"American Life" as written by Les Claypool, Reid L. Iii Lalonde and Timothy W. Alexander....
In a town in southernmost Sicily
Lived a family too proud to be poor
In the year that fever took father away
They hastened for American shores
Now a mother and her son are standing in line
It's a cold day on Ellis Isle
And they look to the Statue of Liberty
For the boy we have American life

Ong is a Laotian refugee
He works in the audio trade
The smoke from flux is filling his lungs
He's earning minimum wage
Spending spare time down on
San Pablo ave
Once a week gets a woman for the night
And he writes home tales of prosperity
For the boy we have American life

Bob is an unemployed veteran
Born and bred in the South Bronx
He's living off the streets down in east L.A.
Residing in a cardboard box
Now he plays a little guit and he has a small dog
Searching for aluminum cans
And he hold on tight to his dignity
He was born into American life


Lyrics submitted by knate15, edited by Sharenge

"American Life" as written by Reid L. Iii Lalonde Les Claypool

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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22 Comments

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  • +4
    General Commenter...Les is highly critical of American society as a whole, and this song definately seems to be outlining some of the reasons why. There is no positivity in this song, believe me. I think some of you maybe confusing and reading your own, and possibly American values into this song way too much - he's breaking down the illusion that America is any superior or better to live in than other country, it's just as messed up, but in different ways. There will always be people at the bottom if there are people at the top, this is fact. In this suppossed Land of Opportunity, there are those that still suffer in it through no fault of their own, but actually due to their unfortunate circumstances. In regards to the foreigners, they had a run of bad luck, but their luck will not change in this new environment, because they are not of the 'advantaged'. The final referance is to show the irony of the fact that it's not just foreigners who find themselves in this position, but also those who originate from this apparently 'blessed' land.
    The first verse is the illusion they've been fed, but the environment is described as "a cold day" - to represent the harsh reality that's about to face them, and the following verse presents the actual reality of the type of situation they will face, followed by how even those who are born into the country can also face such an existence.
    Full Stop.
    The Distortedon May 08, 2006   Link
  • +4
    My OpinionIt's insane that of all the Primus songs, a lot of which have really strange lyrics and metaphors, a song like this which is extremely plain and straightforward is giving everyone trouble.

    I wonder why that is.

    Actually, I don't wonder at all. There's a word for it: denial.
    Spewnson July 13, 2009   Link
  • +3
    General CommentThe Distorted had the whole song practically all right. The first stanza is just setting up the whole seen of America of people coming over that were so proud and happy and just wanting what everyone says is the American Dream. It isn't really too dark but it sets up his subsequent images of what American life truly is.

    Les then goes on in the second stanza trying to make a strong point of what American life ends up becoming. It might be said that he is drawing a similarity between the Laotian refugee and the boy because he ends both lines with boy, but that is not as impactful of him saying that the refugee is living on MINIMUM WAGE inhaling fumes that are obviously destroying him. Of course the people here are trying to criticize the immigrants but he is not doing that at all. The refugee goes than and buys hookers probably because that is the only sort of comfort but I think that might be looking to much into it. The fact is that he goes and gets hookers and than goes home writing the letters of the greatness of America which is just a lie. The last line is what makes sure the person knows that it is not complimenting American life.

    The veteran is living in a cardboard box all alone collecting cans. He is the typically bum and what a life for a VETERAN. This happens all the time and yet we ignore the poor and homeless because they didn't try hard enough. Yet that man still is a man because he still holds on to his diginity in the only way he can by saying that he is an American. How sad...... Les is a genius but a little sneaky with the lyrics.
    guevara.parraon August 06, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentBullshit, this song is about how everyone thinks America is this great place and the fact is that America is just as fucked up as the next country.
    egbon July 06, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General Commentnot just imigrants, iceman. It's about the way americans have always had to live too, because the last verse says that Bob has always lived in America, he was born into american life. People should never ignore the homeless, and especially not try to pick fights with them/kill them. It's just so stupid. The last verse reminds me of Another day in paradise by Phil Collins. I love this song, great music and great meaning.
    Mindbreaker4228on August 21, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentITs amazing how stupid some of you people are why would he write a song like this if he wasnt being critical of american society u camn clearly see he is critiquing america... it basically tells the story of 3 americans and how the country has lied to them and well to make it simple fucked them over.... The first verse is about a sicilian family the moved to america because they were promised prosperity and it was never delivered and the boy write home tales of prosperity because his family is too proud to be poor. The second verse is kind of the same type of deal the Laotian refugee is forced to work in shitty conditions for minimum wage which isnt much better than he would have had back home... the third verse is just about hwo veterns get fucked over in thsi country... excuse my lanbguage but the way we treat our veterns gets me especially fired up
    gdawg31on December 08, 2007   Link
  • +1
    Lyric Correction"plays a little quit" is incorrect.
    Les is saying "guit", short for "guitar".
    BlaiseDadon May 20, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentObviously a culmination of different living conditions for early immigrants around the turn of the century sometime.
    Mad Jackylon May 05, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think its funny the only real negative implication in the song is about the native born american. It kind gives a negative feeling to the whole song, but the first two verses speak to America being better than anywhere else despite its faults. Mabye its Les's way of saying we need to take care of our own.
    eclipseownzuon May 25, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe song is not saying America is either good or bad. It's saying that you get what you put into life, despite the country. The Sicilian family who was too proud to be poor is just like the born-American who holds on tight to his dignity and the Laotian who considers his somewhat menial life to be prosperous. America only serves as a basis for this larger statement because of it's reputation as the land of opportunity.
    turtlekingon October 29, 2004   Link

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