Everybody has a Michelle.
Maybe her dad isn't a pornographer, and maybe she isn't balancing schoolwork with cocaine and easy virtue, but everybody has someone that they think they can save. A friend, partner or relative who is loved not too wisely but too well. F. Scott Fitzgerald had Zelda and Johnny Rotten had Sid Vicious. Axl Rose had Michelle.
Michelle's story is immortalized by Axl's reaction to it. No matter what or who she does in the verses, Axl goes back to assuring her that things will work out. "Someday you'll find someone that'll fall in love with you," goes the bridge. "Honey, don't stop trying and you'll get what you deserve," ends the final stanza.
The contrast of her lifestyle and his outlook is reflected in the music. "My Michelle" pairs aggressive verses with a melodic chorus, inverting the more famous "quiet verses/loud chorus" structure defined by the Pixies and popularized by Nirvana. This paved the way for the sonic extremities of bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan, who covered "My Michelle" for a tribute album.
Who knows what Axl saw in Michelle Young. I can't pretend to have an answer, but I wonder if it was anything like what Slash, Duff McKagan, Izzy Stradlin, Erin Everly and Stephanie Seymour saw in him.
In memory of Lauren.