Showing posts with label Salt of the Earth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Salt of the Earth. Show all posts

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Rolling Stones: Salt of the Earth

SONG Salt of the Earth

SONGWRITERS Mick Jagger, Keith Richard


APPEARS ON Beggar's Banquet (1968)

The Rolling Stones classic "Salt Of The Earth" wraps up our fanfare for the common man. The song almost certainly reflects the upbringing of Keith Richard, born into a working family with socialist grandparents. "Salt" begins as an upliftinh tribute to the working class ("Let's drink to the hard working people") and risks a patronizing tone.

However, at the top of their game as songwriters, Mick Jagger and Keith Richard were nothing if not risk takers. "Salt Of The Earth" builds in anger over the choices faced by the "uncounted heads" ("cancer or polio") while it castigates their leaders as "gamblers" and "grafters."At this level, the song is a salute to the "humble of birth" who persevere in spite of it all. Its country blues slide guitar serves as a critical grounding link between the subjects of the song and its anthemic melody.

At the same time, Richard worries that his success has isolated him from his treasured roots: The "wavering millions" have become a "faceless crowd" that "look so strange." At the same time, he admits that "we all look too strange" to the "swirling mass of gray and blue and white." The video below becomes a poignant testament to this concern, as the Stones pull hats low on their brow and attempt camouflage themselves among their fans. But this is impossible by this time in their career: The Stones are stars; the salt of the earth are not. What the Stones can do is elevate their audience and show them respect by recognizing the distancing of success. They pull this off brilliantly with "Salt Of The Earth," one of their best songs.

LYRICS
Let's drink to the hard working people
Let's drink to the lowly of birth
Raise your glass to the good and the evil
Let's drink to the salt of the earth

Say a prayer for the common foot soldier
Spare a thought for his back breaking work
Spare a thought for his wife and his children
Who burn the fires and who still till the earth

And when I look into this faceless crowd
A swirling mass of gray, blue,
Black and white
They don't look real to me
In fact, they look so strange

Raise your glass to the hard working people
Let's drink to the uncounted heads
Let's think of the wavering millions
Who need leading but get gamblers instead

Spare a thought for the stay-at-home voter
His empty eyes gaze at strange beauty shows
And a parade of the gray suited grafters
A choice of cancer or polio

And when I look into this faceless crowd
A swirling mass of grays and
Black and white
Do we all look real to you
Or do we all look too strange?

Let's drink to the hard working people
Let's think of the lowly of birth
Spare a thought for the rag taggy people
Let's drink to the salt of the earth

Let's drink to the hard working people
Let's drink to the salt of the earth
Let's drink to the two thousand million
Let's think of the humble of birth