124 Meanings
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Tom Sawyer Lyrics

A modern day warrior
Mean, mean stride
Today's Tom Sawyer
Mean, mean pride

Though his mind is not for rent
Don't put him down as arrogant
His reserve, a quiet defense
Riding out the day's events
The river

What you say about his company
Is what you say about society
Catch the mist, catch the myth
Catch the mystery, catch the drift

The world is, the world is
Love and life are deep
Maybe as his skies are wide

Today's Tom Sawyer
He gets high on you
And the space he invades
He gets by on you

No, his mind is not for rent
To any god or government
Always hopeful, yet discontent
He knows changes aren't permanent
But change is

What you say about his company
Is what you say about society
Catch the witness, catch the wit
Catch the spirit, catch the spit

The world is the world is
Love and life are deep
Maybe as his eyes are wide

Exit the warrior
Today's Tom Sawyer
He gets high on you
And the energy you trade
He gets right on to
The friction of the day
Song Info
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Submitted on
Dec 17, 2001
124 Meanings
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I am a new member, and it's so good to see and read so many fellow RUSH fans. Their respective musicianship, demeanor and intellectually progressive style is second to none, in my opinion, and makes them, again in my opinion, the best three piece rock band ever.

As a drummer, philosopher and appreciator of unique and interesting personalities, I have appreciated Neil Peart in various capacities for some time. As an undergraduate philosophy student (presently working on my Ph.D.) we were assigned in senior seminar to write about our favorite living philosopher. I turned in a twenty page treatise on Neil Peart and the look on my professors face was priceless. Without reading it, he handed it back and told me to grow up and do the assignment, stating "He's not even an academic. How could he be a philosopher?" (such attitudes are commonplace) I told him that if he didn't think differently after reading it I would quit school. He could tell I was serious. The next day, handing me a paper with the first letter of our alphabet scribed widely across the top, he asked me, embarrassed, if I would burn him a CD with "some of their stuff" :-)

As far as lyrical meaning, it is important to note that, while influenced by Twain, Rand and various others, he is (in his own words), "a disciple of no one." Through his lyrics we can piece together a personal philosophy, a proprietary blend, of anti-idealism/objectivism/individualism (Freewill, The Pass, TOM SAWYER, Show Don't Tell, Vital Signs, etc...), fatalism (Roll The Bones, a personal favorite), existentialism (again, Roll The Bones, Limelight, the title "All The World's A Stage") and several other philosophical influences.

Tom Sawyer (not Diane Sawyer, Ricky. hehe) is, in both the book and song, the personification of a sort or type of person, the sort of person breaking away from the status quo, exploring and, importantly, the sort who represents both a normative and actual shifting of the human paradigm in the direction of his (man's) rational evolution. This fits, to a greater or lesser extent, with Freud's idea that man evolves in such a way as to shed his dependence on ideals (religion, social norms) and replace that dependence with a greater implementation of reason (leading to self-reliance, a deeper self-awareness and sense of responsibility for ones own "destiny"). Tom Sawyer has thus been a different people at different transitional points in man's evolution (our history). "Todays" Tom Sawyer is exactly what the song says; a leader to the next step in realizing pure reason or rationality; the "space he invades," is his days work, to explore the unknown as progress towards truth; the "friction of the day," is the resistance he faces from both people's unwillingness to embrace change as well as the intellectual rigor of tackling what hasn't already been explored (the guy who cuts a path through the forest faces resistance from the brush leaving those who follow behind with little to do but be complacent and stagnate). He (TS) does all of this with a mind filled only by his own conclusions (i.e. "not for rent"), and via the power coming from honest intellectual reciprocity or dialectical process ("he gets high on you," "he gets by on you"). As far as "riding out the days events," the song is referring to fate controlling what life gives to us, even though it is our responsibility (and can be a point of pride if done well) to live our own life with what fate hands us. In RUSH's "Roll the Bones," Peart refers to the same notion, "we draw our own designs, but fortune has to make that frame."

