Noted guitar god Carlos Santana often gets described as a spiritual individual, but that belies the fact that Santana is devoutly religious. At a time when he was going through a divorce from his wife of 34 years, Deborah, Santana only found solace by turning to God.
“I was able to remove the anger by forgiving that man….” Santana says, referring to the Man Upstairs. “Forgiveness, man, forgiveness is incredibly liberating. And I’m here to tell you, with all my heart and spirit, that it can be done. You can be freed.”
The Rolling Stones are not quite as pious. Salacious, sin-fueled rock and rollers with little time or regard for the reverence of religion, songs like ‘Stray Cat Blues’, ‘Dead Flowers’, and ‘Shattered’ celebrate the grittier, more risqué side of life that the band favoured. Sometimes the band even parodied Jesus freaks, like on Some Girls’ tongue in cheek country track ‘Far Away Eyes’.
But it was one specific track that got the band labelled Satan worshipers: Beggars Banquet leadoff song ‘Sympathy for the Devil’. It might seem quaint today considering hordes of fans scream out the words at shows all over the world, but ‘Sympathy’ was a genuinely provocative piece of art when it was released back in 1968. Pearls were surely clutched as Mick Jagger took on the role of Lucifer and demanded courtesy.
Santana wasn’t exactly a pearl-clutcher, having spent a fair amount of time in the drug-spun rock and roll world, but he gave a stern warning to The Stones anyway.
“I don’t have no sympathy for the devil,” Santana said in an interview with NME. “I like the beat of the song, but I never identify with the lyric. Jagger and Richards don’t really know the full extent of what they’re talking about. If they knew what they were getting into when they sing that song they would not be doing it. The devil is not Santa Claus. He’s for real.”
For a retort, here’s Keith Richards in 1971 while talking with Rolling Stone. “They’re saying, ‘They’re evil, they’re evil.’ Oh, I’m evil, really? So that makes you start thinking about evil […] What is evil? Half of it, I don’t know how many people think of Mick as the devil or as just a good rock performer or what? There are black magicians who think we are acting as unknown agents of Lucifer and others who think we are Lucifer. Everybody’s Lucifer.”
Whether you side with Santana or Richards, sometimes walking on the sin-filled side of the street isn’t all that bad. Here’s ‘Sympathy for the Devil’, just in case you want to indulge those inner demons.