They say he didn't have an enemy
His was a greatness to behold
He was the last surviving progeny
The last one on this side of the world
He measured half a mile from tip to tail
silver and black with powerful fins
They say he could split a mountain in two
That's how we got the Grand Canyon
Some say they saw him at the Great Lakes
Some say they saw him off the coast of Florida
My mother said she saw him in Chinatown
but you can't always trust your mother.
Off the Carolinas the sun shines brightly in the day
The lighthouse glows ghostly there are night
The chief of a local tribe had killed a racist mayor's son
and he'd been on death row since 1958
The mayor's kid was a rowdy pig
spit on Indians and lots worse
The old chief buried a hatchet in his head
life compared to death for him seemed worse
The tribal brothers gathered in the lighthouse to sing
and tried to conjure up a storm or rain
The harbor parted and the great whale sprang full up
and caused a huge tidal wave
The wave crushed the jail and freed the chief
The tribe let out a roar
The whites were drowned
the browns and reds set free
but sadly one thing more
Some local yokel member of the NRA
kept a bazooka in his living room
and thinking he had the chief in his sights
blew the whale's brains out with a lead harpoon
Well Americans don't care for much of anything
land and water the least
And animal life is low on the totem pole
with human life not worth much more than infected yeast
Americans don't care too much for beauty
They'll shit in a river, dump battery acid in a stream
They'll watch dead rats wash up on the beach
and complain if they can't swim
They say things are done for the majority
Don't believe half of what you see
and none of what you hear
It's a lot like what my painter friend Donald said to me
"Stick a fork in their ass and turn them over, they're done"

Lyrics submitted by Eatcarpet

"Last Great American Whale" as written by Lou Reed

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Last Great American Whale song meanings
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  • +1
    Song MeaningIt's kind of a haunting song about Native Americans rising up to overcome injustice, only to ultimately be thwarted again by the very forces that brought them down in the first place.

    There's a lot of symbolism in how the Whale, which is intended to be this sort of supernatural, majestic, mythical Native creature, rises up to save one of its people, only to be unglamorously shot by some white racist douchebag.
    J.J.on August 26, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis is my favorite lou reed's so great
    barbshishon March 08, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti like this song. i think it is one of reed's best, but i can't really find out exactly what it means?
    NickKunkel21on April 02, 2007   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationIn the beginning, he describes the whale. Rare, innocent, and powerful, The last of its kind. The tribe conjures up the whale, the whale frees its people. It's a beautiful thing. Then, one selfish, ignorant act robs the world of this great treasure.

    Our little parable reminds us of how weak society is. There will always be those who are willing to deny society of something great for their own selfish or ignorant actions. In closing, he's giving up on believing that society will do things for the greater good. We're all doomed.
    chuckles2on September 10, 2015   Link
  • -1
    General CommentHe wrote some great songs, but this is not one of them.
    rosalyreon August 09, 2014   Link

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