just shut up and dance” message. In a way, the song is a worthy companion to some of the Clash’s songs regarding such subject matter; for a similar tone, compare it to the latter band’s “Straight to Hell.”
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
With a few rare exceptions (notably on Beggars Banquet), the Rolling Stones seem to have felt that the political events that shook the world during the second half of the twentieth century were no more than indirectly their concern. In “Indian Girl,” however, the Glimmer Twins turn the spotlight on the bloody civil wars that had been raging in Central America since the 1960s, in particular in Nicaragua, Bianca Jagger’s home country. Like thousands of others, the young Indian girl in the song finds herself alone, her mother having been raped by soldiers and her father fighting in the streets of Masaya, both parents risking their lives for the revolution set in motion years before by Fidel Castro.
Categories: Can You Hear the Music?