From Chapter Eight, Who are you?: Give It Away, Now

From Chapter Eight, Who are you?: Give It Away, Now

Uh oh, it’s Anthony Kiedis’s birthday today and I forgot to get him a gift…

There’s a song I’m crazy about by the Red Hot Chili Peppers that speaks to this idea of giving it all away. It’s called simply, “Give it away.” The lyrics go: “Give it away, give it away, give it away, now.” And then it repeats. And repeats. Not in an annoying way, but in an instantly catchy way that even a doofus like me can remember the refrain after the second or third play through.

The lyrics by vocalist (and birthday boy) Anthony Kiedis recall his response to an unexpected act of generosity which was shown to him by his girlfriend years earlier. As described in his highly readable and thoroughly entertaining autobiography “Scar Tissue,” former girlfriend and punk rock singer Nina Hagen had once been his role model when Kiedis was addicted to heroin: “She realized how young and inexperienced I was then, so she was always passing on gems to me, not in a preachy way, just by seizing on opportunities.” One day when Kiedis was looking through her closet, he came across a jacket he liked and commented that it was “really cool.” Much to his surprise, she immediately told him to keep it. Her reasoning was that “if you have a closet full of clothes and you try to keep them all, your life will get very small. But if you have a full closet and someone sees something they like, if you give it to them, the world is a better place.”

Because he had never been the beneficiary of such generosity before, this act of selfless altruism affected Kiedis greatly. “It was such an epiphany that someone would want to give me her favorite thing. That stuck with me forever. Every time I’d be thinking ‘I have to keep,’ I’d remember ‘No, you gotta give away instead.’ When I started going regularly to [drug and alcohol] meetings, one of the principles I had learned was that the way to maintain your own sobriety is to give it to another suffering alcoholic. Every time you empty your vessel of that energy, fresh new energy comes flooding in.”

All quotes from page 273 of “Scar Tissue” by Anthony Kiedis (with Larry Sloman) which was published by Hyperion in 2004.

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