Sympathy for the Devil

Small towns in Italy are never quite open to the waves of pop culture. When the British invasion brought forth The Beatles and The Rolling Stones small towns in Italy were still listening to folk music sung with a bottle of wine and a slice of pizza. Of course the mainstream pop music was known even in these small towns but never really made an impact. A few songs though slipped through and became well known, so much so that karaoke places later on would play such selections and still do to this day. One of the first songs I remember from the Rolling Stones was “Sympathy for the Devil” and it’s almost hypnotic samba rhythm stayed in my town ever since the song came out.  The song was written in 1968 by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and is a narration from the point of view of Lucifer of all his exploits over humanity in the course of history. Some of the lyrics include:

“And I was ’round when Jesus Christ had his moment of doubt and pain.”

“I rode a tank, held a general’s rank when the blitzkrieg raged, and the bodies stank”

“I stuck around St. Petersburg when I saw it was a time for a change, Killed the Tsar and his ministers, Anastasia screamed in vain”

“Made damn sure that Pilate washed his hands and sealed his fate”

Because of this song the band received a lot of criticism of being Devil worshipers and a bad influence on youths. The band in later years expressed their amusement of the ridiculous accusations. Never the less the song was often used in student riots and demonstrations all across the US and Europe. It may be in fact that this song stuck around even in small Italian towns as a rebellion against the strict religious upbringing that they had in those days. My city, Turin, is also known as a city of dark magic; along with London and San Francisco they make up the triangle of dark magic. It is said to that the entrance to hell is underneath one of our most beautiful piazzas. It may be that this song found a home and a following in my city for this reason. The song went on to become the title of one of Jean-Luc Godard’s films in which he shoots the band recording a song and it happened to be “Sympathy for the Devil” which gave the film its title. One of the most notable covers of the song was made by Guns n’ Roses behind the back of guitarist Slash, after which he was so upset and left the band. The song caused the breaking up of another of the greatest bands in history; as the song says you really do need to have some courtesy and some taste or this song will lay your soul do waste.–50

Cecilia Fassina