The Rolling Stones don’t often take on reality. The songs ‘Street Fighting Man’, ‘Hang Fire’, and ‘Undercover of the Night’ are rare political turns from the band, but those tracks cover events rather than specific people. The group have caricatured themselves on occasion, most notably on ‘Jigsaw Puzzle’ and ‘Torn and Frayed’. However, when it comes to their lyrical inspirations, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards aren’t ones to kiss and tell very often.
That doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been a fair amount of speculation, though. ‘Brown Sugar’ is often associated with Jagger’s former flame Marsha Hunt, ‘Sweet Black Angel’ was confirmed to be directly inspired by Angela Davis, and ‘Angie’ has been tied to David Bowie’s former wife, Angela. Surely Marianne Faithful and Anita Pallenberg have inspired their fair share of Stones songs, among other partners, but the truth is that Jagger and Richards often made amalgams when writing the lyrics to some of their most famous songs.
As it turns out, ‘Beast of Burden’ might have been an exception. As Richards revealed in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar back in 2017, the band looked to expand their scope beyond their immediate partners. “We were trying to write for a slightly broader audience than just Anita Pallenberg or Marianne Faithfull,” Richards said. “Although that’s not to say they didn’t have some influence in there somewhere. I mean, what’s close by is close by!”
Ultimately, Richards laughed off attempts to pin it on a specific person. “Some of the theories surrounding it are very intriguing, but they’re about as divorced from reality as can be,” he said.
Adding: “I find it quite amusing that there are people in the world who spend a lot of their time trying to decode something that is, at the end of the day, completely undecodable. I mean, even I’ve forgotten the code!”