|This perpetuated the image of the Stones as
frightening bad boys, as opposed to the clean-cut Beatles. It was
great marketing for the band.
|The lyrics were inspired by The Master and
Margarita, a book by Mikhail Bulgakov. British singer Marianne
Faithfull was Mick Jagger's girlfriend at the time and she gave him
the book. Faithfull came from an upper-class background and exposed
Jagger to a lot of new ideas. In the book, the devil is a
sophisticated socialite, a "man of wealth and taste."
|Jagger claims this is about the dark side of
man, not a celebration of Satanism.
|A documentary by French filmmaker Jean-Luc
Godard called One Plus One captured the recording of this. A
lamp for the documentary started a fire in the studio. The tapes
were saved, but a lot of the Stones' equipment was destroyed.
|The original title was "The Devil Is My Name."
Says Jagger: "Songs can metamorphasize. And Sympathy for the Devil
is one of those songs that started off like one thing, I wrote it
one way and then we started the change the rhythm. And then it
became completely different. And then it got very exciting. It
started off as a Folk song and then became a Samba. A good song can
become anything. It's got lots of historical references and lots of
|Richards (2002): "Sympathy is quite an
uplifting song. It's just a matter of looking the Devil in the face.
He's there all the time. I've had very close contact with Lucifer -
I've met him several times. Evil - people tend to bury it and hope
it sorts itself out and doesn't rear its ugly head. Sympathy for the
Devil is just as appropriate now, with 9/11. There it is again, big
time. When that song was written, it was a time of turmoil. It was
the first sort of international chaos since World War II. And
confusion is not the ally of peace and love. You want to think the
world is perfect. Everybody gets sucked into that. And as America
has found out to its dismay, you can't hide. You might as well
accept the fact that evil is there and deal with it any way you can.
Sympathy for the Devil is a song that says, Don't forget him. If you
confront him, then he's out of a job." (thanks, bertrand - Paris,
France, for above 2)
|The Stones played this at the Altamont
Speedway concert in 1969 before a fan was fatally stabbed. The crowd
got more unruly as the song went on. The Stones were playing "Under
My Thumb" when the stabbing occurred, but they did not perform "Sympathy
For The Devil" for 7 years after the incident due to the public
|Some of the historical events mentioned in
this song are the crucifixion of Christ, the Russian Revolution,
World War II, and the Kennedy Assassinations. Robert Kennedy was
killed after this was written, but they changed the lyrics to get in
the timely reference.
|Other historical events alluded to in the song
include the 100 years war ("fought for ten decades") and the
Holocaust ("and the furnace stank"). (thanks, Phil - Rochester, NY)
|The "Ooh-Ooh" chorus was added when Richard's
girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg, did it during a take and the Stones
liked how it sounded. Pallenberg had broken up with Brian Jones
before taking up with Richards.
|Stones producer Jimmy Miller: "Anita (Pallenberg)
was the epitome of what was happening at the time. She was very
Chelsea. She'd arrive with the elite film crowd. During Sympathy for
the Devil when I started going whoo, whoo in the control room, so
did they I had the engineer set up a mike so they could go out in
the studio and whoo, whoo." (thanks, bertrand - Paris, France)
|On their 1989 Steel Wheels tour, The
Stones performed this with Jagger standing high above the stage next
to a fire. Mick wore a safety belt in case he fell.
|The Stones performed this on Rock and Roll
Circus, a British TV special The Stones taped in 1968 but never
aired. It was released on video in 1995. During the performance,
Jagger removes his shirt to reveal devil tattoos on his chest and
|Guns N' Roses covered this in 1995 for the
move Interview With The Vampire (This song appears at the end
of the movie, which stars Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and a young Kirsten
Dunst). Their version hit #9 in England. Jane's Addiction also did a
cover. (thanks, Brett - Edmonton, Canada)
|The beat is based on a Samba rhythm. Says
Richards: "Sympathy for the Devil started as sort of a folk song
with acoustics, and ended up as a kind of mad samba, with me playing
bass and overdubbing the guitar later. That's why I don't like to go
into the studio with all the songs worked out and planned beforehand."
|The opening lines of this song, "Please allow
me to introduce myself I'm a man of wealth and taste" were quoted by
The Devil character (played by actor Rick Collins) in the film
The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie. (thanks,
Jeff - Haltom City, TX)
|In 2003, The Stones released this as a "maxi-single,"
with 4 versions of the song. The original was on there, as well as
remixes by The Neptunes, Fatboy Slim, and Full Phatt.
|The industrial band Laibach released an entire
album containing different covers of this. The character and tone of
the Laibach covers are largely very different from the Stones
original. In the opening track the lead singer sings/shouts in a
very deep bass voice with a thick Slavic accent. One of their covers
contains references to the violence at the Altamont raceway.
|Some other worthy covers: Sandra Bernhard,
Blood, Sweat & Tears, Bryan Ferry, Guns N' Roses, Jane's Addiction,
The London Symphony Orchestra, Natalie Merchant, U2. (thanks, Neal -
|One verse of lyrics was recited by Intel Vice
President Steve McGeady during his testimony in Microsoft's
antitrust trial in November 1998. McGeady had written a memo about
Microsoft with the subject "Sympathy For The Devil," and when asked
whether he was calling Microsoft the devil, McGeady recited the
passage about using your well-learned politesse. (thanks, Keith -
|In his book Mystery Train, Greil Marcus
states that this was influenced by Robert Johnson's song "Me and the
Devil Blues." Keith Richards describes Johnson's influence as "Like
a comet or a meteor" in the liner notes to Robert Johnson - The
Complete Recordings. (thanks, elijah - Cincinnati, OH)
|The "Troubadours who got killed before they
reached Bombay" refers to the hippies who traveled the "Hippie Trail"
by road. Many on them were killed and ripped off by drug peddlers in
Afghanistan and Pakistan. Those shady deals were probably the "traps."
(thanks, Jose - Minneapolis, MN)
|Jagger (1995): "It has a very hypnotic groove,
a samba, which has a tremendous hypnotic power, rather like good
dance music. It doesn't speed up or down. It keeps this constant
groove. Plus, the actual samba rhythm is a great one to sing on, but
it's also got some other suggestions in it, an undercurrent of being
primitive - because it is a primitive African, South American,
Afro-whatever-you-call-that rhythm. So to white people, it has a
very sinister thing about it. But forgetting the cultural colors, it
is a very good vehicle for producing a powerful piece. It becomes
less pretentious because it's a very unpretentious groove. If it had
been done as a ballad, it wouldn't have been as good."
|Jagger (1995): "I knew it was a good song. You
just have this feeling. It had its poetic beginning, and then it had
historic references and then philosophical jottings and so on. It's
all very well to write that in verse, but to make it into a pop song
is something different. Especially in England - you're skewered on
the altar of pop culture if you become pretentious." (thanks,
bertrand - Paris, France, for above 2)