"Elephant" as written by and Jason Isbell....
She said, "Andy, you're better than your past"
Winked at me and drained her glass
Cross-legged on a barstool, like nobody sits anymore
She said, "Andy, you're taking me home"
But I knew she planned to sleep alone
I'd carry her to bed, sweep up the hair from her floor

If I'd fucked her before she got sick
I'd never hear the end of it
She don't have the spirit for that now
We just drink our drinks and laugh out loud
And bitch about the weekend crowd
And try to ignore the elephant somehow

She said, "Andy, you crack me up"
Seagram's in a coffee cup
Sharecropper eyes, and the hair almost all gone
When she was drunk, she made cancer jokes
Made up her own doctors' notes
Surrounded by her family, I saw that she was dying alone

But I'd sing her classic country songs
And she'd get high and sing along
She don't have a voice to sing with now
We burn these joints in effigy
And cry about what we used to be
Try to ignore the elephant somehow

I buried her a thousand times, given up my place in line
But I don't give a damn about that now
There's one thing that's real clear to me
No one dies with dignity
We just try to ignore the elephant somehow
We just try to ignore the elephant somehow
We just try to ignore the elephant somehow

Lyrics submitted by jfoxx

"Elephant" as written by Jason Isbell

Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Elephant song meanings
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  • +6
    General CommentOh, God... The love of my life has stage 4 colon cancer, and we so live with "the elephant" every day of our lives. Jason really gets it., we have a few drinks, smokes, enjoy our music, and try to ignore the elephant, but the son of a bitch is always there, anyway...when I feel really alone with this, I listen to Elephant as many times as it takes to feel OK again. Thank you, Jason, so much...
    ChristyBerkeleyon October 21, 2013   Link
  • +2
    General CommentOne of my favorite ones on this album.

    This album is so morose. I've got to go outside.
    bkabbotton January 04, 2014   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is a brilliant song. To me, listening to this song is like watching a movie.
    franklintitanon December 05, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI wish I knew the meaning too. I mean, some of it is obvious. She obviously has cancer and is dying but one thing I don't understand is the part about I buried her a thousand times giving up my place in line. I thought maybe he meant he relived the burial in his head over and over but idk about the place in line thing. I've never thought about the point of view of him having cancer as well either. That's a really good point.
    pdenton20on April 13, 2014   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationAnyone who has held someone's hand on their walk through terminal cancer knows this song too well.

    I think the storyline here is that we're dealing with longtime friends who, after her diagnosis, realize the big picture in a heaping way.

    She knows Andy's past - seems to hint he's had his share of women, and maybe been a guy who moves from bed-notch conquest to the next. Andy acknowledges this in putting her proposal -- that she take him home - into context: Had he taken her home before cancer for sex when she was tipsy and willing, and taken advantage of that mood, he should know her better -- it'd have been a breach of their friendship, and he'd "never have heard the end of it."

    They are close friends, he'd be out of line "trophy hunting" her like the others. With cancer, the big picture coming in clearly, she's living more for the moment, drowning her worries in drinks, and knowing her days are numbered, sees him more clearly for being a good guy despite his flaws. Under such circumstances, she indicates a heartfelt willingness to let loose with him. But the reality of cancer, chemo - hair falling out - is nausea, tiredness, and lagging libido... and he knows it, and as the good friend she knows he is, he steps up to do what cancer friends do: clean up hair, tuck 'em in, etc.

    As for who they are, "bitching about the weekend crowd", he's a musician as referenced, and a good crowd makes all the difference. Her role is not clear. She sings along, but strikes me as something she's done with him for years, maybe as a fellow musician or as an artist dependent on the bar scenes. He comments that she's dying alone amid family, suggesting that even as they're losing her, her family does not fully understand who she is... perhaps this made her the black sheep of the family? -- the eternal dilemma of so many artists.

    Amid it all, they do their best to laugh to stay sane, smoke and drink and sing songs as she deteriorates; they cry looking back on life. They mock cancer back as it mocks her life out of the both of them, doing their best to pretend the elephant in room ain't there.

    As we move in, his mind visits / revisits the process of her death 1,000 times (terminal cancer is a long "burial"....), and would gladly have traded his place in the line for death with her place.

    In the end, he sums up cancer death that there's nothing pretty about. You struggle through it, and do your best to ignore what it means.
    ronniehondurason January 12, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIf I'd fucked her before she got sick I'd never hear the end of it

    This is my favorite line of the song. It's the one that getting "Andy" busted. He exposes the whole lot of us, but he is the only one that fucked her after she had died. Unfortunately, none of the rest of us waited around for that extreme moment when she took her last breath. To look deep in her eyes searching for the bewilderment, "How could you do this to me? I trusted you, we laughed and told jokes..." and all that stupid stuff bitches love.

    Anyway, time to run. Live by the sword die, by the sword is the motto... you can trust, everyone is treated fair.

    The only way out of it is a public apology to everyone who was exposed to Andy's truth - this can be done in song, as an additional song on his new album. This is the only way to be released. Songwriters come and go. We all honor the live by the sword credo.
    wolfpatroluniton June 18, 2017   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAs for the meaning:

    It's clear that she has cancer and is dying, but a couple of things I can't figure out: Are they both dying (I think so) and were they together before they were sick (I don't think so)

    1. Is this a romantic relationship or did he fall in love with her after her diagnosis "If I'd fucked her before she got sick...she doesn't have the spirit for that now" - I am understanding that this guy fell in love with her after she knew she was dying and beyond the point where she could engage in sex.

    2. Does he also have cancer? "Giving up my place in line" - did they meet in like a cancer support group and she is just further along than him.

    3. "cry about what we used to be" - are they crying about what they used to be as a couple or what they each used to be as individuals who are both dying.

    I try to play this on my guitar, and I can usually barely get through it. Found it when covered by Greensky Bluegrass at a live show. Sorry ChristyBerkeley, so sad, so sorry - I can't imagine listening to this song going through what you are going through.

    I don't know, maybe this is the perfect song for people to even come close to understanding your pain, it just crushes me, I know that.
    lzemlickon December 02, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI bawled my eyes out when I first heard this song. I haven't listened to it again yet, but I'll probably cry again. Beautiful, heartfelt lyrics and music.
    Goatllamaon January 20, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentChristy, that's really sad and I'm really sorry. I can't imagine what you're going through. Hell I listen to the song and can't even make it all the way through without crying just thinking about it. I have know idea what I'd do if it were me. I wish you the absolute best and hope you can stay strong. Honestly, if I believed in God (no disrespect to anyone who does) I would pray for you. I might pray for you anyways, and him too.
    pdenton20on April 13, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe song is one of my favorites behind his "Cover Me Up" song which is first on this same album.

    "giving up my place in line" to me interprets with the same meaning or rather way of thinking if considering a parent who loses their child. No mother should be pained with the death and burial of their child. To me I see the husband in this situation saying why? He's been Angy, angry and living with the pain, he has relived "burying her a thousand times, "giving up my place in line " (he is being sarcastic in that line because he never wanted to. He wanted, in a perfect world, for their life to be what it "should " he should die first... To me that is how I hear this... Beautiful song!
    laurenwalleyon December 08, 2015   Link

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