Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, “Sweet Black Angel” is one of the few outright political songs written by the Rolling Stones. A country-blues ballad, it was written about civil rights activist Angela Davis, who was facing murder charges at the time. Steve Kurutz says in his review, “Having never heard of Angela Davis, a listener could easily overlook the political lyrics and get lost in the circular acoustic plucking or the washboard rhythm that propels the song so well. Yet, by knowing the case history one realizes how deft and clever Mick's lyrics could be, even if he hides behind his best backwoods diction and garbled annunciation [sic] obscure[s] the point. ”
Well de gal in danger, de gal in chains, but she keep on pushin', would you do the same? She countin' up de minutes, she countin' up de days. She's a sweet black angel, not a gun toting teacher, not a Red lovin' school marm; ain't someone gonna free her, free de sweet black slave, free de sweet black slave
Initial recording took place at Mick Jagger’s “Stargroves” home in England during the mid 1970 Sticky Fingers sessions with overdubs and final mixing being completed later at Sunset Sound Studios in Los Angeles between December 1971 and March 1972. Jagger is on lead vocals and harmonica, Richards and Mick Taylor on guitars and backing vocals, Bill Wyman on bass and Charlie Watts on drums. Richard “Didymus” Washington plays marimba while producer Jimmy Miller lends support on percussion.
“Sweet Black Angel” was performed live by the Stones only once, in Vancouver on 3 June 1972.