For My Sunday Song #102, we explore “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones. Probably not the best day to be visiting a song about the Devil, but then again maybe it is the best day. The song is off their 1968 album ‘Beggar’s Banquet’ and went only to #55 on the Billboard Hot 100, but that doesn’t take away from the fact it is one of my favorite Stones’ song.
The song was very controversial for the time and gave the Stones an image of being bad boys as opposed to the clean cut image of that little known band called The Beatles. The band was accused of being satan worshippers and being into the occult. The problem is that no matter if they were or were not, people don’t like something different and always tend to look for the bad and always blamed rock & roll.
The song isn’t a celebration for the Devil and the song isn’t even asking you to sympathize with him…although the Devil is asking you to do that when you read the lyrics. The song is strictly a march through time and all the evil that has occurred throughout. The person talking in the song is assumed to be the Devil as he travels through time, but is it the devil that was there or just some evil person who the devil is taking the credit?
The song was inspired by the book from Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov and his novel The Master and Margarita. The book was given to Mick Jagger by his then girlfriend Marianne Faithfull. When Mick wrote the song, it was originally written as a folk song and quite different than the final version.