Michael Stipe has revealed how his 10-year fear of having HIV was a major influence on the lyrical content of 'Automatic for the People'.
The 57-year-old singer - who is now out and proud - had lived each day anxious that he was living with the virus due to the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS, which was incorrectly linked to homosexual men in the 80s, and it wasn't until the early 90s that Stipe started to express those dark feelings in his music.
In an interview with The Sun newspaper to mark the 25th anniversary of the record, he admitted: ''I had lived with fear of HIV for almost 10 years.
''The first New York cases were being reported in '83 and in the neighbourhoods where I spent most of my time.
''Then I had to cope with not knowing if I was positive until I was able to get tested anonymously, only to find out I was healthy. People thought I was sick but I wasn't.''
Though, the 'Losing My Religion' hitmaker turned out not to have HIV once tested, everyone was concerned by how skinny Stipe was because body and weight change is one of the signs of the virus.
His bandmates knew he didn't have HIV, but Stipe says Mike Mills, Peter Buck and Bill Berry had no idea how ''scared'' it made him because of how many people have died from the disease.
He said: ''When I got my status, they were certainly aware of it but I don't think they knew how scared I was. I lost, we lost, a lot of people.''
Meanwhile, Stipe previously said he's proud to have ''saved'' lives with his music.
He said hearing how the group's song 'Everybody Hurts' from the record has touched their fans' lives is as good as winning an Oscar for him.
The singer said: ''It saved a few lives. People have told me. And I love hearing that. That for me, that's my Oscar, that's my gold on a shelf right there ... that something we did impacted someone's life in a such a profound way. That's a beautiful thing.''
R.E.M. split up in 2011, but recently admitted ''nothing on this Earth'' would make them reform.
Asked if they'll get back together, Mike said: ''No, there is really nothing on this Earth that would make us want to get back together.
''There's such a luxury in being able to quit on your own terms, when it's your decision, for all the right reasons.''
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