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Kiedis wanted the video to be visually distinct and readily identifiable but disliked much of the material Warner Bros.sent for him to choose from: "I started viewing reels and reels and reels of video directors but nothing looked good to me.
Jeff Vice of Deseret News noted "[this] dynamic first single that pays homage to Bob Marley, may start a new musical trend with its brilliant Rasta-funk." Patrick Mac Donald of The Seattle Times commented that "[Blood Sugar Sex Magik] includes one of the best songs the Peppers have done—'Give It Away', the first single.
The accompanying music video, which was directed by French film-maker Stéphane Sednaoui, was put into heavy rotation on music-television stations such as MTV and added to the band's success. I always had fragments of songs and ideas or even specific isolated phrases in mind." When the group encountered difficulty in composing a bridge for the song, it developed a tool the members colloquially termed "face-offs".
Since its release, "Give It Away" has gone on to receive numerous accolades, including a Grammy Award for the Best Hard Rock Performance With Vocals in 1992. Flea and Frusciante were unable to come to an agreement on guitar or bass progressions, but separately crafted part of the song.
Hagen was several years Kiedis' senior and became a role-model during his drug addiction to heroin: "she realized how young and inexperienced I was then, so she was always passing on gems to me, not in a preachy way, just by seizing on opportunities." Upon expressing this, Hagen immediately told him to keep it.
Her reasoning behind this selflessness was due to an attempt to constantly make her life more enjoyable, and explained to Kiedis that "if you have a closet full of clothes and you try to keep them all, your life will get very small.
Vocalist Anthony Kiedis wrote the song's most prevalent lyrical refrain in response to an experience he shared with former girlfriend Nina Hagen regarding altruistic behavior and the value of selflessness. performances shortly thereafter, but when the side project disbanded Frusciante and Flea believed the track would be appropriate for the Chili Peppers' upcoming record.
"Give It Away" went on to achieve international fame, reaching number one on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks in late 1991, giving the band their first ever number one single. Vocalist Anthony Kiedis agreed, and upon hearing the rest of the Chili Peppers play the song he began chanting "give it away, give it away, give it away now".
Instead of giving material possessions away and being free thinking, the vocalist believed one must take what one wants, as no one else will provide.
Instead, he now adopted Hagen's philosophy: "It was such an epiphany that someone would want to give me her favorite thing. Every time I'd be thinking 'I have to keep,' I'd remember 'No, you gotta give away instead.' When I started going regularly to [drug and alcohol] meetings, one of the principles I had learned was that the way to maintain your own sobriety is to give it to another suffering alcoholic.
And that was it." The song continues through several verses and choruses before reaching a bridge that introduces the outro, which consists of "a hard-rocking riff" that, according to Huey, strongly resembles the main riff from Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf" from their 1971 record Master of Reality.
Kiedis repeats "Give it away now" for several measures before the guitar, bass and drums drop out.
For "Give It Away", along with the rest of the album, Rubin sought to achieve a sense of atmosphere that was similar to 60s records that were made without commercialism or viability in mind and to downplay on "big" sounds: "What you hear is what you get—there's not a lot of trickery.