Vocalist Anthony Kiedis wrote the song's most prevalent lyrical refrain in response to an experience he shared with former girlfriend Nina Hagen regarding altruistic behavior and the value of selflessness. performances shortly thereafter, but when the side project disbanded Frusciante and Flea believed the track would be appropriate for the Chili Peppers' upcoming record."Give It Away" went on to achieve international fame, reaching number one on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks in late 1991, giving the band their first ever number one single. Vocalist Anthony Kiedis agreed, and upon hearing the rest of the Chili Peppers play the song he began chanting "give it away, give it away, give it away now".John's philosophy was that he would only play a solo twice.He'd play it once, and if he didn't like it or we didn't like it, he'd play it again—completely different.For "Give It Away", along with the rest of the album, Rubin sought to achieve a sense of atmosphere that was similar to 60s records that were made without commercialism or viability in mind and to downplay on "big" sounds: "What you hear is what you get—there's not a lot of trickery.
Since its release, "Give It Away" has gone on to receive numerous accolades, including a Grammy Award for the Best Hard Rock Performance With Vocals in 1992. Flea and Frusciante were unable to come to an agreement on guitar or bass progressions, but separately crafted part of the song.
Hagen was several years Kiedis' senior and became a role-model during his drug addiction 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." Upon expressing this, Hagen immediately told him to keep it.
Her reasoning behind this selflessness was due to an attempt to constantly make her life more enjoyable, and explained to Kiedis that "if you have a closet full of clothes and you try to keep them all, your life will get very small.
But I don't think those things matter." The song follows a traditional verse-chorus-verse structure; when Kiedis begins singing, Frusciante jumps into a funk-oriented riff that is repeated throughout the verse while Flea plays a complex bass-line that makes use of virtually the entire fretboard.
During the chorus, Kiedis sings "Give it away, give it away, give it away now" repeatedly over a more rapid guitar riff before Frusciante provides, according to Steve Huey of Allmusic, a "sudden contrast to Kiedis' hyperactivity in the form of a languid solo pre-recorded and dubbed backwards over the rhythm track." The solo was recorded in one take because Frusciante had developed a preference towards speedy execution and a raw feeling; according to Flea, "We did very little fix-up stuff.