The Rolling Stones – “Paint It, Black” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

At its core, “Paint It, Black” by The Rolling Stones is an exploration of overwhelming grief and despair. The color imagery, especially black, serves as a metaphor for the singer’s emotional state. The song is an expression of wanting to “paint” everything black to match the bleakness felt inside. Not particularly about a specific person, the song’s lyrics touch on universal feelings of loss and grief, with a red door, girls in summer clothes, and a line of cars all symbolizing aspects of life that feel unbearable due to the singer’s emotional state.

From seeing a line of cars painted black, to wishing the sun to be blotted out, the song presents a vivid picture of feeling the world from within a shroud of sadness. So, if you’re in for a deep dive into one of The Rolling Stones’ most profound songs, stick around.

“Paint It, Black” Lyrics Meaning

“I see a red door and I want it painted black” introduces us to the motif of color in the song. Red, often associated with passion and life, is instantly wished away, replaced with black – a symbol of grief, despair, and mourning. This sets the tone for the rest of the song, with a clear indication that the singer is in a dark emotional place.

The second verse, “I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes”, displays a contrast between the vibrant, lively girls and the singer’s inner turmoil. The action of having to “turn [his] head until [his] darkness goes” depicts the struggle to deal with the bright reality outside while battling the darkness within.

The third verse further delves into the theme of loss, with the line of cars, flowers, and love “all painted black”. This scene draws a parallel with a funeral procession – a symbol of death and finality – further emphasizing the depth of the singer’s despair.

“I look inside myself and see my heart is black” is perhaps the most direct declaration of the singer’s pain. The longing to “fade away and not have to face the facts” suggests an inability to deal with the reality of his situation. The singer’s world has become a “green sea” turning a “deeper blue” – a sea of sorrow, possibly triggered by an unforeseen event “happening to you”. This could refer to the loss of a loved one, a betrayal, or any traumatic event leading to intense sorrow.

In the last stanza, the singer still clings to a glimmer of hope, “if I look hard enough into the setting sun, my love will laugh with me before the morning comes”. It implies the hope for healing, or at least, a momentary relief from pain with the arrival of a new day. Despite the overwhelming darkness, there’s a small beacon of light in the end.

Overall, “Paint It, Black” is a poignant exploration of sorrow, offering a raw and real look into the heart of despair.

The Story Behind “Paint It, Black”

Understanding the context behind “Paint It, Black” involves stepping into the mid-60s world of The Rolling Stones. Released in 1966 as part of the “Aftermath” album, the song arrived at a time when the band was experimenting with darker, more introspective themes, moving away from their earlier blues-rock focus.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards penned the lyrics, with Bill Wyman’s experimentation on the bass forming the song’s unique sound. The influence of Brian Jones, playing the sitar, added an Eastern touch, an influence of the ongoing British fascination with Indian music and culture – popularly known as the ‘Raga Rock’ phase.

So, what inspired this iconic song? While there’s no precise answer, a plausible theory connects it to the general state of melancholy and disillusionment prevalent during the mid-60s. It was a period marked by social unrest, war, and cultural shifts. These events might have seeped into Jagger and Richards’ songwriting, resulting in a song that paints a dark and melancholic view of the world.

There’s also an interpretation about the song being an expression of Jagger’s personal experiences. Some believe it was Jagger’s emotional response to the end of a romantic relationship, hence the grief-laden lyrics. However, the band has never confirmed this theory.

The magic of “Paint It, Black” lies in its universality. It isn’t tied to a specific event or person, which makes it relatable to anyone who has experienced deep sorrow or grief. Whether it’s heartbreak, loss, or a general sense of despair, the song encapsulates the feeling of wanting the external world to mirror one’s inner turmoil.

In conclusion, “Paint It, Black” serves as a stark, poetic canvas for The Rolling Stones’ exploration of despair and longing. Its lasting impact on popular music underscores its status as one of the most profound, influential tracks of the band’s storied career.