What does The One I Love mean?

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REM: The One I Love Meaning

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Song Released: 1987


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The One I Love Lyrics

This one goes out to the one I love
This one goes out to the one I've left behind
A simple prop to occupy my time
This one goes out to the one I love

Fire
Fire

This one goes out to the one I love
This one goes out to the one I've left...

  1. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Sep 26th report

    Stipe wrote it in L.A. County jail. About 7 guys were in the holding cell. Nobody knew him. He was not yet famous. It was late in 1986 I think.

    4 Mexicans were sitting in circle, unraveling strings from their white, jail supplied socks. They used the nylon string to knit little knotted Christian crosses. At the four ends of the cross, once finished, strings would be left over and dangling. A loop would be made at the top of the cross. Then the extra dangling strings would be burned off with matches or cirgarettes (“Fire! Fire! Fire). Once finished, these crosses were placed in envelopes and mailed out to girlfriends, wives, children and the parents of these lonely guys in jail (“This one goes out to the one I Iove. This one goes out to the one I left behind. A simple prop to occupy my time”). Michael, myself, and a young black guy all joined with the Mexicans and learned how to make these crosses and send them out to our loved ones. We also made ones for ourselves and wore them.

    The One I Love was released, the following year in 1987.

    Another interesting fact: Michael was a little weird. He was always writing in a little notebook. Often he would only be standing in a corner, facing the walls, turned away from us (“That’s me in the corner, losing my religion”).

    Losing my Religion was released in 1991.

    Michael’s arrest at that time is public record (gun charge), REM was not big yet. He was playing some shady joints in Hollywood, so he mistakenly packed a pistol without a permit. He was only in our holding tank for a few days.

    I never thought twice of him until The One I Love became a hit & people were starting to talk about what the song meant. And it hit me...that nutty guy in L.A. County Jail in 1986 was him...and he possibly wrote (or partially wrote) a couple songs...while he was being all “weird” in that corner.

    Thank God he did! Both are amazing songs!

    I KNOW this is where these songs, at least partially come from...or what inspired some of the lyrics. NO doubt at all.

    As far as I know, all Michael ever said, in explaining the song (he refused to for years & years...which says something, in & of itself!) is: “It came out of a very dark time”.

    Take it or leave it! That’s the story.

  2. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    May 31st 2017 report

    After years of passively thinking this was just a simple love song and a catchy tune but not much else I had a recent experience that compelled me to search my iPod--which I had not used in over a year--for a theme song for it. Going through the songs, The One I Love was the one I settled on, as the best fitting...the most appropriate for that situation. Because of what happened, This song no longer a simple love song to me, it's more complex than it seems but its meaning became more clearly defined than ever when I was able to put it in proper context. Performers travel a lot, they often find someone to gravitate towards to get them through the tedium, loneliness and insecurities of those temporary environments. Stages are set and taken down. This song is a bittersweet tribute to all those loves in impermanent stage settings/ The one loved the most at each venue by the traveling performing artist.

  3. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Dec 5th 2015 report

    Many consider this is a love song. It's not really a love song at all. Perhaps the most misunderstood song ever. The clue is in the fact that there are so few words in it. That's kind of out of character for Michael Stipe. He's a guy who can string a whole bunch of words together, for example, "It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine).
    So, if you want to understand this song with so few words, you have to read it in the context of the album "Document"
    There's no song on the album called "Document", he's telling you what the album is, it's a documentation, a moment in time, a snapshot.
    You can look at a lot of the song titles, and they kind of give you a sense of what the albums about: "Finest Worksong", "Exhuming McCarthy", "Welcome to the Occupation". He's describing America at the time this record (Document) was made. You have the collapse of the middle class, McCartheyism's return in the
    Rambo/Reagan eighties), military adventurism (occupation).
    Where's this all leading? The answer is given in "Document"'s other big hit: "It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine).
    So you have to listen to "The One I Love" in that context. When a normally verbose guy like Michael Stipe writes a song with so few
    lyrics, as in "the one I love" you should assume every line, every word matters.
    So you listen to "the one I love" in this context, and what have you got?
    "This one goes out to the one I love, This one goes out to the one I left behind"
    Okay, so he's thinking about his girlfriend, and something that's going to happen, he's dedicating it to her.
    What's he gonna do? we don't know yet. And why did he have to leave her behind?
    Next Line: "A simple prop, to occupy my time. This one goes out to the one I love" So he's referring again to her, and the thing
    he's about to do, but he's kind of telling you it's bs. he's using the thought of her as a prop, a shield, because he doesn't want to
    deal emotionally with the thing he's about to do.
    And what does he do? It's one word, but he doesn't sing it softly, like the rest of the song, (because that's internal monologue) He yells it, because it's spoken aloud. He barks it, it's a command, one word: "FIRE!"
    The order is given, the nukes fly, and it's the end of the world as we know it. What will you think of when you know the end's
    coming?
    You'll think about the one you love.

  4. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Dec 5th 2015 report

    Many consider this is a love song. It's not really a love song at

    all. Perhaps the most misunderstood song ever. The clue is in the

    fact that there are so few words in it. That's kind of out of

    character for Michael Stipe. He's a guy who can string a whole bunch

    of words together, for example, "It's the end of the world as we

    know it (and I feel fine).
    So, if you want to understand this song with so few words, you

    have to read it in the context of the album "Document"
    There's no song on the album called "Document", he's telling

    you what the album is, it's a documentation, a moment in time, a

    snapshot.
    You can look at a lot of the song titles, and they kind of

    give you a sense of what the albums about: "Finest Worksong",

    "Exhuming McCarthy", "Welcome to the Occupation". He's describing

    America at the time this record (Document) was made. You have the

    collapse of the middle class, McCartheyism's return in the

    Rambo/Reagan eighties), military adventurism (occupation). Where's
    this all leading? The answer is given in "Document"'s other big hit:
    "It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine).
    So you have to listen to "The One I Love" in that context. When

    a normally verbose guy like Michael Stipe writes a song with so few

    lyrics, as in "the one I love" you should assume every line, every

    word matters.
    So you listen to "the one I love" in this context, and what have

    you got?
    "This one goes out to the one I love, This one goes out to the

    one I left behind"
    Okay, so he's thinking about his girlfriend, and something

    that's going to happen, he's dedicating it to her.
    What's he gonna do? we don't know yet. And why did he have to

    leave her behind?
    Next Line: "A simple prop, to occupy my time. This one goes

    out to the one I love" So he's referring again to her, and the thing

    he's about to do, but he's kind of telling you it's bs. he's using

    the thought of her as a prop, a shield, because he doesn't want to

    deal emotionally with the thing he's about to do.
    And what does he do? It's one word, but he doesn't sing it

    softly, like the rest of the song, (because that's internal

    monologue) He yells it, because it's spoken aloud. He barks it, it's

    a command, one word: "FIRE!"
    The order is given, the nukes fly, and it's the end of the

    world as we know it. What will you think of when you know the end's

    coming? You'll think about the one you love.


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