Monkey

Album: Faith (1987)
Charted: 13 1

Songfacts®:

  • This funky monkey was the fourth US #1 hit from George Michael's debut solo album, Faith. Like most of his songs, he wrote it himself, but he got a lot of help putting it together.

    Michael enlisted producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to work on this track after he heard a remix they did for the Janet Jackson song, "Nasty." Jam and Lewis were the top songwriting/production duo of the era, responsible for many of Jackson's hits and also tracks by New Edition, Robert Palmer and The Human League.

    Jam explained in the Billboard Book of #1 Hits that Michael loved their "Nasty" remix because he's into chords, but whenever you put chords on something, it takes the funk out of it. But somehow Jam and Lewis were still able to keep "Nasty" funky.

    Michael told the pair that he had envisioned "Monkey" more melodic with chords but he was on a deadline when recording it, so he didn't have time to do it. Jam and Lewis completely reworked the song, even getting Michael to rerecord the vocals.

    "There are some – as he would call them – dodgy notes on there, but it doesn't matter. It fits what the track is doing, and I think it sounds great," explained Jam. "George Michael is very talented," he added. "Not only as a vocalist, but his conceptual ideas are great. He knows how he wants something to sound."
  • Michael's official website describes the song as a "drug abuse saga."
  • A monkey can often be used as a metaphor for drug addiction, "to have a monkey on one's back." That's how Aerosmith used it in 1989.

    Michael's "Monkey" asks a lover to choose between him or the drugs:

    Why can't you set your monkey free?
    Always giving in to it
    Do you love your monkey or do you love me?


    The song seems to be about dating a drug addict.

Comments: 5

  • Je from Irvine, CaIt is not about dating a drug addict. It's about someone who has another man/woman on the side and he wants this person to choose. George never said this song was about drugs.
  • Siahara Shyne Carter from United StatesDon't look now There's a monkey on your back! is my favorite line from the song I never thought it was all about "drugs" lol I also think this song is ''racists''

    I don't play it around with BLACK PEOPLE because I respect every color Except if he is bad I will play All Night to him/her lol ?! ................



    I also meme it like Why can't you sex your monkey freak
  • Victoria Ana-tolian Semenenko 02.10.1976 from UkraineDespite do believe there was a moment I was telling George will kiss him to the death. So it's actually obvious this song could really talk about drugs but monkey as well referencing to the idea of evolution as natural laws. Like for example in "Cowboys And Angels" (1990) he's saying "monkey say and monkey do their wish is your command love is all you do". Just sometimes people forget that second George's name as Kyriacos meant Saint in Greek.
  • Adrian Chan from MalaysiaJust as 2016 the Year of the Monkey in the Chinese Zodiac was about to be over the artist who sang "Monkey" bowed out as well...RIP George Michael
  • Mike from Memphis, TnMy friends have always insisted that this song had to do with a guy that was addicted to spanking his "monkey." I'm not sure about that necessarily but I have always believed that the "monkey" was an addiction that continually interfered with their relationship.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Phone Booth SongsSong Writing

Phone booths are nearly extinct, but they provided storylines for some of the most profound songs of the pre-cell phone era.

Charlie Benante of AnthraxSongwriter Interviews

The drummer for Anthrax is also a key songwriter. He explains how the group puts their songs together and tells the stories behind some of their classics.

Did They Really Sing In That Movie?Fact or Fiction

Bradley Cooper, Michael J. Fox, Rami Malek, Reese Witherspoon, Gwyneth Paltrow and George Clooney: Which actors really sang in their movies?

U2 LyricsMusic Quiz

How well do you know the lyrics of U2?

Amy GrantSongwriter Interviews

The top Contemporary Christian artist of all time on song inspirations and what she learned from Johnny Carson.

Penny Ford of Snap!Songwriter Interviews

The original voice of Snap!, this story is filled with angry drag queens, video impersonators and Chaka Khan.