When Michael Stipe Almost Didn’t Record A R.E.M. Hit Because It Was Too Violent

R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe has an extraordinary presence in the rock music industry thanks to his distinctive vocal quality, poetic lyrics, and unique stage performances. Throughout his music career that spans over more than four decades, the vocalist wrote a number of monumental songs such as ‘Man on the Moon,’ ‘Everybody Hurts,’ and ‘Nightswimming.’

The One I Love‘ is one of those songs that hold a special place in R.E.M. fans’ hearts. It was first released on the band’s fifth full-length studio album, ‘Document,’ and also as a vinyl single in 1987. The song was a success as it reached number 9 on US Billboard Hot 100 when it was first put out, and it’s still regarded as one of the greatest guitar tracks of all time.

For many, it’s a love song to dance at their weddings, and countless fans are spotted holding hands during live performances of the track. However, the truth is far from this perception as once revealed by its lyricist Michael Stipe. The song has a devilish meaning behind it that almost prevented Stipe from recording it, let’s take a look.

Michael Stipe Thought The Song Was Too Brutal

In a 1992 interview with Q Magazine, Michael Stipe opened up about the song and stated that the lyrics came from a place where he knows to be very violent and terrible whereas people think it’s a simple love song. If you ask him, it’s much better that their fans see it in a positive way than its true meaning since it’s sinister.

Furthermore, the R.E.M singer made it clear that the song wasn’t written directly to anybody since he couldn’t write such a horrible song for somebody. If there’s anybody he could refer to with his lyrics, it would be just himself. According to Stipe, the song is so evil that he considered not recording it at all at some point.

Another reason behind his second-guessing was to not put out another negativity to the world where there is enough ugliness. Fortunately, the band recorded and released the track, and it’s now one of the most liked songs of the band. After all, nobody initially saw the evil meaning behind it, and it’s just an epic love song to the band’s fans.

According to Songfacts, Stipe said:

“It’s probably better that they think it’s a love song at this point. That song just came up from somewhere and I recognized it as being really violent and awful. But it wasn’t directed at any one person. I would never write a song like that.

Even if there was one person in the world thinking, this song is about me, I could never sing it or put it out… I didn’t want to record that, I thought it was too much. Too brutal. I think there’s enough of that ugliness around.”

You can listen to ‘The One I Love’ below.