Rolling Stones – Sister Morphine

A dark country blues song by the Stones with help from Marianne Faithfull.

Mick Jagger wrote the music in Rome in 1968. Marianne Faithfull wrote the lyrics, but The Stones did not give her an official songwriting credit until they released it on their 1998 live album No Security. The Stones were very protective about songwriting credits to say the least…they made sure most of their songs were credited to Jagger/Richards.

The Stones recorded this in 1968. Ry Cooder played the bottleneck guitar on this track. He was filling in for the Brian Jones, who died before this song was released. This was the only song on Sticky Fingers that Mick Taylor, who replaced Jones, didn’t play on.

A little trivia on Sticky Fingers… The Sticky Fingers album had an actual zipper on the cover. On many copies, this track was damaged because the zipper pressed into it. To solve the problem, the zipper was opened before the album shipped, this way it just dented the label.

Marianne Faithfull: “I just liked the name, and loved Lou Reed’s work, ‘Sister Ray and ‘Heroin.’ I liked the idea poetically. I thought it was like Baudelaire, but the song doesn’t glamorise anything. It was a really interesting vision.”

From Songfacts

Marianne Faithfull recorded this during The Stones’ Let It Bleed sessions (she was Mick Jagger’s girlfriend at the time). Her version was released in 1969 and tanked. Decca Records pulled it after 2 weeks.

The song is about a man who gets in a car accident and dies in the hospital while asking for morphine.

Faithfull was not a heavy drug user when she wrote the lyrics, but became an addict in 1971, at the same time The Stones’ version was released. She called this her “Frankenstein,” consuming her and leading her into an abyss of drugs. In later years, she was able to break the habit resume a successful career as both a singer and an actress.

Some of the lyrics were inspired by the time Anita Pallenberg, Keith’s girlfriend, was hospitalized and given morphine.

The Stones recorded this in 1968, but their version was not released until 1971.

This was left off the Spanish release of Sticky Fingers because of the explicit content. It was replaced with “Let It Rock.”

This was influenced by the Velvet Underground, who were writing dark songs about drugs, especially heroin.

Not long after writing the song, the lyrics came painfully true to Marianne Faithfull. She recalled to The Guardian: “The story is about a man in a car accident in hospital, who’s very damaged and wants to die. It isn’t exactly what happened to me, but my feelings about it are probably the same. I was hospitalized in Sydney after an attempted suicide after Brian Jones died. It was a terrible time.”

Sister Morphine

Here I lie in my hospital bed
Tell me, sister Morphine, when are you coming round again?
Oh, I don’t think I can wait that long
Oh, you see that I’m not that strong

The scream of the ambulance is sounding in my ears
Tell me, sister Morphine, how long have I been lying here?
What am I doing in this place?
Why does the doctor have no face?

Oh, I can’t crawl across the floor
Ah, can’t you see, Sister Morphine, I’m trying to score

Well it just goes to show
Things are not what they seem
Please, sister Morphine, turn my nightmares into dreams
Oh, can’t you see I’m fading fast?
And that this shot will be my last

Sweet cousin Cocaine, lay your cool cool hand on my head
Ah, come on, sister Morphine, you better make up my bed
‘Cause you know and I know in the morning I’ll be dead
Yeah, and you can sit around, yeah and you can watch all
The clean white sheets stained red


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

45 thoughts on “Rolling Stones – Sister Morphine”

  1. I disliked this song intensely until maybe 10 years ago, and then made myself re-listen to Marianne’s version. I’m sure it’s an ongoing argument about who did it better, and I’m firmly in Camp Marianne. Her version is haunting and believable; and poetic imo, even if she didn’t personally live out the experience until later.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. With that name…it’s not going up the charts…it is a great album track though. They should have given her credit though at the time.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You have me thinking…right now nothing else is coming. Yep the Who have Who’s Next and Zeppelin has 4 but neither has anything else to match those.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never heard this but, the guitar work and music is wonderful. Mick should not be singing this. He does pretty well on some things with some harmony or back-up singers but, he detracts from the excellent music. Has Springsteen ever done this?

    And, I can’t take Faithfull in anything.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I love music but, an ill-placed voice can negate the frequency harmony. Sometimes, it’s the music that is bad, for a variety of reasons.

        With me not being a musician, I won’t have the same appreciation for certain things that you do. I suddenly have “Everyday People” running thru my head, now…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Its almost like Marianne saw the writing on the wall with Brian 😦 I’m embarrassed to say this is the first time I’ve heard this song, either version. Marianne’s voice suits it better than Mick’s.

    Liked by 2 people

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