“Drugs… That’s a double-entendre, just thrown in,” he said to Rolling Stone. “Brown sugar being heroin and… the whole mess [is] thrown in. God knows what I’m on about on that song. It’s such a mishmash. All the nasty subjects in one go.”
Speculation swirled for years as to which of Jagger’s conquests inspired Brown Sugar. Marsha Hunt, Jagger’s lover and the mother of his eldest daughter, Karis, long claimed the track was informed by their nine-month affair. The fling had started after Jagger saw her in the London production of hippy musical Hair.
Hunt, writing in her memoir, recalled Jagger arriving unannounced at her Bloomsbury apartment not long after. “Framed by the doorway as he stood grinning with a dark coat… He drew one hand out of his pocket and pointed it at me like a pistol… Bang.”
She also wrote that the baby they had together was planned. However, Jagger denied paternity, forcing Hunt to pursue him through the courts. He would not acknowledge he was Karis’s father until 1979.
In the meantime, another of Jagger’s paramours had come forward to claim they were the original Brown Sugar. Stones backing singer Claudia Lennear insisted she was the object of Jagger’s desires on the track (she apparently inspired David Bowie’s Lady Grinning Soul, too).
“Around the time Brown Sugar became a hit for The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger and I were always seen together in restaurants and nightclubs in Los Angeles,” she told the Express. “That’s why people thought the song was about me, and Mick later confirmed that it was…The Stones had a bad-boy image but they were perfect gentlemen.”
And yet neither Hunt nor Lennear were especially prominent in Jagger’s thoughts when he composed Brown Sugar. He’d put together its bare-bones filming the movie Ned Kelly with director Tony Richardson in New South Wales in 1969.