2 + 2 = ?

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"2+ 2 = 4 ?"
Single by The Bob Seger System
Length 2:49
Label Capitol
Songwriter(s) Bob Seger
Bob Seger singles chronology
"Heavy Music"
"2 + 2 = ?"
"Ramblin' Gamblin' Man"

"2 + 2 = ?" (spoken as "two plus two equals what") is a single from The Bob Seger System on their debut album Ramblin' Gamblin' Man, released in January 1968, on Capitol Records. Written by Seger, it is an anti-Vietnam War song.


Framed around a central, Animals-esque hard riff driven by bass guitar, bass drum, and a fuzz guitar line, "2 + 2 = ?" is an explicit protest against the United States' role in the Vietnam War and the drafting of young men to serve in it who will end up "buried in the mud, of a foreign jungle land." It also captures the general generational divide of the time:

And you stand and call me 'upstart' ...
I ain't saying I'm a genius;
Two plus two is on my mind –
Two plus two is on my mind.

Allmusic writes that "2 + 2" is "a frightening, visceral song that stands among the best anti-Vietnam protests."[1] The original studio version had a dead stop, or sudden cut to silence, placed near the end. On the 45 version, however, there is a guitar chord added at this point in the song, because radio stations fear dead air.[2]

It was Seger's first release with Capitol and under the Bob Seger System name. But as with much of Seger's early efforts up to that point, the single was a hit in his native Detroit but went unnoticed almost everywhere else in the US. In Canada, it was actually a minor chart hit, peaking at number 79.

The song was subsequently included on Seger's April 1969 album Ramblin' Gamblin' Man. There, any concessions for radio were removed.

Alternative/garage rocker Jack White was a fan of early Seger and in an interview he once said that "2 + 2" was his favorite song; writers have speculated that it may have been the inspiration behind The White Stripes' 2003 hit "Seven Nation Army" and its ubiquitous bass line.[3]


  1. ^ Ramblin' Gamblin' Man The Bob Seger System Allmusic.com Stephen Thomas Erlewine
  2. ^ "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man". Seger File. 1980-05-01. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-17. 
  3. ^ Denise Sullivan (2004). The White Stripes: Sweethearts of the Blues. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 141. ISBN 1617802271.