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Ivory Tusk
Lyrics: John Popper
Music: Chan Kinchla

Ivory tusk, smash into thine own
To show thee fit to continue

I weep for them and I weep for me
We rally to charge to die
And laugh when it's through

Well rise and walk now you're a man
Don't try to play catch me if you can
Just do as you're told son you must abide
Have you gone crazy it never was a free ride
Just take your medicine and help it go down
Do as you're told boy no need to frown
You know it happened to me and your granddad too
Not a goddamn any one can do

Well sir I don't know but I hear them say
If there's no free ride then ride away
And it could be me, and it could be strange
But I keep hearing voices singing "comes a change"

Blood drop spill unto the parched earth
And nourish that which is hungry
Feast well avenging madness
Then call your buzzards down to clean the carcass

Well your life's not yours it's everyone's
So do the right thing and go for your guns
It's how the world was saved and how the west was won
So here he comes now you gotta stand or run
Just level your iron boy and sight him in
You ain't out to die boy
You're out to win
You know you hate him, you must know he hates you
Not a goddamn anyone can do

Well if my life is everyone's well good that's fine
But you've yet to prove that that makes his life mine

And it could be me and I could be strange
But I keep hearing voices singing "comes a change"

Like rain and thunder washing everything away
That's what I hear them say
You might just prefer to pray
It's the same thing anyway

Ivory tusk, smash into thine own
To show thee fit to continue
I weep for them and I weep for me
We rally to charge to die
And laugh when it's through

Well sir I don't know but I hear them say
If there is no free ride then ride away
And it could be me, and it could be strange
But keep hearing voices singing "comes a change"

Like rain and thunder washing everything away
That's what I hear them say
You might just prefer to pray
Like rain and thunder washing everything away
That's what I hear them say
You might just prefer to pray

1991 Blues Traveler Music

First release: Travelers & Thieves
Released: 09/03/1991
Earliest time played: 01/05/1991
Last time played: 07/04/2011
Playing frequency:
  199 plays (see all shows)
  10.71% of shows in the database
  11.50% of shows since debut
  Detailed statistics
Song information:
  This song was inspired jointly by the Persian Gulf conflict as well as John listening to "Sketches of Spain" after eating, in his words "a really good cookie". See their interview on April 27th, 1992 for more background information.

Other recordings of "Ivory Tusk":
  Travelers & Thieves/On Tour Forever, 1991
  Travelers & Thieves pre-production tape, 1991
  Birmingham Alabama, April 1992, 1992
  King of New York, 1993
  When the Lights Go Down, 1994
  Run-Around, 1994


This song was written in response to the Persian Gulf conflict of early 1991. Much like Onslaught, it appears to have an anti-war sentiment in general, and could be interpreted as a three-way dialogue - the first and fourth stanzas appear to be some sort of narrator describing the conflict. The second and fifth stanzas sound like the pro-war argument while the third and sixth stanzas appear to be a protest from the soldier.

Ivory tusk, smash into thine own/To show thee fit to continue
The use of ivory here may be a reference to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, where the ivory trade represents man's greed and tendency to destruction. It ends up standing for the erosion of man's values; wherever there is ivory to be had, it drives men insane and leads them to kill themselves, or "smash into thine own". The idea of killing one's own has often been attributed as unique to mankind. Mark Twain, in his essay "What is Man" wrote, in part: "Man is the only animal ... that gathers his brethren about him and goes forth in cold blood and calm pulse to exterminate his kind."
Just take your medicine and help it go down
"Take your medicine" could be likened to "eat your vegetables", i.e. even though you might not like doing it, it's good for you.
Well sir I don't know but I hear them say
The use of "sir" here sounds like a son addressing his father or a soldier addressing his superior.
Then call your buzzards down to clean the carcass
A possible criticism of those who wait until the enemy is dead to come in and claim victory; buzzards do not do their own hunting but instead let others kill and then feed on the remains.
how the west was won
"How the West was Won" was a western movie released in 1963 which later became a TV show in the late 1970's. The movie profiles the expansion of the US westward and shows the consequences of American Manifest Destiny, mostly through violence.
Just level your iron boy and sight him in
Level your iron = aim your gun.
You know you hate him, you must know he hates you
Typical of war propaganda, designed to elicit emotions of hatred against the enemy - from both sides.
Well if my life is everyone's well good that's fine/But you've yet to prove that that makes his life mine
"My life is everyone's" could be interpreted to mean that he no longer has control over his life because he has signed it away to his country in the war he is fighting in. But he protests this by saying that by his beliefs, that still doesn't entitle him to kill others.