It’s been 54 years since The Rolling Stones included such a long song studio album — not since the classic You Can’t Always Get What You Want, from the 1969 album Let It Bleed. That track lasted 7 minutes and 28 seconds. Sweet Sounds of Heaven is 7 minutes and 22 seconds long. It is the second single released from the band’s new album, Hackney Diamonds, which will come out on October 20.
But it’s not just its length that makes Sweet Sounds of Heaven stand out, it also features Lady Gaga on vocals and Stevie Wonder on keys. Unlike the rock ‘n’ roll energy of Angry, the first single released from Hackney Diamonds, this track is a soulful piece about music as salvation, with a dash of gospel.
In the first verse, Jagger sings: “I hear the sweet, sweet sounds of heaven fallin’ down, fallin’ down to this earth. I hear the sweet, sweetest sounds of heaven driftin’ down, driftin’ down to this earth.”
The vocals are heard over a bluesy piano played by Stevie Wonder, who also plays organ. Lady Gaga comes in at the two-minute mark, singing softly at first before crescendoing.
“Let no woman or child go hungry tonight. Please protect us from the pain and the hurt,” Lady Gaga and Jagger sing together as if they were in a church in the Bronx on a Sunday morning.
The song seems to come to a stop at a certain point, but then Lady Gaga laughs and begins a more than two-minute long improvisation, while Jagger sings: “Come on, come on, come on.” Sweet Sound Of Heaven is written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
This is not the first time Lady Gaga and the Rolling Stones have collaborated. The New York singer sung at one of their concerts, performing her rendition of Gimme Shelter. This time, the collaboration was pure happenstance. While The Stones were recording the album, Lady Gaga was recording vocals for her new album in an adjacent studio. Shen went to see the Stones, but not with the intention of singing. She sat in a corner, curled up, and watched the band record. When the group was recording Sweet Sound Of Heaven, she let out a few “ooohs.” Jagger noticed and said, “Let’s do this right.” He gave her a microphone, and Gaga got up from the ground and they began to record the vocals together.
It’s also not the first time that The Stones have partnered with Stevie Wonder. Their most notable collaboration dates back to 1972, when the British group took Wonder on tour to open their concerts. Jagger and Richards adored Wonder, who was riding high in 1972 after releasing albums, Music of My Mind and Talking Book. Wonder loved the experience. The tour was very good for him, because he had never played before so many thousands of people, most of them white. The tour helped him break into a market that had been considered out of reach.
In addition to opening The Stones’ concerts, Wonder also sung with the band one night. They started with a piece of Wonder’s song, Uptight (Everything’s Alright), which they followed with (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. The Stones had never played their big hit with such a funky sound before. The stage soon turned into a party, with Jagger pulling Wonder off the piano to dance with him. The scene is captured in the video below.
Sweet Sound Of Heaven is the penultimate song from Hackney Diamonds, the band’s first studio album in 18 years. In addition to Lady Gaga and Stevie Wonder, the 12-track album features Paul McCartney, Elton John and Bill Wyman, the founding bassist who left the group in 1993. Some recordings of drummer Charlie Watts, who died in August 2021, have also been used for two songs.
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