The philosophical analysis could go on and on. Tom Sawyer is an intellectually (ideologically) dense song, as are many other of Peart's lyrics. It would take a while to thoroughly unpack them and I feel bad writing as much as I have. Sorry about that. I'm new, and haven't yet developed any restraint :-)

Thank you for this enlightening comment. I would love to read that treatise. Do you still have it? :)

What a lovely story about the treatise :D

Except Pye Dubois wrote the lyrics for this (as he did for Between Sun and Moon)

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Rush are horribly underrated.

@IanoDublin -- Underrated? By who?

@IanoDublin you are horribly uninformed to consider them underrated.

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It's about individualism and not mindlessly bowing to authority, (religion, government, etc.). This song was written in Neil's Ayn Rand influenced period. Look her up.

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This song covers a lot of concepts. Primarily it is a description of today's rebel hero, Tom Sawyer. This person is independent and self-aware. Several in TS recurr in other Rush songs: ..."He knows that changes aren't permanent...but Change is": change is the only constant ..."Love and life are deep...maybe as his eyes are wide": reality is defined by our perception of it.

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Neil Peart collaborated this song with Pye Dubois (a lyricist).

He said, "A portrait of a modern day rebel, a free-spirited individualist striding through the world wide-eyed and purposeful. I added the themes of reconciling the boy and man in myself, and the difference between what people are and what others perceive them to be - namely me I guess."

I'm doing a presentation on the parallels between American novels and music, using this song (of course) as an example. When I looked deeper at it, I became confused. To me, it sounds like Peart and Pubois are talking more about Huckleberry Finn and less about Tom Sawyer, though both are rebels in their own way. However, Tom, rebels for his own selfish purposes (someone else said that on here too and I completely agree). Huck, on the other hand, rebels even though he believes helping a Negro would 'send him to hell'. Still confused about it, but maybe I'm thinking too hard which is possible... ahhh

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Changes aren't permanent, but change is.

That just about says it all.

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When one understands the underpinnings of soceity, the propaganda and money powers that manipulate societies one truly understands the meaning of this song. Mean stride, mean pride (Tom Sawyer, the hidden hand behind nations, governments.) What you say about his company Is what you say about society When you question this power of the tyrants (the hidden hand), you are questioning the decency of society itself. They have made it so through mass media manipulation, to make you feel guilty about questioning them. Catch the mist, catch the myth Catch the mystery, catch the drift. That is the mystery. We're being lead around by con men and bullshiters. No, his mind is not for rent To any god or government (The powers that be have no homeland and answer to no one. Don't put him (them) down as arrogant His(there) reserve, a quiet defense Riding out the day's events The river

My Interpretation

Excellent! Neil Pert never writes BS. His meanings are for the thinkers. You nailed it. He always writes in parables and your explanation is the essence of the song.

Hi, ggrichards. That's a very good analysis of the meaning of the lyrics. I never gave it that much thought before I came in here. Guess I'll have to start thinking now, damn it! Wonder why some dudes get so tetchy about things - nobody can say for sure what the creator really meant except him/herself. I write 'poems' when in the mood and I'm guessing not many would interpret what I meant the lyrics to mean.

Wow. I had thought Tom Sawyer was to the lyricists what Roark or Galt was to Rand. I never conceived that Tom Sawyer could be the machine. I noticed there is a fear in sniffing out the lion in the den. More comforting to talk about one's ability to do so, to show one knows what's up...but still telling and not showing.

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Any one catch The ep. of Trailer park boys featuring rush? great stuff

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god this song is amazing I think it's one of their bests

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Hey ledskynyrd, here is a list from the net of the 100 Top Drummers of all-time and as your dumb ass will see, John overdose Bonham takes a comfortable back seat (and not a close one I might add) to the MAN; Neil Peart.

