Sympathy for the Devil

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Arik Kayam
Professor Golove
MUS 265
Analysis Paper

“Sympathy For The Devil”: The Rolling Stones

The first thing that I noticed when I heard this song is how different it is from almost every other song that I have heard. The instruments used seem odd for The Rolling Stones, and rock songs in general. It starts off with a combination of drums and maracas, sounding like Brazilian samba music. Usually rock music has a 4/4 backbeat with a bass drum, but this song does not contain that attribute. There is no rhythm guitar but instead an electric bass and piano is used. The bass guitar is used to replace the rhythm guitar, lead guitarist Keith Richards also plays it, and so this may explain this.

I’m going to start off by discussing the lyrics of the song and what they are about. I noticed that one of the lines “every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints” seems to suggest that the devil isn’t that bad, and that all people have some devil in them. There seems to be confusion of good and evil. The devil is portrayed as “a man of wealth and taste” and polite as well by greeting using “let me please introduce myself.” Another line, “hope you guess my name, but what’s puzzling is the nature of my game” intrigued me. This line is not the songwriter saying that I hope you guess that its me playing the devil, it means that the devil is saying I hope you can recognize me because I may be in disguise and I don’t do evil myself, I trick people into doing it for me.

The difference between good and evil is a continuing theme throughout the song. Jesus Christ in mentioned and the devil says that he “stolen many a mans soul and faith.” The songwriter is not arguing Christian doctrine, he is using the devil as a symbol of how it works in the world and that we need to have our guards up because evil will be disguised and may not appear as obvious to us. This was analyzed from the lines “I watched with glee, while your kings and queens fought for...
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