Meaning of “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses
To put it very succinctly, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” is a love song. The titular “sweet child” actually refers to the love interest of Axl Rose, the song’s writer and performer. Even more specifically, he wrote the song in reference to his woman Erin Everly, who he even briefly married a few years later.
So throughout most of the track, he is expressing his admiration for this lady, particularly in terms of how her appearance makes him feel. And he does not use the standard terminology found in popular love songs. Rather his words are very-poetic, where he actually presents himself as more of the child when it comes to the effect she has on him.
The song ends with him questioning her over the direction of their relationship, in the sense of where she too would like to take it. Overall throughout the song, there is no overt indication that he is even singing to a romantic interest, which makes “Sweet Child O’ Mine” shine even more brightly as an example of true lyrical artistry, despite its accompanying critically-acclaimed instrumental.
Facts about “Sweet Child O’ Mine”
Guns N’ Roses member Slash has a strong love/hate relationship with this song but for the most part has expressed a disliking of it. Indeed it originated from a guitar riff which he initially considered worthless.
“Sweet Child o’ Mine” was released as the third single from Guns N’ Roses’ debut album, Appetite for Destruction (1987), by Geffen Records in June of 1988. The album itself came out the following month, and as the prior two singles released from it flopped, this is considered to be the song to have put Guns N’ Roses on the map.
The music video for “Sweet Child o’ Mine” was shot in Huntington Beach, California.
In addition to the aforementioned Erin Everly, the girlfriends of all of the members of Guns N’ Roses were featured in the video.
The radi /music video version of this song is about a minute shorter than the album version, largely at the expense of Slash’s guitar solo. This is a decision that Guns N’ Roses were not happy with.
Indeed even a third verse by Axl Rose didn’t make the album cut due to fitting the song within a certain timeframe.
In singing this track, Axl Rose sought out to replicate the sound of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
According to Axl, this is the first “positive love song (he’s) ever written” and one of the few he has ever done in his entire career, due to being smitten by Erin Everly.
He wrote the lyrics to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” on his own, with Mike Clink handling its production.
Massive Chart Success
The song holds the distinction of placing number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on 10 September 1988. And till date, Guns N’ Roses have yet to replicate that feat.
“Sweet Child o’ Mine” peaked at number 6 on the UK Singles Chart and also attained platinum certification in that country. Additionally it went platinum in the United States and double-platinum in Italy.
The all-around success of “Sweet Child o’ Mine” was further buttressed when in 2022, some 35 years after its release, the track managed to top another Billboard chart, that being the Hot Hard Rocks Songs listing as of 30 April of said year. This is the result of the tune being featured on the trailer of the hotly-anticipated MCU outing Thor: Love and Thunder (2022).
This track has made a number of distinguished music list. For instance Guitar World considers its guitar solo one of the “100 Greatest Guitar Solos” ever. It was actually placed at number 37 in the aforementioned list.
VH1 placed it at number 7 on their “100 Greatest Songs of the ‘80s”. And Rolling Stone placed it on two of their coveted listings – “40 Greatest Songs that Changed the World” and “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. It was also dubbed by the Recording Industry Association of America’s as one of the “Songs of the Century”, placing at position 210.
In 1989, this song won Guns N’ Roses an American Music Award for Best Single, Heavy Metal / Hard Rock and an MTV Video Music Award for Best Heavy Metal Video.
Covers of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”
Accordingly an innumerable number of artists have covered this song – but none to more acclaim than Sheryl Crow. She actually won a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for her rendition in 2000.