  1. Neil Peart (Rush)
    1. John Bonham* (Led Zeppelin)
    2. Carl Palmer (ELP)
    3. Keith Moon* (The Who)
    4. Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa)
    5. Ginger Baker (Cream)
    6. Hal Blaine (Session man)
    7. Danny Carey (Tool)
    8. Bill Bruford (Yes, King Crimson)
  2. Earl Palmer (Session man)
  3. Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater)
  4. Dave Lombardo (Slayer)
  5. Benny Benjamin* (Funk Brothers)
  6. Ian Paice (Deep Purple)
  7. Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge)
  8. Tommy Aldridge (Ozzy Osbourne)
  9. Stewart Copeland (The Police)
  10. Bernard Purdie (Session)
  11. Vinnie Colaiuta (Zappa)
  12. Jeff Porcaro* (Toto)
  13. Bill Ward (Black Sabbath)
  14. David Garabaldi (Tower Of Power)
  15. Ainsley Dunbar (Jeff Beck)
  16. Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden)
  17. Mike Shrieve (Santana)
  18. Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix)
  19. Steve Smith (Journey)
  20. Al Jackson* (The MGs)
  21. Matt Cameron (Soundgarden)
  22. Tim Alexander (Primus)
  23. Jim Keltner (Session man)
  24. Phil Collins (Genesis)
  25. Cozy Powell* (Rainbow)
  26. Simon Phillips (Toto)
  27. Russ Kunkel (Session man)
  28. Bobby Jarzombeck (Rob Halford)
  29. Carter Beauford (Dave Matthews)
  30. Zigaboo Modeliste (The Meters)
  31. Jimmy Chamberlain (Smashing Pumpkins)
  32. Vinnie Paul (Pantera)
  33. Kenny Aronoff (Session man)
  34. Alan White (Yes)
  35. Mike Giles (King Crimson)
  36. Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs)
  37. Clive Bunker (Jethro Tull)
  38. Mike Mangini (Extreme)
  39. Ringo Starr (The Beatles)
  40. Roger Hawkins (Arethra Franklin/Session Man)
  41. Bobby Elliot (The Hollies)
  42. Alex Van Halen (Van Halen)
    1. BJ Wilson* Procul Harum)
  43. Joe Franco (Good Rats)
  44. Charlie Watts (Rolling Stones)
  45. Virgil Donati (Planet X)
  46. Roger Taylor (Queen)
  47. Chad Wackerman (Zappa)
  48. Topper Headon (The Clash)
  49. Nick Barker (Dimmu Borgir)
  50. Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac)
  51. Danny Seraphine (Chicago)
  52. Gene Holgan (Death)
  53. John Densmore (The Doors)
  54. Max Weinberg (Springsteen)
  55. Jabo Starks (James Brown)
  56. Lars Ulrich (Metallica)
  57. Jerry Allison (Crickets)
  58. Phil Ehart (Kansas)
  59. Chester Thompson (Santana)
  60. Matt McDonoughe (Mudvayne)
  61. Dean Castronovo (Journey)
  62. Jon Theodore (Mars Volta)
  63. Van Romaine (Steve Morse)
  64. Ralph Humphrey (Mothers Of Invention)
  65. Les Lester (Los Straightjackets)
  66. Brian Downey (Thin Lizzy)
  67. Brann Dailor (Mastodon)
  68. Dick Richards (The Comets)
  69. Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle)
  70. Stanton Moore (Galactic)
  71. Joey Jordison (Slipknot)
  72. Ron Wilson (Surfaris)
  73. Jack Irons (Pearl Jam)
  74. Jim Gordon (Derek And The Dominoes)
  75. Nick Mason (Pink Floyd)
  76. Eddie Bayers (Session man)
  77. Jeff Campitelli (Joe Satriani)
  78. Dave Grohl (Nirvana)
  79. Bobby Rondinelli (Rainbow)
  80. Chris Frantz (Talking Heads)
  81. Mike Bordin (Faith No More)
  82. Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters)
  83. Lee Kerslake (Uriah Heep)
  84. Phil Selway (Radiohead)
  85. Vinnie Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio)
  86. Scott Rockenfield (Queensryche)
  87. Chad Smith (Red Hot Chilli Peppers)
  88. Nick Menza (Megadeth)
  89. John Dalmayan (System Of A Down)
  90. Travis Barker (Blink 182)
  91. Ralph Salmins (Session man)

To even think that Bonham is even close to Neil Peart is an insult that borderlines insanity.

Jesus christ dude! How long did it take you to do that? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I have to say that John Bonham is not even close to Peart. The only reason people like him at all is because he was in Zeppelin. He's not that good.

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