Beautiful yet Horrific Lyrics

The song Ebony and Ivory by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder has such a nice sentiment in its lyrics that I’m a bit hesitant in pointing out its flaws. The main lyrical hook of the song goes like this:

Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony,
Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord, why don’t we?

That sentiment is race relations gold. So how could anybody be such a grinch that they could object to these fine lyrics?

Well I am that grinch. While having nothing but respect for the race relations perspective, the problem with this song is the ebony and ivory international trade aspect. If inspired by the song to make all piano keyboards out of only ebony and ivory we would have a big problem.

Ebony is a wood that comes from tropical trees. This wood has been protected in different trade agreements. Indeed, Gibson, a manufacturer of guitars recently got in trouble for illegally importing ebony for use in its guitars. If we don’t protect these trees, the world might be short a species that our thirst for fine wood in musical instruments caused.

For those of you that do not know, ivory comes from the tusks of elephants. For many years the trade in ivory has been controlled. No longer are the white keys of pianos made with this material. If suddenly all pianos and keyboards were to be made out of ivory, we would undoubtedly drive the elephant into extinction.

If for no other reason we must keep the elephant alive to be the surrogate for mammoth clones. Only when we get enough mammoths are we allowed to even think of the extinction of elephants.

Have we examined all the biological processes of the ebony trees in the tropics? I doubt it. Until we have examined all possible chemicals these plants create, we shouldn’t be allowed to let it become extinct.

Using this perspective, the lyrics to Ebony and Ivory could easily be:

Ebony and ivory, driving two species to extinction,
Just so my piano keyboard has a more poetic black and white.

But I can’t help but think of an easy fix for this song. Just substitute black plastic and white plastic for ebony and ivory That way the lyrics would simply be this:

Black plastic and white plastic live together in perfect harmony,
Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord, why don’t we?

The plastic lyrics leave no guilt from possibly causing an extinction. Maybe they are less artful. I’m willing to risk that for the peace of mind they give.

About Larry Russwurm

Just another ranter on the Internet
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