The Rolling Stones' "Sister Morphine" had its origins back in 1968, when Mick Jagger was fooling around with some chords on an acoustic guitar, and his then-girlfriend, Marianne Faithfull, had the idea for a story about a man in a car accident who was taken to the hospital and given morphine. The song was finished shortly thereafter, and Faithfull released it as the B-side to a single in 1969. Her version had Jagger on acoustic guitar, Ry Cooder on slide guitar, Charlie Watts on drums and Jack Nitzsche on piano.
The Stones recorded their version around the same time (reports differ on whether it was March or May of 1969); in fact, I suspect it was at exactly the same time, since theirs also features Ry Cooder on slide and Nitzsche on piano. For whatever reasons, the track didn't show up on Let It Bleed, but hung around for two years before Sticky Fingers came out in April 1971.
By then, Mick and Marianne had broken up, and Faithfull had started having serious drug issues of her own. She claims the song has nothing to do with her own drug use, which might sound slightly dubious, but I believe her. It's about a man developing an addiction after being given morphine in a hospital, so it's the good, Rush Limbaugh kind of addiction rather than the bad David Crosby kind.
Of course, the Stones being the Stones, by the time they released their version, the song was credited to Jagger-Richards. I would love to know what the songwriting credits were on Faithfull's 1969 single. When it appeared on her 1987 Marianne Faithfull's Greatest Hits, it was credited to Faithfull-Jagger-Richards.
According to Faithfull, at some point along the line, it was Keith Richards who told Stones manager Allen Klein that she deserved a songwriting credit. "This story I heard from Allen Klein, it might not be true," she said in February. "Keith Richard told him that I did write the words and I needed the money. So now and again, I get a royalty cheque for 'Sister Morphine'. I've been living off 'Sister Morphine' for years. I just got one today. £485!" Apparently, the first time she got any credit for a Stones version was when it appeared on the 1994 re-release of Sticky Fingers.
Mick, naturally, is still whining about giving up a few pounds to his old squeeze. "[Marianne Faithfull] wrote a couple of lines; she always she wrote everything, though," he said in 1995. "She's always complaining she doesn't get enough money from it."