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Credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Ron Wood apparently wrote the song's main riff, a piece of music he took with him to Munich's Musicland Studioswhere he and other guitarists were auditioning for the second guitarist slot left open after the departure of Mick Taylor. For his contribution, Wood would receive an "inspiration by" credit on the final album. In 2003, Wood recounted, "All of us, independently and together, were into reggae, and it was also a mood of the time. I had this particular lick that I took into the studio and the others said, What are we going to start with? and I said, I've got this song. Charlie [Watts]was sitting behind his kit, so he was already into it and then Keith and Mick both got into the motion of it. That was 'Hey Negrita', which came together very easily. The key to getting a song across in this band is never to try and write all the words. If you've got the rhythm, you're lucky! Let Mick write the words and then you're in with a chance."
In his review, Bill Janovitz says, "[Hey Negrita] straddles Latin, reggae, and funk musical styles. Mick Jagger had been spending a lot of time in New York Cityand absorbing new elements of dance music, specifically Latin forms." Black and Blue is known for its heavy contribution from Stones recording and touring veteran Billy Preston, of which Janovitz says, "...Preston plays a very percussive Afro-Cuban-sounding piano part over the... riff." Also prominent is Ollie Brown (another veteran of the Stones' mid-1970s tours) who provides the song's heavily Latin-influenced percussion.
Of the song's substance, Janovitz says, "Jagger again chooses not to shy away from controversy... "Negrita," a Spanish term translating as "little black girl," was a pet name he had coined for his wife at the time, Bianca, a Latina. The song, however, is undeniably sexy, and Jagger is playing with the stereotypical Central and South American approaches to the battle of the sexes."
|“||I say Hey negrita, hey now; Move your body, move your mouth; Shake, lady, way down south; Shake, baby, in your home town||”|
|“||Flash of gold in your ears, child; Flash of gold in your eyes; Saw the gleam in your mouth; Saw the steel in your thighs||”|
Janovitz concludes, "Mostly, though, the lyrics are meant to stay out of the way of the groove and are an excuse to throw in some fresh-sounding Spanish phrases. But the song did little to avoid the controversy the Stones continued to stoke..." This song, along with some of the promotional billboards for Black and Blue, were called out for their apparent sexist content directed towards women, a criticism not new to the Stones at the time. Jagger said at the time, "Hey Negrita. It's a compliment. I mean, it's not a put down. I mean, what's the problem, the 'Hey' part? No, I think 'hey' will get past. What, you think colored people won't like it? Well... only the most sensitive ones. It's about South Americans, that's just what you say, you know? You say, hey negrita... one negri... negrota... you say to a lady one, a lady negress... hey negrita! In fact, it's been done, been said to my old lady, you see?"
While considered "splendid... edgy, funky" by Janovitz and popular among Stones fans, it is considered one of the songs that earned Black and Blue its unofficial title as the Stones' "jam album". Recorded in December, 1974 and in March and April 1975 at Munich and Mountain Recording Studios in Montreux, "Hey Negrita" features Jagger on lead vocals, Richards and Wood (lead) on guitars, Bill Wyman on bass, and Watts on drums. In addition to piano, Preston also performs organ and backing vocals with Richards and Wood.
"Hey Negrita" has only been performed live during the Tour of Europe '76, evidently because of the controversial lyrics (although one of the longtime mainstays of the band's shows, "Brown Sugar", has similar issues with its lyrics).