Ivory Madonna dying in the dust,
Waiting for the manna coming from the west
Barren is her bosom, empty as her eyes,
Death a certain harvest scattered from the skies

Skin and bones is creeping, doesn't know he's dead
Ancient eyes are peeping, from his infant head
Politician's argue sharpening their knives
Drawing up their Bargains, trading baby lives

Ivory Madonna dying in the dust,
Waiting for the manna coming from the west

Hear the bells are ringing, Christmas on it's way
Hear the angels singing, what is that they say?
Eat and drink rejoicing, joy is here to stay
Jesus son of Mary is born again today

Ivory Madonna dying in the dust,
Waiting for the manna coming from the west
Ivory Madonna dying in the dust,
Waiting for the manna coming from the west.


Lyrics submitted by Demau Senae

Food for Thought Lyrics as written by Ali Campbell Jim Brown

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Royalty Network, Downtown Music Publishing

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

Food For Thought song meanings
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9 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentHow could this song be about the famine in Ethiopia in 1984 when it was released in 1979. Was Nostradamus on sax?
    myspaceon January 30, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis song is about the famine in Ethiopia in about 1984. Manna is the food that miraculously appeared in the desert to feed the Israelites, now Western aircraft promise miracles, but death is the certain harvest. Politicians sharpening their knives - at the time of famine, there was also war within Ethiopia, in which foreign countries (US, USSR as was) also played a role.

    Ethiopians usually have a very beautiful dark and fine skin. So we might consider them "ebony" rather than "ivory". But maybe the unfortunate woman appears white through the paleness of near-death, or maybe from the dust. Many Ethiopians are Christians, belonging to one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, and are very religious.

    Food for thought at Christmastime of 1984, and now too. Even now, there is near starvation in parts of Ethiopia and Somalia - while the US encourages Ethiopia to invade Somalia.

    For me this song is heart-breaking.
    jimqukon December 10, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentRobin Campbell: “I actually wrote Food For Thought in my flat in Birmingham, just before Christmas one year… so it’s actually a Christmas song! Or rather, it’s inspired by the hypocrisy of Christmas, the fact that there are starving people in Africa and here we are all sat around eating our Christmas dinner and praising the Lord. And people are still dying every day, every minute while we’re doing it. But people tend to forget that because it came out as a single in April.
    clashpistolson August 09, 2019   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhat does Ivory Madonna mean?
    kdowntonon September 21, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentReply to myspace above - I said "in about 1984". Ok so I was five years out. You know more about the history of music, but do you know anything about Ethiopia? The great famine was in 1984-5, but similar conditions were in existance from the late 70's.
    jimqukon May 06, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSorry, jimquk. Prior to 1984, the previous major famine in Ethiopia was in 1973 and news of conditions in Ethiopia were not well known until they were documented by Mohammed Amin in 1983. While you have a sense of the spirit of the song, you are wrong about Ethiopia. The song seems to be about starvation in the third world and the presence of western missionaries - hence the ivory Madonna that is white as representative of the religion of the white first world. Rather than bring aid or food, the western world exports its religion.
    JeanArpon December 24, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI take it as Ivory Madonna means hope that is all but extinguished for poverty-ridden people. Local politicians are no use, arguing about what to do but really not interested in human life. The only hope is looking for manna, or relief aid, from the West.
    RayCeeon December 20, 2018   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe guitarist and co-founder Robin Campbell have discusses how he wrote the band’s 1980 debut single Food For Thought. Food For Thought in my flat in Birmingham, just before Christmas one year… so it’s actually a Christmas song! Or rather, it’s inspired by the hypocrisy of Christmas, the fact that there are starving people in Africa and here we are all sat around eating our Christmas dinner and praising the Lord. And people are still dying every day, every minute while we’re doing it. But people tend to forget that because it came out as a single in April. It was our debut single: we had a record deal but the label weren’t in any hurry to release anything, and then we went on tour with The Pretenders who had the number one single and album at the time. So suddenly we had the chance to release a single, and our two favourite songs were Food For Thought and King, Food For Thought was obviously a big landmark for us.
    DONE&DUSTEDon October 01, 2021   Link
  • -1
    Song FactThere is a good article on the background to 'Food For Thought' in the June 2021 Uncut magazine (on sale April). It confirms that the lyric was gifted by Ian Campbell (famous folk singer and father of the Campbell brothers) unbeknown to Ali. He gave some suggestions in the early years.
    BakedBeanzon April 22, 2021   Link

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