Meaning of Beast of Burden by The Rolling Stones

Fans of The Rolling Stones broke a lot of spears, debating the meaning of the song “Beast of Burden”. Who or what is it dedicated to? Mysterious woman? All the beautiful half of humanity? The relationship between the founding members of the legendary band? Drugs?

Fortunately for all those who like to get to the bottom of the matter, the musicians later revealed what this beautiful rock ballad was about. Only here the explanations of the authors seem somewhat contradictory. Keith Richards even said that people try to decipher what cannot be deciphered.

Beast of Burden song story

The first version of the composition was proposed by Keith Richards, but during the studio work on the track, the lyrics of the song were significantly altered and supplemented. While colleagues played, Mick Jagger (Mick Jagger) improvised, choosing phrases that fit well with the music.

The annotation for the Jump Back collection published Keith Richards’ memoirs about the history of Beast of Burden:

[Эта песня] another one of those in which Mick just added verses. With The Stones, you take a long song, play it and see if anyone likes it. Sometimes it is ignored, sometimes it is grabbed and recorded. After the faster tracks on Some Girls, everyone settled down and enjoyed the slow one.


Here are some other quotes from Keith:

It was another example of our full cooperation with Mick. I think I had my first verse – I’ll never be your beast of burden – along with the break. We worked in our usual style: here’s an idea, here’s a song – go ahead, add something!

Harper’s Bazaar

For me, it was just a soulful song that came out of my experience. It has some blues in it. I just tossed the Beast of Burden line to Mick and played him the music, and then he took it on himself and did a great job.


Ronnie Wood’s account of the creation of Beast of Burden is consistent with his colleagues:

It’s another one of those songs that came naturally in the studio. I contributed, and Keith added a lot of his own. It might seem like it was planned that way.

Meaning of Beast of Burden

At first, many fans of The Rolling Stones were sure that the composition was dedicated to a certain woman, whose name the authors kept secret. Later, the musicians debunked this myth.

Here’s what Keith Richards had to say about the main idea behind Beast of Burden:

Those who say that it is about a certain woman have misunderstood everything. We tried to write for a slightly wider audience than just Anita Pallenberg or Marianne Faithfull. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have an impact at all, though. I mean close, close! I always thought it was one of my best soul songs…

Some of the theories that have developed around her are indeed intriguing, but they are extremely far from reality. It seems to me extremely interesting that there are people in the world who spend a lot of personal time trying to decipher something that, by and large, cannot be deciphered at all. I mean, even I forgot the code!

Harper’s Bazaar

The aforementioned Jump Back liner notes reminisce Mick Jagger about what Beast of Burden is about:

As for the words, she was not particularly felt in her own experience. This is a song that appeals to the soul, a song about relationships. It’s the kind where you take a melodic piece, break it apart and put it back together. There are two parts here that are essentially the same.

Years later, Keith Richards also tried to explain the meaning of Beast of Burden:

When after the closing of the laboratory [намёк на проблемы с наркотиками в 1970-х] I returned to my father’s house, I again came to the studio to Mick to say: “Dude, thanks for taking on this burden.” Looking back, I realized that I wrote Beast of Burden for him.


We are talking about the fact that Mick was engaged in the affairs of the group, while Keith stuffed himself with drugs. Richards was later asked if the song was about his relationship with Jagger. The singer replied:

In fact, for that matter, I was trying to apologize to Mick for putting the burden of running the band on him. For us it was a stage when we became more and more famous. The whole music business was booming, and I was basically trying to tell Mick, “You don’t have to carry this on yourself… No.” But he didn’t listen. He rarely listens at all. For this I love him.

Mick wrote most of it, but I gave him the main idea. At the time, Mick was getting used to leading the band. Charlie was just the drummer and I was just another guitarist. I tried to say: “Here, I’m back, let’s split the powers a little. Brother, share the burden.

Mojo, 2012

Speaking about the meaning of the song, Mick Jagger claimed that he did not mean to offend women:

The song says, “I don’t need a pack animal, and I won’t be your pack animal either.” Any woman can understand that it’s like I’m saying, “I don’t want a woman kneeling down for me.” I mean, I’m often accused of being anti-girls, right? But people don’t really listen. They don’t understand everything. They hear the phrase “pack animal” and are indignant.


Mick also insisted that Keith’s drug problems were not implied in the song’s lyrics.

Release and achievements

In September 1978, the song was released as the second single from the Some Girls album. The track peaked at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100.

A live version of Beast of Burden was recorded during the 1981 American Tour. It was released on the back of the Going to a Go-Go single. On tour as part of the Lick Tour 2002 – 2003, they recorded another live version of Beast of Burden. She entered Live Licks.

The track appears on several official The Rolling Stones compilations.

The composition is included in the list of the five hundred greatest songs of all time, compiled by Rolling Stone magazine.

Music video of Beast of Burden The Rolling Stones

The band did not film a music video for this song. Below is the official concert video.

Cover versions

In 1984, Bette Midler performed Beast of Burden for the No Frills album. Her version stopped at 71st place in the Hot 100. Let’s watch a video clip.

Interesting Facts

In 2003, the PRC Ministry of Culture banned The Rolling Stones from performing Beast of Burden at a concert in China. The event was canceled due to the SARS epidemic.

Beast of Burden – The Rolling Stones Lyrics

I’ll never be your beast of burden
My back is broad but it’s a hurting
All I want for you to make love to me
I’ll never be your beast of burden
I’ve walked for miles my feet are hurting
All I want for you to make love to me

Am I hard enough?
Am I rough enough?
Am I rich enough?
I’m not too blind to see

I’ll never be your beast of burden
So let’s go home and draw the curtains
Music on the radio
Come on baby make sweet love to me

Am I hard enough?
Am I rough enough?
Am I rich enough?
I’m not too blind to see

Oh little sister
Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty girls
Uh you’re a pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty girl
Pretty, pretty, such a pretty, pretty, pretty girl
Come on baby please, please, please

I’ll tell ya
You can put me out
On the street
put me out
With no shoes on my feet
But, put me out, put me out
Put me out of misery, yeah

All your sickness I can suck it up
Throw it all at me
I can shrug it off
There’s one thing baby
I don’t understand
You keep on telling me
I ain’t your kind of man

Ain’t I rough enough, ooh baby
Ain’t I tough enough
Ain’t I rich enough, in love enough
Oh, oh please

I’ll never be your beast of burden
I’ll never be your beast of burden
Never, never, never, never, never, never, never be

I’ll never be your beast of burden
I’ve walked for miles, my feet are hurting
All I want is you to make love to me

I don’t need the beast of burden
I need no fussing
I need no nursing
Never, never, never, never, never, never, never be

Lyrics: Keith Richards, Mick Jagger
Publisher: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

  • Perhaps this is a hint that Miku had to lead the group when Keith was having drug problems.


Song Quotes

It’s more of a Keith song. I wrote the words.

Mig Jagger, 1995

Beast of Burden is a sensual ballad about unrequited love that sounds like only The Stones can play.

Bill Janovitz, Allmusic

I really like her, but I didn’t expect anyone to really fall in love with her.

Mick Jagger, 1978

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