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Beast of Burden (song)

"Beast of Burden"
Single by The Rolling Stones
from the album Some Girls
B-side "When the Whip Comes Down"
Released September 9, 1978 (US)
Format 7"
Recorded 10 October – 21 December 1977; Pathé Marconi Studios,[1] Paris
Genre Blues rockSoul
Length 4:24 (album version)
5:15 (8-track version)
3:27 (single version)
Label Rolling Stones
Writer(s) Jagger/Richards
Producer(s) The Glimmer Twins
The Rolling Stones singles chronology
"Miss You"
"Beast of Burden"
Some Girls track listing

"Beast of Burden" is a song by English rock band The Rolling Stones, featured on the 1978 album Some Girls. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song #435 on their list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" and #433 on the 500 Greatest Rock and Roll Songs of All Time.


  • Inspiration and recording 1
  • Release and aftermath 2
  • Use in popular culture 3
  • Charts 4
  • Bette Midler version 5
    • Track listings 5.1
    • Charts 5.2
  • Other cover versions 6
  • Notes 7

Inspiration and recording

A "beast of burden" is an animal, usually domesticated, that labors for the benefit of man, such as an ox or horse. The music and some lyrics were primarily written by Keith Richards. In the liner notes to the 1993 compilation disc Jump Back, Richards said Beast of Burden "was another one where Mick (Jagger) just filled in the verses. With the Stones, you take a long song, play it and see if there are any takers. Sometimes they ignore it, sometimes they grab it and record it. After all the faster numbers of Some Girls, everybody settled down and enjoyed the slow one."

In those same notes, Jagger says, "Lyrically, this wasn't particularly heartfelt in a personal way. It's a soul begging song, an attitude song. It was one of those where you get one melodic lick, break it down and work it up; there are two parts here which are basically the same." The song can be seen as allegorical, with Richards saying in 2003, "When I returned to the fold after closing down the laboratory [referring to his drug problems throughout the 1970s], I came back into the studio with Mick... to say, 'Thanks, man, for shouldering the burden' - that's why I wrote "Beast of Burden" for him, I realise in retrospect."

"Beast of Burden" was recorded from October–December 1977. Although basic lyrics were written before the Stones entered the studio, many of the lyrics on the recording were improvised by Jagger to fit with the smooth running guitars of Richards and Ronnie Wood. Characteristically, Richards and Wood trade off rolling, fluid licks. Neither is really playing lead or rhythm guitar, they both slip in and out, one playing high while the other is low. The song is another famed Some Girls song that features each band member playing his respective instrument without any outside performers; both Richards and Wood play acoustic and electric guitars, with Wood performing the solo.[2]

Release and aftermath

The song was released as the second single off the album. It charted at #8 in the US. A live version was recorded during their 1981 American Tour and was released as a B-side to "Going to a Go-Go", as well as being reissued on Rarities 1971-2003 in 2005. Another live version was recorded during their 2002-2003 Licks Tour which was released on Live Licks. The single edit of "Beast of Burden" was included on the compilation albums Sucking in the Seventies, Rewind (1971–1984), Jump Back, Forty Licks and GRRR!. A 5:20 version of the song with extra lyrics circulates among collectors.[3] It was taken from the eight-track mix of Some Girls, which features significant differences from all other versions of the album.

Use in popular culture

The song was used in the 1983 film, Christine, playing on Buddy Repperton's (William Ostrander) radio. It is also included in the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack.

It is in the first episode of the A&E series Bates Motel.

The song was used in the 2015 Entourage movie.


Chart (1978) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 8
US Cash Box 7

Bette Midler version

"Beast of Burden"
Single by Bette Midler
from the album No Frills
B-side "Come Back, Jimmy Dean"
Released February 10, 1984
Format 7" vinyl
Recorded 1983
Genre Hard rock, New wave
Length 3:48
Label Atlantic
Writer(s) Jagger/Richards
Producer(s) Chuck Plotkin, Brock Walsh, Danny Goldberg
Bette Midler singles chronology
"My Favourite Waste of Time"
"Beast of Burden"
"Under the Boardwalk"

In 1984, the song was covered by Bette Midler whose video for the song featured Jagger as the guest star. Midler's version, which reached #71 on Billboard's Hot 100, modified several lines of lyric (for example, changing "Pretty, pretty, girls" to "my little sister is a pretty, pretty girl"). The track appeared on Midler's No Frills album. Two versions were recorded: one was 3:48 and one was 3:28 in length, recorded at a slightly different speed.

Track listings

7" Single

  1. Beast Of Burden 3:48
  2. Come Back, Jimmy Dean 3:51


Chart (1984) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 71
German Singles Chart 15
Dutch Top 40 Singles Chart 10
Belgian Singles Chart 15[4]
Swedish Singles Chart 2
Norwegian Singles Chart 2
New Zealand Singles Chart 4

Other cover versions

English band The Kooks have performed a cover of "Beast of Burden" combined with The Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane".

Buckwheat Zydeco have performed a cajun-influenced version in concert. It has become one of the most downloaded cajun songs in Napster and iTunes history.

Téa Leoni's character, "Kate Reynolds", performed the song in the movie The Family Man.

Lee DeWyze covered this song on the ninth season of American Idol.

Maria Mittet had used the chord progression of the song for her song "Should've" in 2005.

Lifehouse covered "Beast of Burden" in 2007, for the Stripped Music Sessions. The band said that they wanted to "pay homage to the godfathers of rock".[5] After the Stripped Sessions were released online, the band added that song to their concert set list.

The song was also covered by Big Head Todd and the Monsters on their 2010 album Rocksteady.

The song was also covered by American band The Nadas on their 2013 album Lovejoy Revival.

In the summer of 2013, on the festival of Pukkelpop in Kievit, Belgium. Eels surprised on Friday (16 August) on the main stage with a cover of the song.

Pearl Jam played a short version of the song with slightly modified lyrics at the Jul 14, 1993 show at Brixton Academy in London, UK.


  1. ^ Recording of Some Girls at Pathé Marconi studios
  2. ^ Janovitz, Bill. The Rolling Stones "Beast of Burden". allmusic. 2007 (accessed 19 May 2007).
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ STRIPPED – Raw and Real
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