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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 217
Fri. August 17, 2012

“Give It Away”
The Red Hot Chili Peppers

1991

“♫ greedy little
people in a sea of
distress/ keep your
more to receive your
less/ unimpressed by
material excess/ Love
is free, love me, say
“hell, yes”
♫”

Did you know “Give It Away” was sparked by a gift of wisdom by Anthony Kiedis’ friend Nina Hagen? Kiedis recounted this story in his book Scar Tissue when he said, “I took the mike and belted out, “Give it away, give it away, give it away, give it away now.” That line had come from a series of conversations I’d had years earlier with Nina Hagen. Nina was a wise soul, and she realized how young and inexperienced I was then, so she was always passing on gems to me, not in a preachy way, just be seizing on opportunities.”

There is a serious message behind “Give It Away” as lead singer and lyricist Kiedis documented in his autobiography Scar Tissue when he explained, “I was going through her closet one day, looking at all her crazy clothes, when I came upon a valuable exotic jacket. “This is really cool,” I said. “Take it. You can have it,” she said. “Whoa, I can’t take this. This is the nicest jacket you have in there,” I said. “That’s why I gave it to you,” she explained. “It’s always important to give things away; it creates good energy. If you have a closet full of clothes, and you try to keep them all, your life will get very small. But if you have a full closet and someone sees something they like, if you give it to them, the world is a better place.”

I can relate it took years of desperately trying to hold on to my expensive cravings, things I could never afford or worse never needed. All this junk ended taking up my space. I’ve learned that most of our possessions end up owning us. Although I do have belongings, having less possession is quite liberating.Nina’s wise words was a lesson that Kiedis never forgot, and one that’s essential in our material age, as he explained when he said, “It was such an epiphany that someone would want to give me her favorite thing. That stuck with me forever. Every time I’d be thinking ‘I have to keep,’ I’d remember ‘No, you gotta give away instead.’ Every time you empty your vessel of that energy, fresh new energy comes flooding in.”

“Give It Away” is the perfect combination of Flea’s groovy, bass licks, John Frusciante’s funky guitar riffs; Chad Smith’s pounding rock beat and Anthony’s rap like vocal making This Chili Pepper song a crossover number one hit. Even though “Give It Away” is an electric funky rock classic, there are nuggets of poignant lyrics sprinkled throughout. Did you know Kiedis actually wrote a few lines in memory of his deceased friend River Phoenix who died while the Red Hot’s were recording Blood Sugar Sex Magik? Kiedis discussed honoring his friend when he wrote in Scar Tissue, “River was around a lot during the writing and recording of our album, and I even wrote a verse about him in “Give It Away”: “There’s a river, born to be a giver, keep you warm, won’t let you shiver/His heart is never going to wither, come one everybody, time to deliver.”

Since I’ve been crooning the Chili Peppers first single, from Blood Sugar Sex Magik, to our cat Lucy, I’ve been rekindling my admiration for “Give It Away.” “Give It Away” is an anthem of unselfishness that was born from advice that Nina Hagen shared with Anthony Kiedis. There is a little substance message layered within this funky rocker. I am proud to say I currently subscribe to Anthony and Nina’s altruistic way of life. And you thought I was just writing about one of the most popular songs of the nineties? I’ve discovered the more you give away it makes this a less self-seeking world where relationships, conversations and knowledge of love are the key essence to our everyday survival. Something to think about the next time you spin the first single from Blood Sugar Sex Magik, there’s a message behind this Red Hot Chili Peppers song, are you ready to “Give It Away” now?

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