Who doesn’t know the Rolling Stones master piece “Sympathy for the Devil”?
For anyone of you who don’t know the song, go to YouTube, Spotify or any other music streaming platform and listen to it. I don’t mean that awful Guns N Roses version but the original by the Rolling Stones.
The song is basically a brief summary of 2000 years of history compressed in to a few minutes.
The lyrics focus on atrocities in mankind’s history from Satan’s point of view including the trial and death of Jesus Christ :”Made damn sure that Pilate washed his hands to seal his fate”
European religious wars: “I watched with glee while your kings and queens fought for ten decades for the gods they made”.
The violence of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the 1918 execution of the Romanov family during World War I :”I stuck around St. Petersburg when I saw it was a time for a change/Killed the Tsar and his ministers/Anastasia screamed in vain”.
World War II:”I rode a tank, held a general’s rank when the blitzkrieg raged, and the bodies stank”.
It also mentions several other historical events which happened up to the time the song was released. Originally the song was going to be released including the lyrics: “I shouted out ‘Who killed Kennedy?'”. However they had to change the lyrics after Robert Kennedy was also assassinated on June 6,1968. They changed the lyrics to “Who killed the Kennedys?”
The recording of “Sympathy for the Devil” began at London’s Olympic Sound Studios on 4 June 1968 and continued into the next day; overdubs were done on 8, 9 and 10 June.
The assassination of Robert Kennedy did not make much of a difference lyrics wise but it clearly would have had an impact if they would have left the song as it was.
How many artists are able to say that they wrote a song about historical events as they were happening?
Ending up with that master piece.