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|"Salt of the Earth"|
|Song by the Rolling Stones|
|from the album Beggars Banquet|
|Released||6 December 1968|
"Salt of the Earth" is the final song from the 1968 Rolling Stones album Beggars Banquet. Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the song includes an opening lead vocal by Richards. It is the second official track by the group to feature him on lead vocal (the first being "Something Happened to Me Yesterday" from Between the Buttons).
The lyrics were written primarily by Jagger and salute the working class:
Say a prayer for the common foot soldier
Spare a thought for his back breaking work
Say a prayer for his wife and his children
Who burn the fires and who still till the earth
Noteworthy within the lyrics is the salute to the salt of the earth but no action to change or improve the circumstances of working people is implied or suggested. In a twice-repeated stanza, the singer professes a distance from his subject that seemingly belies the sentiment of the verses:
And when I search a faceless crowd
A swirling mass of grey and black and white
They don't look real to me
In fact, they look so strange
The song uses a quote that refers to a passage in the Bible where Jesus is trying to encourage people to give the best of themselves
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned ? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men – Matthew 5:13
"Salt of the Earth" features the acoustic work of Richards, typical of most songs from Beggars Banquet. Richards also performs the slide guitar throughout the song (Brian Jones, who often played slide on previous songs, was absent from these sessions). While some songs from Beggars Banquet were recorded by Jagger and Richards using a personal tape recorder, "Salt of the Earth" was recorded at London's Olympic Sound Studios in May 1968.
Featuring on the song are the Los Angeles Watts Street Gospel Choir and a piano performance by Nicky Hopkins. These additions, and their prominence near the end of the song, are further developed on their next album Let It Bleed's closing song, "You Can't Always Get What You Want".
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"Salt of the Earth" has a unique live history. It has only been played once to an instrumental playback and live five times.