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One in a Million

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"One in a Million" is a song by American hard rock group Guns N' Roses (GN'R). It is the eighth track on the album G N' R Lies and was released in 1988. The lyrics describe GN'R singer Axl Rose's experience of getting hustled in the Greyhound bus station upon first arriving in Los Angeles. The song is notable not only for its controversy (see below), but also for being one of the first Guns N' Roses songs that Axl Rose wrote solo. According to interviews at the time, Rose wrote "One In A Million" on guitar (an instrument he was not proficient in at the time), using only the bottom two strings. This differs from other Rose-written Gn'R songs, which Rose composed on piano or keyboards.

ControversyEdit

The song's lyrics caused great controversy among many different groups, and accusations of homophobia and racism were leveled against Guns N' Roses' lead singer and song lyricist, Axl Rose.

The cover of the GN'R Lies EP, which was designed as a mock-tabloid newspaper front page, actually contained an advance apology for the song, suggesting controversy was anticipated. A small "article" entitled "One in a Million," credited to Rose, ended: "This song is very simple and extremely generic or generalized, my apologies to those who may take offense." [1] [2]

The use of the word "faggots", described as "spread[ing] some fuckin' disease", led to controversy and protests from homosexual groups. It also led to GN'R's exclusion from an AIDS benefit for the Gay Men's Health Crisis at Radio City Music Hall. [3] In response to the accusations, Rose initially stated that he was "pro-heterosexual" and did not understand homosexuals, and spoke of negative experiences in his past, such as a seemingly friendly man who let him crash on his hotel room floor and then tried to rape him. [4] He later softened this stance, and insisted that he was not homophobic, pointing out that some of his icons, such as Freddie Mercury and Elton John, as well as the head of his record label, were bisexual and gay.

Others, including some of his peers in the music industry, accused him of racism for the use of the word 'niggers' in the song. [5] When Guns N' Roses and Living Colour supported The Rolling Stones for a concert in Los Angeles in 1989, Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid publicly commented on "One in a Million" during his band's set. [6]

Several times Axl defended his use of the word 'nigger'. In one 1989 interview, he stated that he had used the word to signify "somebody that is basically a pain in your life, a problem... the word nigger doesn't necessarily mean black," and referenced the John Lennon song "Woman Is the Nigger of the World" as using the word in a positive context. [7] Rose also discussed the use of the word by the band Niggaz With Attitude (NWA) and was occasionally photographed wearing an NWA hat from then on. Other times he recalled personal experiences which had driven him to write such lyrics, such as feeling intimidated by black street merchants selling their "gold chains".[8] Rose also claimed that he had used the word because it was considered taboo. [9] By 1992, however, Rose seemed to have gained new perspective on the song and its lyrics. In one interview, he conceded that the word had been used as an insult, but added, "I was pissed off about some black people that were trying to rob me. I wanted to insult those particular black people. I didn't want to support racism." [10]

Rose was consistent in strongly denying accusations that he was a racist. When "One in a Million"'s lyrics prompted members of the press to call Guns N' Roses "David Duke's house band,"[11] Rose countered, "I don't like being associated with that. I asked the crowd [at a Guns N' Roses concert]: "Is that what you get out of this, that we're racists and you're supporting it? 'Cause if that's the case, I'm gonna go home. That's not why we're here."[12] Former Guns N' Roses A&R rep Tom Zutaut later corroborated Rose's stance, stating in a 1999 interview "Axl...was also really pissed off about being called a racist." [13]

Rose also expressed concern and disapproval at those who used "One in a Million" to promote their own racist views, noting: "There's a lot of people who have chosen to use that song. However that song makes them feel, they think that must be what the song means. If they hate blacks, and they hear my lines and hate blacks even more, I'm sorry, but that's not how I meant it." [14] In his final public comments about "One in a Million" in 1992, Rose stated, "It was a way for me to express my anger at how vulnerable I felt in certain situations that had gone down in my life. It's not a song I would write now." [15]

Response from BandmatesEdit

Before the release of Lies the other members of the band tried in vain to make Rose drop the track from the record. [16] Fellow GN'R member, Slash, whose mother is black, noted that he did not condone the song but did not condemn his bandmate, commenting in a 1991 interview with Rolling Stone: "When Axl first came up with the song and really wanted to do it, I said I didn't think it was very cool... I don't regret doing 'One in a Million,' I just regret what we've been through because of it and the way people have perceived our personal feelings." [17]

Cover VersionsEdit

Marilyn Manson has covered and recorded a version of "One in a Million," lyrics intact. [18] The song has also been covered twice by the neo-nazi punk band Skrewdriver, once electric, once acoustic. The acoustic version is more of a straightfoward cover, while the electric version has reworked lyrics paying tribute to Hitler. [19]. The Remington Steelers covered the song for The Guns N Roses 20th Anniversary Album. The cover is acoustic, and because of her familiarity with wigger culture, Emma Watson was the only member who could actually get away wiith including "nigger" in the song, so she was the one who recorded the lead vocals.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Cover art for GN'R Lies EP, 1988, Geffen
  2. "I, Axl" Del James, RIP Magazine - 1992
  3. Danny Sugerman, Appetite for Destruction: The Days of Guns N' Roses. St. Martin's Press, 1991, ISBN 0-312-07634-7
  4. Rolling Stone Interview With Axl Rose" Del James, Rolling Stone August 1989
  5. "Axl Rose: American Hellhound" Damien Cave, Salon, July 7 2001
  6. Just a little Patience SPIN magazine, 1999
  7. Rolling Stone Interview With Axl Rose" Del James, Rolling Stone August 1989
  8. Interview Magazine talks to Axl Rose, 1992
  9. Axl Rose: The RS Interview Kim Neely - Apr 02, 1992 - Issue 627
  10. Axl Rose: The RS Interview Kim Neely - Apr 02, 1992 - Issue 627
  11. "Axl Rose" David Browne, Entertainment Weekly/The Entertainers, 1991
  12. Axl Rose: The RS Interview Kim Neely - Apr 02, 1992 - Issue 627
  13. Just a little Patience SPIN magazine, 1999
  14. "I, Axl" Del James, RIP Magazine - 1992
  15. "I, Axl" Del James, RIP Magazine - 1992
  16. Just a little Patience SPIN magazine, 1999
  17. "Slash: The Rolling Stone interview" Jeffrey Ressner with Lonn M. Friend, Rolling Stone, February 1991
  18. "Marilyn Manson talks about "One in a Million" heretodaygonetohell.com (from marilyn-manson.net), October 14 1998
  19. http://www.leoslyrics.com/listlyrics.php;jsessionid=5B97421786A70F2FBE002974505F072B?hid=cZFceC8VOzw%3D 1

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