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|"Salt of the Earth"|
|Song by The Rolling Stones from the album Beggars Banquet|
|Released||6 December 1968|
|Beggars Banquet track listing|
Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, the song is notable for its opening lead vocal by Richards, who sings the first verse. This was the second officially released Rolling Stones track to feature Richards on separate lead vocal. (The first was "Something Happened to Me Yesterday" from Between the Buttons.) The lyrics (written primarily by Jagger) salute the common workers of the world:
|“||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||”|
Notable 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 Salt of the Earth 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)
It is also an expression of doubt on the basis of the status of "star", and about elitism more generally ... The evocation of "a swirling mass of gray and black and white" seems to call into question the binary Manichaeism, which seems unreal when you look closely at the particular experiences of individuals.
"Salt of the Earth" heavily features the acoustic work of Richards, typical of most songs from Beggars Banquet. Richards also performs the slide guitar throughout the song as Brian Jones, notable for his slide on previous songs in the past, was absent from these sessions. While some songs from Beggars Banquet were recorded by Jagger and Richards with only a tape recorder in between them, "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 thought to have had an influence on their next album Let It Bleed's closing song, "You Can't Always Get What You Want".
"Salt of the Earth" has a unique live history. It has only been played once to an instrumental playback and live five times.
- The first filmed rendition was for the taping of the 1968 television special The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (not released until 1996). However, this version features Keith Richards and Mick Jagger singing live while sitting with the audience as the backing track that appeared on Beggars Banquet is played.
- It was then revived 21 years later for three performances in Atlantic City during the 1989-1990 Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Tour, where the Stones were joined onstage by Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin of Guns N' Roses (Video on YouTube). Axl and Izzy were given their choice of songs, and when they chose this, the Stones had forgotten it, and had to listen to it to remember.
- Jagger and Richards performed it as a duet for the 2001 "The Concert for New York City", commemorating the fallen of September 11, 2001, although they changed the lyrics to make its message more positive (most notably "Let's drink to the good and the evil" was changed to "Let's drink to the good not the evil").
- Its only other performance was in London, Twickenham Rugby Ground, on September 20, 2003 during the Licks Tour.
Folk singers Joan Baez and Judy Collins each recorded versions of the song (in 1971 and 1975, respectively). Baez included the song in her set during her October 2011 performance for Occupy Wall Street protesters in Manhattan.
Blues singer Bettye LaVette covered the song on her 2010 album Interpretations: The British Songbook.
Salt of the Earth is also the title to a documentary on the Rolling Stones 2005-06 'A Bigger Bang' World Tour. 
The Rolling Stones, as fans of the Gospel Group "The Fantastic Violinaires", encouraged the group to record "Salt of the Earth", and in 1969 the Violinaires recorded "Salt of The Earth" on the Checker label. The song can be heard on YouTube.