Rolling Stones songs: Sweet Black Angel
*Click for MORE ROLLING STONES SONGS 1962-PRESENT
Well, she ain’t no singer/ And she ain’t no star/ But she sure talk good/ And she moves so fast…
Written by: Jagger/Richard
Also known as: BLACK ANGEL; BENT GREEN NEEDLES
Recorded: Rolling Stones Mobile, Stargroves and Olympic Studios, London, England, March-May 1970; Rolling Stones Mobile, Nellcote, France, July-Oct./Nov. 1971; Sunset Sound Studios, Los Angeles, USA, Dec. 1971-March 1972; RCA Studios, Los Angeles, USA, March 1972
Guest musicians: Amyl Nitrate (Richard ‘Didymus’ Washington, marimbas), Jimmy Miller (percussion)
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
This is about Angela Davis, a black radical who was arrested, but eventually acquitted, of aiding a courtroom escape in 1970 in which four people died. She was the vice-presidential candidate on the US Communist party ticket in 1980.
The lyrics are a parody of black stereotypes. Mick Jagger sang like Buckwheat from The Little Rascals to make his statement of support for Angela Davis. Potentially inflammatory lyrics like “Ten little nigga,” did not cause much controversy because it was so clearly a parody.
The working title was “Bent Green Needles.”
This was recorded at Stargroves, The Stones’ mobile recording studio, during the Sticky Fingers sessions.
Richard Didymus Washington played marimbas on this track. Showing up as “Amyl Nitrate” on the credits, Washington was a percussionist working with Dr. John.
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
The “sweet black angel” of this Glimmer Twins song is Angela Davis. An
African American activist and member of the Black Panthers and the
Communist Party USA, after being fired from her post as a philosophy
professor at UCLA, Davis became a staunch defender of three black
prisoners (George Jackson, Fleeta Drumgoole, and John Clutchette) accused
of killing a prison guard at Soledad, California. On August 7, 1970, during
the trial of the Soledad Brothers in the courthouse at Marin County,
California, an attempted hostage taking resulted in the deaths of four
people. The weapon used to kill Judge Harold Haley had been purchased
four days earlier by Angela Davis. Sought by the FBI, the young woman
fled but was arrested on October 13, 1970, and was imprisoned pending
trial, which began on January 5, 1971. Angela Davis pleaded not guilty,
immediately triggering a wave of sympathy that manifested itself in the
establishment of committees of support both in the United States and
throughout the world. She was finally acquitted and released in 1972.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote “Sweet Black Angel” before
Angela Davis was released, which explains why the lyrics come across as
an ardent plea in her defense. Jagger aligns himself with the black US
militant, who ain’t no singer and ain’t no star, but a gal in danger, a gal in
chains, before launching the heartfelt appeal: Free the sweet black slave.
“Sweet Black Angel” was chosen as the B-side of the single “Tumbling
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