Labi Siffre was profoundly affected by a television documentary from South Africa showing a white soldier shooting at black children. He came out of self-imposed retirement from music in 1985 to write this protest song against apartheid as a response. Siffre originally intended to give the song to another artist to sing, but was convinced to release it himself. It became one the biggest successes of Siffre's career, peaking at #4 in the United Kingdom.
Artists who have covered the song include Kenny Rogers as the title track to his 1989 album, and Michael Ball, whose 1996 version reached #40 in the UK.
The song featured in a 2001 UK advertisement for the Peugeot 307.
This was used in Alice Walker and Pratibha Parmar's 1993 documentary against female genital cutting, Warrior Marks.
Phil Oakey recorded his vocals for "Don't You Want Me" in the studio bathroom. The recording was disrupted by guitarist Jo Callis reaching through an open window from outside to repeatedly flush one of the toilets.