“Please excuse me, for permitting myself, without an introduction…”
Does this sound familiar?
This is the introduction of Woland to Ivan and Berlioz in the novel of Mikhail Bulgakov “Master and Margarita.”
Now, compare it to the beginning of the Rolling Stones’ song:
“Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste…”
Initially, Mick Jagger said “Sympathy for the Devil” was based on a poem of Baudelaire. However, later he revealed that it was inspired by Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita.” The book was a gift from his girlfriend Marianne Faithfull who encouraged Jagger to read it:
“I got Mick to read ‘The Master and Margarita’ and out of that, after discussing it at length with me, he wrote that song.”
“Sympathy for the Devil” and Bulgakov’s novel have quite a few remarkable similarities.
The first stanza matches perfectly with the feelings described by Woland when he talks about Pilate:
“And I was around when Jesus Christ had His moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate washed his hands and sealed His fate.”
The second stanza starts with famous events from Russian history which are commented by Bulgakov in the novel.
“I stuck around St. Petersburg when I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the Tzar and his ministers, Anastasia screamed in vain.”
(Anastasia is the youngest daughter of the Czar Nikolay Romanov presumed to have been murdered with her family in 1918. According to some rumors, she escaped and, in February 1920, was found in the river in Berlin, ragged and suffering from amnesia.)
Moreover, the atmosphere and the construction of the song perfectly coincide with the novel. The band worked with rather odd instruments for a rhytm & bluesband (such as congas and maracas). As a result of long reworking, it became a samba, which Jagger called “hypnotic” and Richards “insane,” just like in the novel Satan dances his triumphal dance on the ruins of human civilization…
Charlie Watts, the drummer of the band, described Mick Jagger’s performance:
“You know, when a magic man like this comes along, the only thing you can really do is follow him and become his willing servant.”
One more interesting fact. Ray Manzarek, member of the legendary band The Doors, but trained as a movie maker, wanted for a long time to make a movie based on “The Master and Margarita.”
Jerry Hall, Jagger’s girlfriend at that time, asked Manzarek:
“Don’t make the movie until he’s finished with the tour. It’s his favorite book! The part is his! He is Professor Woland.”
Listen and see for yourself!