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This song is politically charged, and has an entire verse about President Kennedy's assassination. It also deals with the Vietnam War and the battle for civil rights in the US.
Slash (Saul Hudson), Duff (Michael McKagan) and W. Axl Rose wrote this for Use Your Illusion 2, which was released simultaneously with Use Your Illusion 1. The song originally appeared on the 1990 album Nobody's Child, a fundraising compilation for Romanian orphans.
On September 27, 1993, Duff explained where the song came from in an interview with the radio show Rockline: "Basically it was a riff that we would do at soundchecks. Axl came up with a couple of lines at the beginning. I went in a peace march, when I was a little kid, with my mom. I was like 4 years old. For Martin Luther King. And that's when: 'Did you wear the black arm band when they shot the man who said: 'Peace could last forever?'. It's just true-life experiences, really.'"
The speech at the beginning of the song is from the movie Cool Hand Luke: "What we have here is a failure to communicate..."
Part of the American Civil War song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" is used at the beginning and end of the song, where it's whistled by Axl Rose. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France, for above 3)
The line, "Did you wear a black armband when they shot the man who said, 'Peace could last forever'" could be referring to the black hand's assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that triggered World War I. It could also refer to the assassination of John Lennon, who strongly opposed the Vietnam War. The black armbands a sign of mourning, so the whole line asks whether we mourned for John Lennon as many others did at that time. (thanks, Jeremy - Perham, MN)
This was the only song on the Use Your Illusion
albums that featured Steven Adler on drums. The rest were done by Matt Sorum
, who replaced Adler in the band. (thanks, Tim - Toronto, Canada)
Guns N' Roses performed this at Farm Aid IV on April 7, 1990. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
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