We’re No. 1: The Stones blended slavery, sex, and (maybe) heroin in “Brown Sugar”

In We’re No. 1, The A.V. Club examines a song that went to No. 1 on the Billboard charts to get to the heart of what it means to be popular in pop music, and how that has changed over the years. In this installment, we cover The Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar,” which spent two weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay chart starting on May 29, 1971.

“Brown Sugar” reached the top spot in the spring of 1971. It wasn’t the first No. 1 hit for the Rolling Stones and it wouldn’t be the band’s last, but it might have been the most critical. The song didn’t make the Rolling Stones stars or redeem what the band was doing in any kind of larger sense; what it did was revitalize its position as a counter-culture leader, spurring the Stones on …

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